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Winter is Coming

With the advent of cooler weather and the autumn temps (they’re coming, I promise) now is the time to prepare your home for the coming Winter months. Most of these tips are things you can do yourself. The few that have professional services attached could possibly be done with minimal cost. Regardless, take these ten things as a list of quick and easy projects to get your home ready for the coming year and rest easy knowing you’ve taken good care of your investment.

  1. Tune up your heater. A service call like this usually only costs about $100 or so and it’s very well worth it. Every autumn, you should have an HVAC specialist service your home’s heater and make sure everything is in good, working condition. This is even more important if your home is heated by natural gas. Each year, before you crank up that heater the first time, you need to have a professional check to make sure that your heat exchange hasn’t become cracked. These cracks happen through normal use as the heat turns on and off and that metal warms up (expands) and then cools off (contracts). The constant expansion and contraction can cause hairline fractures that eventually leak carbon monoxide and present dangerous conditions for you and anyone in your home. To avoid this hazard, you’d be wise to have an HVAC specialist give your heater a good “once over” and make sure everything is safe.
  2. Reverse your ceiling fans. If you’re like me, it’s easy to remember that your ceiling fans have these nifty little switches on the body of the fan…but it’s difficult to remember which way the blades should be spinning. Maybe that’s exactly why you’re reading this. If your fan has a switch on the body of the fan, switch it to turn the blades in a clockwise direction. This pushes the hot air down from the ceiling (remember, hot air rises) and helps to keep down heating costs. Plus, it impresses your friends and family that you knew how to work that switch and why.
  3. Clean out your gutters. This seems like a simple one but it’s something that is very easy to forget. With autumn comes a billion falling leaves. People may not realize this, but leaves are genetically predesigned to direct their fall right into your gutters, clogging them with the kind of fibrous pulp that can weigh down said gutters when they become wet and frozen. These clogs can do everything from cause roof damage, wood rot, or even put so much weight on your roof eaves that your gutters can become weakened and fall, damaging your fascia boards on the way down.
  4. Caulk your windows and doors. If the gaps between your window or door frames are bigger than the width of a nickel, do yourself a favor. Spend $2.00 on some caulk and get after it. Those pesky cracks and openings can cost big money in heating and cooling costs and this is prime time to get that stuff done. Silicone caulk is best for exterior places because it won’t shrink and it’s pretty resilient to the elements.
  5. Wrap your outside faucets. Sure, we live on the gulf coast. There’s a pretty accurate joke about the weather around here. We have two seasons: Summer and February. However, from time to time we do get cold snaps and freezing temps. Our outside water pipes are just not built to handle these drastic changes in weather and need to be wrapped with insulation so that we don’t wake up one morning with no water pressure only to find our front yard and interior wall are gloriously soaking wet from a busted pipe. This is never a good way to wake up and it will certainly ruin your day…not to mention your wall and flooring in some cases. It’s an easy and inexpensive precaution to spend $1 on foam insulation and wrap it around those pipes.
  6. Drain your sprinkler system if you have one. You may need to call in a professional on this one, but they won’t charge much. Your sprinkler system, if left full, can freeze, bust and cause all sorts of costly repairs and leaks. You don’t want to find out the hard way and have to dig up half your yard to replace a busted piece of PVC. Just drain it ahead of time and rest easy knowing that while the holidays are stressful and family can be crazy this time of year, at least your sprinkler system will be safe and sound.
  7. Drain and store your lawnmower. One of the best parts of the autumn and winter months is that there will come a day when you will put your lawnmower away for months and not even have to think about mowing the yard. However, unused fuel in your lawnmower can decompose and cause unwanted wear on the carburetor. This can make the mower difficult to start, come spring time and in some cases even create a situation where your lawnmower will need a professional to clean it out and get it going again. While this may sound like a great way to get out of mowing your yard, it’s really not a good idea to leave that fuel in your mower. Simply use it up or even drain it manually. You’ll be glad you did.
  8. DON’T prune your trees until late winter…just before spring growth begins. Many folks will take this time of year to trim the trees and get things ready for Christmas lights. However, waiting until the edge of spring when the trees have laid dormant long enough to really come back with a vengeance and begin the spring season with robust growth is best. If you have questions about specific trees or plants, you might want to give our good friends at TreeLife Farms a call. They can give you great advice on what to do and what not to do.
  9. Check your roof. Winter is the time to become intimately familiar with your roof. Not only will you likely want to decorate it with lights and puffy Santa’s like a modern day Clark Griswold, but you’ll need to take a look this fall and see if you can find lose shingles, up-turned flashing or any other weak spots where winter and autumn storms could easily penetrate and compromise the integrity of your roof leading to much bigger problems. Many times, minor roof repairs can be done for little money by a handyman or a roofer. However, foregoing inexpensive repairs can lead to expensive problems. And those problems never happen at a good time. Trust me.
  10. Call a Chimney Sweep. Before you light that first fire of the season, it’s always a good idea to call a local chimney sweep and have them make sure the fireplace and chimney are in good condition and free of any kind of obstruction. I learned this one year after some birds had built a nest in our chimney. I like to think the birds had all long since flown south for the winter when that nest caught fire. Let’s all just agree on that part. The firemen, with sirens blaring, made sure that the chimney was cleared once they were called out to the house due to the ten foot flames shooting out of my chimney. Good times. Plan ahead. Have a good chimney sweep check the whole thing before you start a fire.

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