The piles and piles of leaves crunch under your feet, and the air starts to smell like wood burning in fireplaces. Soon enough it’s going to be winter, and the temperatures are dropping quickly.
But before you get too comfortable in your scarf and sweater, there’s still work to do. There are a few things you need to do before the freezing weather ramps up, so it’s time to get started.
Clean your gutters and downspouts – They get full of leaves, twigs, acorns and other debris, and if you don’t clean them they can cause serious damage to your home, including roof and foundation damage. You can do it yourself, if your home is low enough to the ground, but it means climbing on a ladder. So, you might want to consider hiring a pro for this. The cost of getting your gutters cleaned ranges from $125 – $175.
Change your air filters – The air in your home circulates back to your furnace, even in the summer when you’re using your air conditioner. An air filter keeps dust and debris out of the furnace, which helps it run more efficiently as well as last longer. The better your filter is, the fewer allergens will come through your air vents. So you and your family will breathe easier. When buying a filter, consider getting a filter with a higher MERV rating (Maximum Efficiency Reporting Value): The highest is 16, but most homes will work well with 11-13 (15 and 16 are used in hospitals). With a better filter, you can change it less often, and you’ll breathe a lot easier. The higher rating will remove pollen, dust mites, textile and carpet fibers, mold spores, dust, pet dander, bacteria and tobacco smoke.
Rake the leaves – You don’t have to use an actual rake, though. You can use a leaf blower or a mulching blade on your mower to chop them up. The mulching blade will put the leaves back down into the lawn and help mulch the grass. Rake or use the leaf blower when it’s dry. Picking up wet, soggy leaves doesn’t work as well, and you’ll be doing extra dirty work. Don’t just leave the leaves on the lawn. It can cause mold and disease in your lawn, and it can smother the grass over the winter.
Get inspected – Your furnace and fireplaces need to be inspected before you use them. Call an HVAC professional to check out your furnace to make sure it’s going to run efficiently over the winter. This can also help you fix small things before they become big, expensive ones. Before you use your fireplace or wood-burning stove, make sure you get it inspected by a chimney sweep. Using the fireplace causes a buildup of dangerous creosote, which can start a chimney fire. Chimney fires damage the chimney and can lead to a house fire, which nobody wants.
Check your pipes – If you have water pipes that are in unheated areas, make sure they are insulated. If not, they can freeze and burst, causing you a lot more money. They also freeze during the coldest days of winter, which means you could have a flooded basement in 10 degree weather. Not fun. If you go out of town, don’t turn your heat to below 55 degrees, and if you go for a long time (say, all winter), turn off the water to the house at the main water valve and drain the pipes before you leave.
Check your detectors — Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors save lives. Make sure their batteries are in working order.
Clean out your garage and car — The fall is the perfect time to clean out and declutter your garage before the cold comes. It’s also a good time to clean your car by giving it a good vacuum. Make sure to go online to research the best models for the job.
With a few simple chores, you can make sure your home is well cared for throughout the winter, and you’ll sleep better knowing you have done what you can to keep your home and family safe.
About the Author Paul Denikin is passionate about sharing his experiences working on DIY projects to benefit people with special needs children.