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Fall house

As the days become shorter and the weather begins to turn chilly, it’s time to start getting your home prepared for the winter months ahead. A little work now can save a lot of time, energy and money in the long run. So take a look at our checklist and make sure you’ve got everything all ready for winter!

Get Your Furnace Checked

One of the most important things to do before winter sets in is get your furnace checked before you need to rely on the heat. A regular checkup for your furnace will prolong its life, prevent carbon monoxide leaks and ensure everything is in working order. This tune-up will also ensure you’re getting maximum efficiency from your unit and not wasting your money.

Change Furnace Filters

A visit from your HVAC professional can tell you if it’s time for your furnace filters to be replaced. However, if you aren’t able to fit in an official visit, you can replace the filters yourself. Changing the filter allows you to keep the furnace from clogging, keeps it running more efficiently and stops it from circulating allergens and other harmful particles. How often the filter needs to be replaced will vary depending on what type of filter you get, so a little research may be needed.

Keep the Pipes Warm

Frozen pipes can burst, which can be a major debacle. They can require complicated fixes and result in serious flood damage if you’re not careful. To prevent this from happening, don’t completely turn off your heat when you leave the house. According to the Red Cross, keeping the temperature around 55°F will be enough to ensure pipes stay sufficiently warm.

If you’re going to be gone for an extended period and don’t want a high gas bill, you can turn off the water and drain the water pipes.

It’s easy to forget the outdoor hose spigot, but the water can freeze up and cause problems in your pipes. In order to prevent this, you can buy a foam covering that goes over the spigot and creates an air pocket around it. If you’re looking for a more low-tech option, put a towel around the faucet, although it may not seal as well.

If possible, you can also turn off the outdoor faucet’s water supply and drain the remaining water. This will eliminate the need for extra insulation.

Put Away the Gardening Supplies

Remember to disconnect and bring in all of your garden hoses. If water freezes inside of them, it can cause the hose to split. A connected hose can also make your outdoor faucet more susceptible to frozen pipes.

Ceramic planters that still contain plant life should be brought inside to warmer temperatures. If the plant was seasonal, empty the pots of all soil and store them out of the cold. This is also a good time to oil and clean metal tools before you store them in the shed. This will ensure they’re all ready for you once spring rolls around again!

Protect Your Plants

Perennial outdoor plants can really benefit from some added protection in colder areas.

The type of protection needed depends on the plant. Wrap burlap around young tree trunks, and add 12 to 18 inches of soil in a mound around the base of rosebushes.

If you really want to get fancy, you can invest in special tents that go around plants and shrubs. They protect the plants from the elements while letting sunlight and water in.

For more tips on how to get your garden ready for fall, check out our full guide.

Guard the Gutters and Air Conditioning

Right after most of the leaves have fallen is the perfect time to clean out your gutters. Without this maintenance, you can have major problems over the course of the winter. Water won’t be properly directed away from the house and can create serious foundation issues in your home.

If you’re able to get to this before the leaves fall, gutter covers can help prevent future buildup.

You also want to be sure to cover your air conditioning unit to keep leaves and snow from getting in. Covers made specifically for this purpose can easily be picked up from stores like Home Depot or Lowes.

Tune Up the Snow Blower

There’s no worse time to figure out that your snow blower isn’t working than right after the first big snowstorm. Taking your snow blower in for a tune-up will make sure it runs when you need it most. If you’re a bit more of a do-it-yourself kind of person, you can follow this checklist and handle the maintenance tasks all on your own.

Get the Chimney Cleaned

If you have a chimney and enjoy using it during the winter months, then scheduling an inspection is a must. When you burn wood in your fireplace, there’s a chance you’re creating a buildup of what’s called creosote. It’s essentially condensed smoke that clings to the side of the flue. This can ignite when you burn wood in the fireplace and cause a dangerous chimney fire. These fires burn at super-hot temperatures and can weaken the structure of the chimney, leading to damage. With brick chimneys, this can cause the brick to break down and give the fire access to the wood structure of your home.

Install a Chimney Balloon

After you’ve had your chimney inspected, consider investing in a chimney balloon. Chimney balloons (also called pillows or dampers) are essentially plugs that go into your chimney to prevent snow, bugs or drafts from entering into your home through the gap. If you don’t plan on using your chimney during the winter season, a chimney balloon can really help lower your heating bill.

Invest in a Carbon Monoxide Detector

As we seek to heat our homes in the winter, the sources of carbon monoxide (CO) begin to increase. These include any appliances that work by burning fuel. If you have a fuel-burning (i.e., not electric) clothes dryer, furnace, water heater, fireplace, stove or generator, you have a source of carbon monoxide. As higher concentrations of carbon monoxide in the air can be deadly, invest in a CO detector. This will monitor the levels and alert you with a noise and light when they get too high. Carefully read the instructions on the monitor to ensure the device will cover the entire span of your home. You may need to purchase more than one.

