As the Seasons change, so do your needs for your Home, Yard and Garden.
Tune up your heating system. Have a technician inspect your furnace to be sure it is clean and in good repair, and that it can achieve its manufacturer-rated efficiency. The inspection also measures carbon-monoxide leakage. If you act soon, you’ll minimize the chance of being 200th in line for repairs on the coldest day of the year.
Reverse your ceiling fans. If your ceiling fan has a reverse switch, use it to run the fan’s blades in a clockwise direction after you turn on your heat. Energy Star says the fan will produce an updraft and push down into the room heated air from the ceiling (remember, hot air rises). This is especially helpful in rooms with high ceilings — and it might even allow you to turn down your thermostat by a degree or two for greater energy savings.
Prevent ice dams. If your home had lots of icicles last winter — or worse, ice dams, which can cause melt water to back up and flow into your house — take steps to prevent potential damage this year. I might be time for a new roof.
Hit the roof. Or at least scan it closely with binoculars. Look for damaged, loose or missing shingles that may leak during winter’s storms or from melting snow. Check and repair breaks in the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys, too.
Caulk around windows and doors. If the gaps between siding and window or door frames are bigger than the width of a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk. (Check the joints in window and door frames, too.) Silicone caulk is best for exterior use because it won’t shrink and it’s impervious to the elements. Check window-glazing putty, too (which seals glass into the window frame). Add weatherstripping as needed around doors, making sure you cannot see any daylight from inside your home.
Clean the gutters. If your gutters are full of leaves and debris, water can back up against the house and damage roofing, siding and wood trim — plus cause leaks and ice dams. Also look for missing or damaged gutters and fascia boards and repair them.
Divert water. Add extensions to downspouts so that water runs at least 3 to 4 feet away from the foundation.
Turn off exterior faucets. Undrained water in pipes can freeze, which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. Start by disconnecting all garden hoses and draining the water that remains in faucets. If you don’t have frost-proof faucets (homes more than ten to 15 years old typically do not), turn off the shut-off valve inside your home.
Mulch leaves when you mow. Mow your leaves instead of raking them. The trick is to cut the leaves, while dry, into dime-sized pieces that will fall among the grass blades, where they will decompose and nourish your lawn over the winter. Use your lawn mower without its bag, and optionally swap the cutting blade for a mulching blade.
Prepare to stow your mower. As the mower sits through the winter, fuel remaining in its engine will decompose, “varnishing” the carburetor and causing difficulty when you try to start the engine in the spring. Check your mower’s manual for other cold-weather storage steps.
Don’t prune trees or shrubs until late-winter. You may be tempted to get out the pruning shears after the leaves fall, when you can first see the underlying structure of the plant. But horticulturalists advise waiting to prune until late winter for most plants, when they’ve been long dormant and just before spring growth begins. One exception: You may want to consider hiring a tree service to remove dead tree limbs or limbs to close to your home or power lines that could cause problems in a winter storm.
Test your sump pump. Slowly pour several gallons of water into the sump pit to see whether the pump turns on. You should do this every few months, but especially after a long dry season or before a rainy one. For more complete instructions for testing and maintenance, check your owner’s manual.
Call a chimney sweep. Before you burn the Yule log, make sure your fireplace (or any heating appliance) has been cleaned and inspected.
Avoid the rush. Don’t wait for the first winter storm to restock cold-weather essentials, such as salt or ice melt.
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