The days are getting shorter, and hot chocolate consumption has increased. That can mean only one thing — winter is here and there’s plenty to do. A good place to start is with a thorough cleaning of your home, inside and out. Shampoo those carpets and scrub away summer and fall grime. Then take a power washer to your home’s exterior. It will blast off those cobwebs from eaves, leaves from gutters, and old paint and caulking. Once that’s done, follow these do-it-yourself tips to get your home ready for the long winter season.
Dust Off the Humidifier
Your humidifier is a critical component to the comfort of your home. We all know winter means dry interior air, electric shocks from socks, and chapped lips. Humidifiers eliminate these dry air problems by putting moisture back into the air your heating system removes. So prep your humidifier by cleaning and testing it via the manufacturer’s instructions. There are many health benefits for using a humidifier in your home during the winter. So, make sure to do your research to see what type is right for you.
Prep Your Heating Unit
Ensure heating equipment is good-to-go by scheduling a professional HVAC check-up. They’ll handle cleaning, testing, or replacing any dirty or defective parts. But if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, these prep steps will whip your system into shape:
- Replace your indoor unit filters at least once every three months.
- Wipe off any dirt accumulating around your inflow and outflow vents.
- Check for any exposed or frayed wiring.
- Turn the unit on and see if things heat up to the right temps.
- Listen for unusual noises, rattles, and bangs that might indicate you have a problem.
- If you have an outdoor compressor unit that isn’t a heat pump, cover it.
And if you’re HVAC system is 15 to 20 years old, it’s probably time for a total replacement. That’s a big project and a big cost. But newer more energy-efficient models can save you up to 20% on your annual energy bill. So, it’s a project worth the investment if you can afford it.
Locate Attic Drafts
Your attic is the air envelope between your home and the cold exterior air. Any holes or cracks in your roof or attic break this precious seal, letting cold air in and hot air out. Check around any pipes running out of the roof. Gaskets around plumbing vents or roof vents should form a tight seal. Fill any gaps with caulking or weather-stripping. To locate air drafts in your attic, turn off the lights and look for bright spots from daylight streaming through. Any external light you see indicates a hole in your attic. Alternatively, check at night with a powerful flashlight in your attic. Any light visible from outside your home is also a leak. You can also buy a leak detector or smoke pencil to locate drafts.
Weather Strip Doors and Windows
An incoming or outgoing air from your home is an energy waster. Dozens of drafts add up to a big hole that lets the cold air in and hot air out. So properly detecting air leaks is a necessary prep step. Seal up any openings with caulking, insulation, and weather stripping. Inspect all your windows and doors. Replace any rotting or damaged seals. To check your door seal, shut a dollar bill inside the door. If you can pull it out with no resistance, the seal isn’t tight enough. Good seals are critical for that face north doors and windows. The colder, stronger wind will snake its way into your home much easier on the north side.
Sweep the Chimney
Soot from burnt materials builds up within your chimney over time and becomes a fire hazard. How often you sweep your chimney depends on how often you use it. But the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) suggests cleaning it after ⅛ inch of soot build-up. Regardless, every chimney or flue needs an annual inspection. That’s because leaves, bird nests, and other debris can accumulate and block your chimney. And inspect your flue damper to ensure it’s open and working before starting a fire. If you don’t plan on using your fireplace, make sure your damper forms a tight seal when closed. Any cracks allow warm interior air to escape up your chimney or flue.
Winterize Your Lawn
Late fall and early winter is the time to get your yard and equipment ready for a long winter’s nap. Give your lawn one final cut. Then apply fertilizer to keep it healthy when the ground freezes. You may also want to aerate the ground along heavy use paths. Aeration helps micronutrients and fertilizers make their way easily to grass roots. Give your lawn and any shrubs or saplings a good soaking. Next, clean up your lawnmower and other yard tools and hang up for storage. Finally, blow out your water sprinkler system to avoid freezing and damage. Disconnect water hoses from external faucets. And cover faucets with freeze caps.
Test Smoke and CO2 Detectors
Test your smoke and CO2 detectors and replace their batteries with fresh ones. And take an inventory of your coverage. Do you have enough detectors installed? You need smoke alarms “inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement,” according to the NFPA. And have at least one CO2 detector on every level of your home, preferably outside bedrooms. If your detectors are over 10 years old, it’s time to replace them. For your next set, look for interconnected detector systems. These are safer because when one detector goes off, it triggers the rest of the detectors, ensuring whole-home alarm coverage.