It’s fall, and Jack Frost will be knocking at our front doors soon. So, it’s time to can the preserves, stack the firewood, and break out the winter wear. But while cold weather affects everything from our car battery performance to the health of our beards, it’s our homes that need the bulk of our pre-winter attention. Whether a six-bedroom mansion or tiny house, our domiciles are our first line of defense against north winds and snow flurries. And there’s a lot to get done. So, start with these six ways to prepare your home for the winter season.
1. Get a Humidifier
Humidifiers make the air quality in your home more comfortable. By keeping the relative humidity in your home at around 40% to 60%, humidifiers help eliminate irritated skin and chapped lips. And humidifiers benefit your health by cutting down on allergens and keeping your nasal passages moist. But they’re good for the health of your home too. That’s because dry air warps wooden floors and furniture, widens cracks in window caulking, and makes your furnace run harder. But if a stand-a-long humidifier isn’t enough this year, it may be time to invest in a whole-house humidifier. They connect to your existing HVAC system and keep your home’s air quality at the right humidity without you having to worry.
2. Drain Your Lawn Sprinkler System
Your sprinkler system, like any outside water pipe, needs freeze protection. If you’ve got a self-draining sprinkler system, you’re good to go. But if not, you’ll need to manually drain the water from the system or call a professional to do it. If water stays trapped in your sprinkler heads, your lines, or the manifold (i.e., mainline), the expanding ice will likely damage your system. And when spring comes, you’ll have a costly replacement — and a muddy pit where your lawn used to be. If your sprinkler system isn’t too complex and you’ve got the time, follow these steps to manually winterizing your system. This may require equipment like an air compressor for blowing out the system. So, if you’re uneasy about tackling the job, call a professional.
You may also like, “How to Maintain an Attractive Garden Throughout Winter”
3. Test Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
House fires happen more in the winter months. So, protect your family and property by testing or installing smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors before winter hits. In fact, you should be testing them every month. The US Fire Administration suggests replacing your smoke detectors every ten years and your CO detector every five years. So, check their manufacturer dates and replace them if necessary.
Follow placement guidelines for both detector types. Place a smoke detector in every bedroom and on every level of your home. That includes the basement. When it comes to CO detector placement, things get a little trickier. Keep them away from appliances, furnaces, and stoves that emit small amounts of CO. If located too close, your CO detector can signal a false alarm. And lawnmowers and vehicles can fill a home with this clears, odorless gas fast. So, make sure you install a CO detector inside any attached garages.
4. Inspect Your Chimney
Over time, burning wood in your fireplace causes a black tar material called creosote to form in your chimney. When enough creosote builds up, it can combust and cause a chimney fire. So, inspect your chimney every season for creosote build-up. If it’s over 1/8th of an inch, have your flue or chimney professionally cleaned. And before starting your first fire, look for other problems. Open your chimney damper. Ensure the flue is free of obstructions like bird’s nests. And check that your chimney cap hasn’t accumulated leaves.
Also inspect your chimney’s brickwork for cracks. Water can penetrate through small cracks in bricks or missing mortar. When the water freezes, it pushes your masonry apartment, creating an even wider opening. Then, more water fills the gap, freezes, and widens the crack even more. Eventually, this process could bring your entire chimney crashing to the ground. So, patch large cracks with mortar and smaller ones with silicone caulk.
5. Clean Gutters
Remove leaves, sticks, and debris from your gutters by hand or with a power washer. Debris-free gutters help prevent ice dams during the winter. Leaf build-up within your gutters keeps melted snow and ice from running off your roof. If this happens, an ice “dam” can form at the edge of your roof, backing up melted water and accumulated snow. The trapped water can leak through your shingles and soak the plywood underneath. If you notice ice cycles forming on the edge of your roof, you know you’ve likely got an ice dam forming. So, install gutter guards and screens to your existing gutter system. They will make next year’s cleaning unnecessary.
6. Service Your HVAC System
Maintaining your furnace and HVAC system extends its life and helps it run more efficiently. That means keeping a toasty home for many years. So, schedule a professional HVAC visit up, or perform a do-it-yourself checkup this fall. And remember to cover your outdoor air conditioning compressor (preferably before fall) to keep leaves and moisture out of the unit. Moisture trapped by leaves and organic debris can cause corrosion. If your HVAC system has worked for 15 to 20 years, it’s time for a full replacement. Newer systems are more energy-efficient anyway, so you’ll be saving money while keeping your living environment more comfortable.