And while you’re at it, check to make sure your smoke detectors are still functioning as well.

Check Your Insulation

There are numerous areas where cold weather can make its way into your house. Before the weather starts to get too chilly, take a look around your home to make sure certain areas are still in prime condition.

First, check the seals around your windows. If you find the seals to be lacking, use weather stripping or caulk to seal around the frame. If you’re not satisfied with the amount of insulation this provides, you can remove the trim and put in an expanding foam.

You can also seal your doors by putting self-stick foam around the doorframes. Another easy way to weatherproof doors is to simply stick a door sweep at the bottom of the frame between the door and the floor.

One place you might not think about air escaping is through your outlets. Any hardware store will sell easy-to-install foam outlet covers (known as gaskets) that will prevent the cold air, which can get in around your electrical box, from coming into the home.

If you’re still not getting the results you want, it might be time to consider installing new insulation. Whether or not this is a DIY project depends on the types of insulation and your comfort level, but make sure you get the proper insulation for your geographic area. For more details, check out our post on insulating your home for winter.

Keep It Humid

By closing everything up and keeping the heat in, you’ll have taken your house into a state of hibernation. It’s important to remember that everything will dry out due to a lack of humidity in the air.

This can cause a number of problems, including ones that affect your health. Warm air tends to dry out the sinuses. As gross as it sounds, that mucus in your nasal passages actually helps trap viruses and other nasty stuff before it can get into your system.

If you want to stop your house from becoming too dry, consider using a humidifier to keep your sinuses happy and the rest of you more comfortable.

It takes some work to prepare your home for a long winter’s nap. Share any of your own tips for winterization in the comments!

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. A great way to tell if you have enough insulation if you live in an area that gets snow is to check out your roof and the neighbors’ roofs after a snow. If you see some roofs with a completely unmelted snow covering but yours is melted in spots, then you don’t have enough insulation (all things being equal as far as sun and shade goes). Additionally, if you have a good covering of snow on your roof but you notice the edge of your roof is melted just above each window, then your windows are a major place you are loosing heat; you need to take steps to insulate or replace them.

  2. This article was great especially for me being a single woman. Some of the things I knew and somethings I just never thought about. At any rate this article was good enough to cut out and post on my refrigerator door and share with my friends.
    Thanks so much

    1. Another way to help keep your bills in line (besides getting your HVAC system checked each year -it really is a lifesaver!) is to find your comfort zone on your thermostat & don’t deviate from it by too many degrees. I do not subscribe to the “up/down” during the day when I might be away rule. During the Summer, it takes too much energy to re-cool the house after letting it warm up, and during the Winter, in the reverse. This keeps my bills steady, with no huge surprises.

      Check your windows for gaps and use cheap insulation. Home Depot, Lowe’s, any hardware store stocks different kinds of insulation. Stuff that blocks gaps around doors to the outside, or to your garage. These are life & energy savers. They can cause your bills to be as much as 20-30% higher! So they’re worth what you might pay for them.

      Use old mattress pads, colorful comforters, blankets, or even buy large pieces of “fleece” -you know, the stuff that many hoodies are made from? You can get them in varying weights at your local fabric store, and they are worth their weight in gold for hanging over drafty windows just for Winter. When Spring & warmer weather hits, you just remove, wash, and stow them for use next year!

      Your local hardware stores are great resources for cheap ways to save yourself big bucks during Winter! And being creative never hurts….just sayin’ !

  3. Excellent article! Ugh, winter can be such a pain. It always pays off to be prepared, and I think this is a great list of items. I particularly liked the bit about insulation and weather stripping. It really does make your house so much warmer and it improves efficiency. My great-grandmother owned a house without insulation, and the heat loss in winter was absurd. It also really does help to keep your house humid as well! It can get so warm in your house that your skin begins to dry out, so a humidifier can really help.

    1. Hi Ryan:

      Glad you liked the article! Winter hasn’t quite kicked in yet here in Detroit, but I have a feeling it’s just a matter of time. Stay warm!


  4. Excellent article! Ugh, winter can be such a pain. It always pays off to be prepared, and I think this is a great list of items. I particularly liked the bit about insulation and weather stripping. It really does make your house so much warmer and it improves efficiency. My great-grandmother owned a house without insulation, and the heat loss in winter was absurd. It also really does help to keep your house humid as well! It can get so warm in your house that your skin begins to dry out, so a humidifier really helps.

  5. I need my whole mobile home repaired.I.need a roof my heat fixed.insulation.New kitchen.some flooring.New Windows.etc. You are Welcome.

    1. Hi Donna:

      Unfortunately, we don’t offer financing on mobile homes. Good luck with the repairs though!

      Kevin Graham

  6. Ceiling fans have a job to do in the winter as well as the summer. As you know heat rises; make sure your fan circulates the heat back down to the floor area. Also, this is a good time to maintain your ceiling fan. See the manufacturer’s instructions for details.

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