As our wonderful Cheshire summer temperatures start to finally cool, the amazing rays of the blazing sun are going to give way to gusty winds, falling leaves, and dropping temperatures. Now is the best time to prepare your home for those colder days and nights...so you're not stuck doing it when the snow is already falling! The following tips will help to save some cash as well by cutting down your energy bills.
Raise the Roof
Few home problems are more frustrating than a leaky roof, as it’s often hard to find the exact source of the problem. So, taking care of these things before the rain and snow begin is a good idea.
Inspect your roof from top to bottom, searching for missing or damaged shingles. Check shingles for cracks and other damage. Look for damage to metal around vents and chimneys. Look in your gutters, if you find large granules is could be a sign that you are losing your roof’s coating. Finally, make sure your gutters are flowing freely.
Get your Mind IN the Gutter
The drainage system on your roof is extremely important, as it diverts thousands of gallons of water from your home annually, protecting your foundation and walls. So, obviously you want to keep these drains flowing smoothly. Clogged gutters lead to basement flooding and other hard to detect damage. They are not immune from rust and erosion either. So, before the leaves start falling, clean your gutters! THEN put some mesh guards over them to protect from future debris.
Hunt for Drafts
Many homes have air leaks around windows and doors, which can account fro 10% of your energy bill (according to the U.S. Department of Energy). So, check for gaps in caulk and weather stripping. If you don’t have weather stripping…you’re missing out! Seriously, weather-stripping is by far the most cost-effective way to control heating and cooling costs. It will reduce drafts and keep your home comfy cozy year round. However, this stuff does deteriorate over time, so even if you already have it, you want to inspect it each year.
There are a couple easy techniques for checking your stripping:
- 1) Close your door or window on a strip of paper…if the paper slides up and down easily, you have some work to do.
- 2) Light a candle and hold it near the frame of the closed door or window…if you find the flame flickers at any point near the frame…you have a leak!
You’ll also want to check the caulk, especially near entry points for cables. This also deteriorates over time, so you may have to re-caulk.
Winter is coming, all men must protect their pipes.
Close any shut-off valves to outdoor faucets…then drain the line, by opening the valve outside.
*If you don't have shut-off valves or your faucets are not "freeze-proof “, you may benefit from styrofoam faucet covers (Check Hines Hardware)
In-ground irrigation systems should come with instructions from the manufacturer on how to freeze proof.
Where’s your Filter?
Furnace filters trap dust that would otherwise be deposited around your home. Clogged filters also make it harder to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, and can seriously increase your utility bills. It’s easy to manage. Simple monthly cleaning is all it takes to keep these filters breathing free and clear.
Disposable filters can be vaccumed once before replacement. Foam filters can also be vaccumed but these don't need to be replaced unless they are damaged. Use a soft brush on a vacuum cleaner. If the filter is metal or electrostatic, remove and wash it with a firm water spray. Boom, your filter is good as new.
It's a good idea to have your heating system inspected by a professional once a year. People often wait until the last minute, so beat the rush and schedule this for the early fall, before the heating season even begins.
See the signs:
- Noisy belts Weird screeches or whines may signal that belts connected to the blower motor are worn or damaged.
- Poor performance. A heating system that doesn't seem to work as well as it used to could mean a lot of different problems. Your heating ducts could be blocked, the burners might be misadjusted or the blower motor could be on its way out. But before you panic, check that the filter is clean.
- Erratic behavior. This could be caused by a faulty thermostat.
Come on Baby Light your Fire!
Even if you rarely use your fireplace, you should check it annually for damage.
Inspect your flue for creosote. Creosote is a flammable by-product of burning wood, so if it accumulates in your chimney, you could be victim to a devastating fire. Have your chimney inspected annually for creosote buildup. If you use a fireplace frequently, then have the flue inspected after each cord of wood burned.
The best option is to have your entire chimney system inspected by a chimney sweep. Once you know what to look for, you can perform the inspection by shining a bright flashlight up the flue, looking for any deposits approaching 1/8 inch thick, though the actual cleaning of these deposits should be performed by a professional.
Look for flue blockages. Birds love to nest at the top of an unprotected flue. A chimney cap is an easy way to prevent this. If you don't have a cap, just take a look up the flu to be sure.
Exercise the damper. The damper is the metal plate that opens and closes the flu just above the firebox. Test the open and closed positions to ensure that it is working properly.
Check for damage. Make certain that the flue cap is in place. Inspect brick chimneys for loose or broken points. If access is a problem try using binoculars.
Keep your Humidifier Happy
Really dry winter air is bad for your health, but did you know it can make fine wood crack easier? You and your home will feel more comfortable if you keep your central humidifier running properly.
Inspect the plates or pads. You can clean them with laundry detergent. You should also rinse and scrape off mineral deposits (use a wire brush or steel wool).
Anything involving gas is a huge safety issue. Heaters that are not maintained properly can spew poisons into the air of your home, or at least it may be costing you more to operate. Have a professional check these devices annually.
Smoke and CO Detectors
Replace batteries in all of your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. Then vacuum them with a soft brush attachment. Test the detectors by pressing the test button or holding a smoke source (like a blown-out candle) near the unit. If you haven't already, install a smoke detector on every floor of your home, including the basement.
You’d be surprised how many homes don’t have a fire extinguisher. Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher rated for all fire types (look for an A-B-C rating on the label). Keep one near the kitchen; though having one per floor isn't a bad idea. Check the indicators on the pressure gauge to make sure the extinguisher is charged. Make sure the lock pin is intact and in place, and then make sure the discharge nozzle is not clogged.
***Replace all Fire Extinguishers that are more than 6 Years Old & mark the date of purchase on the new unit with a permanent marker.