It’s that time of year again. If you haven’t got snow down already, then the chances are that you will have soon. Winter is a wonderful time – all that white snow makes everything look so clean, there is skiing to look forward to, and it’s cozy to sit by the fire during the dark winter evenings. However, before you move into winter mode, there are a few things that you should take care of around your house.
Perhaps one of the most important ones is to check your furnace. You’re relying on it to keep you nice and warm, so you want to make sure that it is in top condition. The first thing is to try to switch it on – if you can’t, then it’s time to call in the professionals. However, if it does fire up, you may get a musty smell for a while – this is perfectly normal, but if it persists then you need to get it checked out. Take a look at the filters as well – if these are clogged, then they will reduce the efficiency of your furnace, which is going to drive your heating bills through the roof. Finally, check that you haven’t stacked up anything flammable near to your furnace during the summer – if you have, make sure you move it at least 10 feet away.
If you are fortunate enough to have a fireplace in your home, then you’re probably looking forward to lighting your first fire of the winter. The good news is that you don’t need to have your chimney swept before you do this – every few years is fine – but you do need to get it inspected. Also, it’s a good idea to apply a coat of sealant to the outside of your chimney – this will prevent moisture from getting in and freezing, which can damage the bricks and even make your chimney fall down in extreme cases.
While you are outside sealing the chimney, it’s a perfect time to winterize your yard as well. Get rid of all the leaves, since if you leave these down over the winter they can damage your lawn. Pull up any annual flowers or vegetables, and put these on the compost heap. Cut back any perennials that need it, and make sure that you protect the roses. It’s also a good idea to put an organic mulch over your flower beds – pine needles or straw work well for this. However, before you do, weed your borders – this will give you a head start in the spring. Finally, don’t forget to arrange for snow removal services, unless you really like getting out at 5 o’clock in the morning with a shovel.
Next, it’s time to inspect the exterior of your doors and windows. You would be surprised how much cold air can come whistling in through the cracks, particularly around the edge of window frames and under the door. To check if there are any leaks, step inside for a minute and light a candle. Hold the flame up close to your windows and your doors – if the flame flickers, then you need to do something. For windows, the best approach is often to put a bead of caulking around your window where the frame meets the outside wall. To get rid of drafts in doors, put weather stripping around the inside of the frame, and add door sweeps to the bottom.
At this point, you need to check your gutters and downspouts. The problem is that if you don’t clear all the leaves out of these, water accumulates in them and then freezes. As a minimum, this will damage your gutters, and in the worst case the ice will back up into your roof and cause some real damage. While we’re on the topic of your roof, also check it for any damaged or missing shingles, and replace them if needed. This will prevent further damage to your roof during the winter, and will also stop water from leaking into your attic when the snow starts to melt in the spring.
Finally, head back into your house. It’s time to see if there’s anything you need to do to improve the efficiency of your duct system. Take out the heat vent covers and vacuum out any dust or debris so that you get a good, strong airflow. You may also need to adjust the dampers to make sure that heat is evenly distributed around your house. Finally, go down to the basement, and see if your duct work is taped at the joints and wrapped with insulation. If it isn’t, then do this – it’s not expensive, and it will save you a ton of money on your heating bill.