Getting ready for winter requires a lot of outdoor tasks such as clearing leaves from your property and gutters, putting away your grill and testing your snowblower. There are things you should do in and around the house as well, according to this list prepared by our experts and featured in today's Facebook chat: Live from the labs.
Turn off water to hoses and lawn sprinklers. When temperatures fall below freezing, water in the faucet can freeze and burst pipes. Remember it’s not enough to shut off the water outside; turn off water from the indoor supply valve so that no water is in the faucet. Then drain residual water from outdoor faucets, spray nozzles, and systems and disconnect hoses and accessories.
Move piles of leaves, compost, or wood away from house or other structures. Rodents and small animals like to nest in debris. Wood attracts termites, which may then migrate into your home for the winter.
Turn off power to outdoor compressor on your central AC. Rodents are attracted to residual heat generated by the power running through the compressor, even when isn’t running.
Cover outdoor furniture. Or store it in your garage or shed if there's space.
Clean out gutters one last time after all the leaves have fallen. Clogged gutters can lead to ice dams, which can create leaks along the roof edge.
Wash windows. You'll appreciate the extra sunlight that streams through cleaned windows.
Check windows and doors for air leaks. With windows and doors closed, turn on exhaust fans, then take an incense stick and hold it near windows and doors. If smoke blows horizontally, you have a leak. Seal small ones with caulk; larger ones with expanding foam or foam board. Add weatherstripping around doors.
Review the settings on your programmable thermostat. Schedules change from year to year, so make sure the ones you set last year still make sense. If you don't have a programmable thermostat, consider getting one.
Have a pro service your home heating system. A properly maintained heating system is likely to work better, run more efficiently, and last longer. Malfunctioning systems increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Replace furnace filters every month. Dirty filters can make your furnace work harder. Also be sure to vacuum heat registers frequently and make sure that furniture isn’t blocking them.
Have your chimney inspected and cleaned. If you regularly burn wood fires, creosote can build up. A basic chimney inspection and sweeping will last up to 90 minutes and cost about $150 to $300. Beware of low bids or excessive proposals based on cursory inspections. The Chimney Safety Institute of America, a nonprofit group, lists certified sweeps on its website, www.csia.org.
But skip duct cleaning services. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there’s no proof that cleaning ducts prevents health problems, nor do studies conclusively show that dirty ducts increase the levels of airborne particulates in a home.
Check detectors and fire extinguishers. You probably know that you should check the batteries in your detector when you change your clock, but did you know that smoke and CO detectors don’t last forever. Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years and CO detectors every 5 years. If you have a combo smoke/CO alarm, replace it after 5 years. Manufacture dates are on the back of the detectors. Similarly, fire extinguishers should be replaced after 12 years or after you’ve used them.
—Celia Kupersmid Lehrman