Fall is finally upon us. It’s time to enjoy cool weather, football, and pumpkin spice everything. It’s also time to do some important home maintenance before the cold weather arrives.
Don’t worry, your home may not be ready yet, but we’ve got you covered. We talked with home improvement expert Danny Lipford of “Today’s Homeowner” and asked him to share his top tips on how to best prepare our homes for the impending winter.
1. Inspect Your Heating System
The importance of preparing your heating system for the coming months cannot be overstated, according to Lipford: “If a homeowner does only one thing each fall to prepare their home for the winter, it should be to have the home’s furnace or heating system inspected for safety and energy efficiency,” he says.
Heating and cooling costs make up approximately 48 percent of the average utility bill, so it makes financial sense to take care of the system that heats and cools your home. Before you hire a professional to do a full inspection of your heating system, there are a few things you can do yourself to improve the efficiency of your furnace or heating unit.
- Check and replace your filters. It’s best to replace the filters every two to three months, and more often during periods of high usage.
- Clean the vents. If dust and dirt build up on the vents, the heating unit will work harder than it needs to, thus reducing its efficiency and making you change the filters more often.
- Check your ductwork. If you see any dirt or streaking, you may have air leaks that will need to be sealed by a professional.
Once you’ve completed these assessments on your own, you may need to call in a professional to do an inspection and make any necessary repairs. But Lipford stresses the importance of regular maintenance to avoid costly and stressful repairs. “Regular maintenance will help with the longevity of this important — and expensive — home system,” he explains.
2. Weatherize the Outside of Your Home
When the snow is falling in January, you may wonder about that crack you saw in the weather stripping last summer. By then, it will be too late to do any substantial updating. To weatherize the outside of your home, Lipford suggests focusing on sealing cracks and replacing damaged weather stripping.
- Seal cracks. Inspect the exterior of your home for any cracks and seal them with silicone caulk. When looking for cracks, inspect pipes, outdoor electrical outlets, faucets, and areas where there might be obvious openings. Carefully flake off any old caulk so the new caulk will create a watertight seal. Be certain you select the proper type of caulk for your dwelling.
- Replace weather stripping. Inspect and replace any damaged weather stripping around doors and windows. Both caulk and weather stripping materials can be purchased at your local hardware or home repair supply store.
3. Clean Up Outside
We know, we know: You’re already raking leaves and dreading the days when you’ll have to shovel all that snow, and you’re not really interested in adding yet another item to your outdoor to-do list. But Lipford suggests three things you should do now to help get your home in tip-top condition for the winter and to avoid other, more serious problems come spring.
- Trim trees and shrubs. “Look at the trees and shrubs in your yard with a critical eye,” Lipford says. Trim away the ones that are close enough to the house to cause any possible roof damage, rot the trim, or interfere with the heating and cooling unit.
- Clean and repair gutters. If your gutters get clogged, water can be routed toward — rather than away from — your home, and that can lead to roof leaks and rotted eaves, he says.
- Address leaks. Lipford also stresses the importance of addressing small leaks as they happen, even if they don’t seem like a big deal, “because putting these off can lead to major water and roof damage later.”
“These are my ‘chores you can’t ignore,’” he continues, “and I think everyone should address these annually. Homeowners who keep this annual maintenance schedule can avoid costly replacement repairs and damage down the road.”
4. Lower the Humidity
“One of the biggest problems I see cropping up — especially in newer homes — is the inadequate venting of moisture to the outside of the home during the winter months,” Lipford says. “Keeping the humidity level in check is key in preventing mold and mildew, which reduce indoor air quality and impact health.”
If it feels like the temperature in your home isn’t matching the temperature you are setting on the thermostat, a humidity imbalance may be to blame. Regularly check the humidity in your home using these simple visual cues. You can also purchase small gauges that read the humidity level in your home. If the results of your tests show humidity levels are consistently high, you may need to consult a professional.
5. Prevent Energy Loss
We all want to prevent energy loss and save money on our energy bills — including renters. While renters may not be able to make changes to their dwelling’s physical structure, Lipford suggests that one of his top tips for energy savings is perfect for renters as well as homeowners.
“Applying a roll-on window insulating kit is a great idea for renters as the plastics are temporary and inexpensive,” Lipford says. “They are, however, a great way to seal older or inefficient windows against the cold to prevent energy loss.”
These thin layers of plastic are simple to apply to windows and make a big difference in energy savings, he says. And when you’re ready to move — whether you rent or own — the layers are completely removable so you can take them with you and make your new home just as energy efficient as your old one.
Save Energy, Save Money
Whether it’s to save money on your energy bill or to avoid costly major repairs down the road, Danny Lipford’s tips will be great for your budget. Establishing a seasonal plan for regular home maintenance will help you avoid larger, more costly repairs. Visit Today’s Homeowner for more information about home maintenance and repairs.