Preparing your home for the winter is not all about decking the halls and hanging the holiday lights. Every homeowner knows that winter can take its toll on a property, especially here in the Chicago suburbs where temperatures can fluctuate wildly and conditions can be rather unpredictable (I’m looking at you, snow in April!).
No matter what Tom Skilling has in store for us this year, you can prepare for the incoming cold by doing a few minor maintenance tasks now to save yourself some huge homeowner headaches come January.
- Test your furnace The last thing you want is for your furnace to call it quits when you need it the most. For around $100, you can have a technician come out to check your furnace or heat pump to make sure that everything is clean and in good shape for the hard work ahead. If you’re thinking about upgrading your HVAC systems this year, you might want to consider a smart thermostat that you can program to automatically lower the temperature when you aren’t home, saving additional dollars and conserving energy.
- Have your chimneys swept and inspected Before you decorate your mantel for the holidays, you need to make sure that your fireplace will work properly and safely. If you have a working fireplace, you need to have your chimneys cleaned and inspected every year to decrease the risk of fire from a build-up or blockage. If you hire a technician, be sure to inform them if you have noticed anything out of the ordinary — even the slightest discrepancy can indicate longer-term damage. If you are going the DIY route, check the chimney structure and lining for any deterioration, cracked bricks or cracked mortar. See any problems? Time to call in a professional!
- Improve your home’s energy efficiency Use weather stripping, window film and caulk to control heat loss around doors, windows and baseboards. Caulk or plug any holes, no matter how small, for faucets, pipes, electrical outlets, and wiring. This one may seem tedious, my friends, but it will save you money in the long run. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Take that savings and book a tropical vacation for your family during the coldest week of February!
- Adjust the temperature on your water heater As you are considering energy efficiency, it might be a good time to think about lowering the temperature on your water heater. Thermostats are typically set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but 120 degrees Fahrenheit is usually sufficient for most households. Why bother with something that sounds so minor? A lower temperature may reduce wear and tear on the pipes, and according to the (DOE), you could save up to $30 per year for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit the temperature is lowered.
- Clean your dryer hose Homeownership is so glamorous, isn’t it? Clogged dryer hoses pose huge fire hazards and can actually make your clothes dryer less efficient. Clean your dryer vent by removing the outside cover and using a special lint brush top clean the inside of the pipe. Cleaning your lint filter regularly, emptying or replacing your dryer hose, and checking that the exhaust is ventilating properly will help make your dryer last longer and prevent dangerous fire hazards.
- Don’t forget the outdoors! You may have already brought your outdoor furniture inside when it snowed before Halloween! If you’re procrastinating in the hopes that we get one more fall-like day before winter settles in for awhile, then do it now. You won’t regret it next time the snowflakes start to fall! Bring your outdoor furniture and any mobile appliances (grill, lawn mower, etc) into your garage or a shed for those winter months. Be sure to unplug and turn off your garden house and/or sprinkler systems — the last thing you want is a pipe to burst. With these winterizing tips, you are ready to hunker down and focus on preparing for the holiday season ahead — knowing that your home will be just a little warmer and safer this winter.