Winterize Your House This Fall

Last weekend, I spent enough time outdoors—at an evening bonfire Friday, at my five-year-old son’s soccer game Saturday morning, and again when I ran the Medtronic Twin Cities 10 Mile race on Sunday—to know that summer is officially gone, and Ol’ Man Winter is tap, tap, tapping at the windows. (This weekend it felt more like he was trying to break the windows with a sledge hammer.)

The plunge in temperature not only motivated us to break out our winter gear, but also motivated my husband to buy a new filter for our furnace, because when you live in Minnesota, you do not want to run the risk of being without heat once cold weather is here to stay (and it’s here to stay). 

Checking your furnace—and changing the filter—is one way to winterize your home. Here are some other helpful suggestions:

• Clean your home’s gutters. If you don’t clean out your clogged gutters, you run the risk of water building up during cold weather. Ice damming (when the backed-up water pushes its way up under the shingles) can easily ruin a roof. Other potential problems include gutters that are so loaded down with leaves, twigs, and debris that they come crashing down, and overflowing water that can damage the integrity of your home’s structure. Putting off this job can become a very costly mistake. 

• According to U.S. News & World Report, it’s also important to seal cracks in windows, doors, and ducts. “Install your storm windows or cover your panes in thin plastic insulation material available at major home improvement centers. Next, inspect ventilation ducts for cracks and separations, as vast amounts of heating can escape through poorly fitted ductwork.” Use weatherstripping around doors to prevent cold air from entering the house. According to Excel Energy, “Winterizing your home by weatherstripping doors and sealing windows and gaps along a home’s foundation can save up to 10 percent on your heating and cooling costs.”

• If you have a fireplace, you can get it ready by cleaning the chimney (scoop out the leftover ash and dump the ash in a fireproof container), capping the top to keep out rodents and birds, stocking up on firewood, and inspecting the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing.

• When the weather turns chilly, rodents and spiders look for warm places to wait out the deep freeze. Keep unwanted critters out of your garage, attic, and basement by checking for open gaps in doors and windows. Make sure all exterior vents are covered by screens.

• Have your carpets professionally cleaned. Think of all the sand and surface debris you and your family have tracked in during the summer. Now is a great time for a deep cleaning, when you’ll be spending more time indoors (you want the cleanest indoor environment, right?).

• Put away outdoor furniture, like patio tables and chairs, grills, and kids’ toys. Do a quick wipe-down of patio furniture and toys to remove debris, and make sure everything is dry before storing it for the winter. Fire up the grill one last time and let it burn for 10 minutes to get rid of food residue on the grill rack, turn off the flame, then scrub the rack with a wire brush or ball of aluminum foil. Remove the grease tray and wash it in soapy water. If the grill will be stored in the garage or basement during the winter, remove the propane tank before storing it.

It’s best to prepare your home for winter before winter arrives. Avoid future problems by addressing potential issues now. Your wallet, the environment, and your family will thank you.

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