Soon, the leaves will be changing color. Shorter days, cooler weather, and the joys of the holiday season are the time to slow down and enjoy family and friends—not to be doing last-minute winterizing. Start the process now by doing a little each weekend, breaking that daunting to-do list down into manageable parts.
Getting CozyCold air is quite good at finding ways to creep in and increase your heating costs. Check all the windows and doors for damaged or missing caulk and make any necessary repairs. Make sure that all weather-stripping is still in good condition; it might be time to replace it. Examine window tracks for any dirt or debris that may interfere with the seals.
If you don’t have double-paned or storm windows, you may want to consider buying a window insulation kit at a home improvement store that features a shrink film that goes on the inside of the window to seal things tight. It is a one-use product, but it pays for itself in savings.
Don’t forget to inspect the seals around less commonly considered house penetrations, such as an air conditioner access point.
Check the roof—you probably did it in the spring, but it’s time to do it again. Look for loose shingles and other damage, and pay particular attention to chimneys. This is also the time to hire a chimney sweep (chimney cleaning contractor) to remove creosote deposits or bird nests to make sure everything is ready and safe when you build your first cozy fire. Also, consider increasing your attic insulation, particularly if you have an older home.
Staying ToastyReplace your furnace or HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning) filter. Test your heater now by running it for 15 minutes, so there are no surprises when you really need it. Check any accessible furnace or HVAC ducts to make sure they’re all well-connected and in good condition. Shine a flashlight into the air intake (where you change the filter) or a handy room duct and see what’s going on inside. They may need to be professionally cleaned.
If you’ve got radiator heat, you may want to take a moment and consider adding radiator reflectors, which bounce the heat back into the room for increased efficiency. Before you turn the system on, flush out the boiler according to the manufacturer’s instructions to remove particles that may have settled while it wasn’t in use during the summer. Visually inspect for rusted or corroded pipes, then turn it on and let it run for 15 minutes, listening for abnormal sounds that may require a repairman.
No matter what type of system you have, late summer to early fall is a good time to call in a pro for annual servicing or tune-ups. Preventive maintenance is always best.
If your budget allows, consider investing in a Wi-Fi thermostat; they offer a wide variety of programming options, including daily presets and a handy vacation mode, and allow for remote access so that you can save money by only turning up the heat as you’re on the way home or turning it down again when you’re suddenly invited out to dinner and won’t be home for a while.
Lastly, reverse any ceiling fans so they run counterclockwise, blowing the warm air back into the room.
Water SupplyPipes located in attics, crawl spaces, basements, garages, and near outer walls may be susceptible to freezing when the temperature drops below 32 degrees F. Wrap them with electrical heating tape and cover that with a foam insulating sleeve. Protect exterior hose bibs by turning off their water supply inside the house and then draining them thoroughly; or, if you need to keep them in use, cover them with a specially-designed insulated cover.
Water heaters work overtime in the winter, so wrap them in insulation as well. But first check that they’re not pre-insulated, in which case, just leave them alone; a second layer of insulation can be a fire hazard. Never wrap an on-demand water heater for the same reason. Flush all systems according to manufacturer’s instructions to remove the sediment build-up that can reduce the unit’s efficiency and longevity.
If you’re doing a seasonal shutdown, such as with a vacation home, you’ll want to consider shutting off the water to the house and draining the pipes. Flush the toilets a few times and drain all appliances. (Note: You never want to shut off water to a fire-sprinkler system.)
Another alternative is to use a non-toxic plumbing system antifreeze. Use as directed, and don't forget the toilet bowl, toilet tank, sink, and bathtub. Your home is now protected all winter long.