Tip #1-- Check your furnace. Check the filter, change it out/clean it if necessary, get the pilot light and burners checked out if it's gas or oil. Fireplaces, boilers, water heaters, space heaters and wood burning stoves should be serviced at least yearly. When's the last time you had your chimney cleaned out?
Tip #2- Have you ever had your ducts cleaned? When all the windows get shut for the season, it traps all those allergens inside, and as your heater blows warm air, it blows them right into your living area for you to breathe. Clean and vacuum all the air vents (especially the returns). For reference, ducts should be professionally cleaned every 3 years.
Tip #3- Test your fire and smoke alarms and your carbon monoxide detectors. Often these go unattended. A good rule of thumb is to check them every time you have to change the clocks (i.e Daylight savings time, think spring forward and fall back), or every 6 months if you're the organized type who will remember. Watch for the local Fire Department, as sometimes they'll give away batteries and or smoke alarms around this time. They may even come to your house and check them for you!
Tip #4- Remove excess leaves surrounding your home. Once the leaves are down, it's easy to see the dead branches on your trees too making it a great time to remove them. Dead branches have the potential to break off and fall, ruining your roof and/or deck, or even your neighbor's fence!
Tip #5- Maintain your gutters. If you're my husband, that doesn't just mean looking at them and saying how nice they look. Remove all the debris that can slow or impede the flow of water draining from your roof. Trapped water can freeze and thaw, which repeatedly happens over the winter. The freeze/thaw cycle can be destructive to not only the gutters but the adjoining roof too. If you're me, there's people who will come clean out your gutters for less than $100. Check your local Facebook groups (which is where I see the postings for when they'll be in the neighborhood). Then my husband can continue to "inspect" my gutters and say how nice they are!
Tip #6 - While you're up there, inspect your roof. Look for damaged or loose shingles, gaps in the flashing at the joints with siding, vents and flues as well as damage around the chimney. If you get your chimney cleaned (see Tip #1) the chimney sweep will inspect your chimney for you. Proactive maintenance on your roof can prevent emergencies and expensive repairs later.
Tip #7- Inspect your exterior walls and windows. You're looking for things like cracks, gaps, loose or crumbling mortar, and splitting or decayed wood. Caulk exterior joints around windows and doors, which helps keep the home weather tight and helps to lower your heating bills. Address the cracks now while bugs are looking to make your home their winter resting place. The last thing you want is to have a bug invasion in your home in the middle of winter (yes, it has happened).
Tip #8- Maintain steps and handrails. Repair broken steps and secure loose banisters. Broken steps are easily hidden beneath snow, which could call a dangerous fall. Similarly, a person slipping on ice will grab a handrail for support.
Tip #9- Pools, sprinkler systems and outside faucets should be shut down. Homeowners can shut down outside faucets, while the other tasks should be performed by industry professionals. Water left in a sprinkler line freeze, bursting the pipes.
Tip #10- When a disaster strikes, we're always hoping we have the right coverage. Your insurance agent will appreciate your call , just to make sure you have the coverage you really need, and making sure you'll be covered in a disaster. You may find things you can delete (I had a camera covered for $25 a year that I didn't even own anymore), or things you need to add (an electronics rider to cover things like computers/printers/ipads, etc). You'll gain peace of mind by making sure you are covered!
If you have any other tips you'd like to share please comment below!