Driving along 97th street this week, I realized that its no longer possible to pretend that its still summer. The leaves are brilliant yellows, reds and oranges by the old Garrison – and each year we find that along with those falling leaves come rising energy costs. Which means now is a great time to start getting your home ready to battle the winter cold.
Following is a great checklist that you can use to make sure your home is ready for winter – even if you’re not.
- Winterize your outside taps, or you may have a serious leak come springtime. First find the shut-off valve for your taps (usually in the basement), and turn it off. Then go outside and remove all the hoses, and turn the water on to help drain the lines. If you have bleeder valves by your shut off valve, drain those as well.
- Seal your doors and windows. Check all your weather-stripping and replace worn areas, and use caulking to seal any obvious gaps (and don’t forget about basement windows). If you have storm doors/windows, put them on. And while you’ve got the caulking out, check other entry points like vents and pipes and ensure that they are properly sealed.
- Prepare your furnace. Check the filter and see if your ducts need cleaning (its recommended that they be cleaned every 5 years). Make sure your thermostat and pilot light are working, and if you’re at all unsure of the condition your furnace is in, have an expert check it. If you’re considering replacing your furnace with an energy-efficient model, schedule it now before the installers become even more booked up.
- Get a programmable thermostat. One of the best investments you can make is to get a thermostat that will cost you less than $50, is easy to install, and can save you hundreds in energy costs over the long-term.
- Take care of your plants, and the debris that they leave behind. Trim tress and remove dead branches (so they don’t snap off in winter). Check your gutters (and chimney, if applicable) to see that they’re not clogged with fallen leaves. Give decks an additional coat of sealer. Its also a good idea to prune your shrubs and hedges at this time of year, add mulch to perennial flower beds, and plant spring-flowering bulbs like tulips.
- Dig out a ladder to check your roof – if you’re able to do so safely. While you’re up there, check your chimney and cap for signs of smoke/water damage, as well as loose masonry. Check your shingles, flashings that might need re-sealing, and attic vents for nests or other blockages.
- Or get your binoculars out – if that’s safer – and check the roof as best you can from the ground.
- Care for your concrete, including driveways, sidewalks, and stairs by putting a sealer on any area where you’ll be using salt or any other melting agent. If you see any minor cracks in your basement walls, be sure to seal them properly. If you see major ones – or if you’re not sure – get an expert to take a look.
- Ensure your stairs and rails are safe by checking them all and making repairs now. Broken or loose stairways and sidewalks can become very dangerous when covered with ice and snow, so it’s a good idea to fix them now.
- Take care of your lawnmower and other gas-powered engines (like weedeaters) by draining the gas until next spring.
- Change the timers on any outdoor lights so that they suit the shorter winter days.
- Be prepared. As President Bush learned recently, it can cause significant problems when you’re not prepared for a catastrophe. Prepare an emergency kit with blankets, candles, food, etc. in case of power/gas outages.