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Prepare Your Home for Winter

  • Posted: 10.20.2017
changing a furnace filter
Changing your furnace filter saves energy. Image: NRECA

Bill McAnally, energy-efficient home building expert, has more than 25 years of experience building and remodeling homes. He notes that fall is a good time to review your home's condition and prepare it for the long winter ahead. He says, "Continued maintenance is the key to keeping your home livable, safe, and as energy efficient as possible.

Bill's Top 20 fall home projects to do now: 

1. Purchase and install—or check your existing—carbon monoxide detectors. This is important if you use a fossil fuel furnace or water heater or if you have an attached garage connected to your home (autos produce a tremendous amount of carbon monoxide, so never allow your car  to run in an attached garage). 

2. Check and replace batteries in all fire/smoke alarms in your home. 

3. Check your heating system to be sure all components are working properly; change the filter. 

4. Examine all ductwork. According to Bill, "It's surprising how many times ducts are pulled down because someone has hung clothing or something on them. If the duct is in an out-of-the-way location, you might not notice. When the heater kicks in, you'll be blowing air all over the basement, closet, or wherever the duct is broken." 

5. Adjust thresholds on doors to keep cold air from seeping in and warmed air from escaping. 

6. Check weather stripping on all windows and doors, again to keep cold air from seeping in and warmed air from leaking out.

7. Check caulk and flashing, and replace both if needed. 

8. After the leaves have fallen, clean gutters. This can avoid a very messy bout with ice damming later in the winter. 

9. Check weather stripping on garage doors to be sure it's adequate to keep critters out of your garage. 

10. Clean coils on your refrigerator and freezer to help them run more efficiently. 

11. Be sure intake units on ventilators are clean of leaves, branches and other debris. Do the same for your heating and cooling units. 

12. If you live in an older home with a brick chimney, either tuck point it or re-cement it (if it's a functioning chimney) or remove the chimney and shingle over the area (if it's a nonfunctioning chimney). This keeps moisture from coming down the chimney and bleeding into your walls. 

13. Go completely around the perimeter of your home and check hoses and wires that are attached to or enter your house. Wherever there is a perforation, foam and/or caulk the area. To check to be sure you have filled them correctly, enter the basement and shut off all lights. If you can see pinpricks of light, you still have some infiltration. 

14. Check at the bottom edge of the bottom siding piece (right above the foundation). Run your fingers under it and check for mice or other critter holes. This first course of siding is difficult to see under, so feeling is a better option. If you find holes, put screening or steel wool over it to seal it. 

15. Make sure floor drain traps have plenty of water in them or you may get sewer gas in your home. Older homes with cracked drain traps may need water added every month (or even more frequently) or may need to be replaced. 

16. Replace your washing machine hoses with much stronger metal braided hoses (available in hardware stores). Most other hoses aren't rated for constant pressure and may break at an inopportune moment.  

17. Clean dryer vents. Bill's energy-saving suggestion: Replace the vent cover with a new energy-efficient cover now available at local lumber yards and home centers. It allows the drier air to vent, but will not allow cold air to seep back into the house.

18. Check for low spots in your drive, sidewalk and steps, where water and ice will accumulate later in the season. Now is the time to re-lay bricks or re-pour concrete. "Fixing now can save slips and slides on the ice later, as well as the pain and agony of broken bones and trips to the hospital," Bill says. 

19. Check soffits and overhangs for squirrel and bat holes. They may be gnawing away on your roof and you don't know you've got visitors in the attic. 

20. Do an attic ventilation check from the soffit to the ridge to be sure the areas are not plugged.

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