Preparing Your Home For Autumn

Autumn is just around the corner and, as the days get shorter and colder, it is time to put away the patio furniture and get your house prepared for the transition from summer to fall. We have compiled a few tips on things you should do now to help make your home more comfortable during fall. Although most of these tips are DIY, if you are not comfortable handling any of these tasks yourself, hire a professional to ensure you do not get hurt or cause unnecessary damage to your home.

Clean your eavestroughs and downspouts: As leaves begin to fall they can potentially fill your eavestroughs and downspouts, blocking water from exiting your roof and away from your house. Cleaning your eavestroughs regularly until all the trees in your area are leaf-free is an uncomplicated way to help stop water from finding a way inside.  There are a number of products on the market that can be installed on your eavestroughs to keep leaves and critters out while still letting water through. Check with your local home improvement store or a local contractor for recommendations on what works best on homes in your area.

Caulk around windows, doors, and other openings: Caulking around windows and doors prevents cold air from getting in and your conditioned inside air from getting out. Do a perimeter check to see if you need to add more caulking in spots. Having a good seal around these openings will not only make your home more comfortable but will also help you waste less energy and save you money. Check caulking around vents (such as your dryer and bathroom exhaust fan) and cables and pipes that run outside of your house and replace, or add, as necessary.

Check/replace weather stripping: Weather stripping loses its effectiveness with age and needs to be replaced every few years. Do a visual check of the stripping around exterior doors and windows (including your garage door) and replace if it appears worn or cracked. If the stripping appears fine but you can feel air moving when your doors and windows are closed, check that the stripping has been installed properly or that you are using the correct stripping as there is a difference between door and window stripping, and foam and rubber stripping.

Inspect your roof and chimney: The average lifespan of an asphalt shingled roof is between 15 and 20 years if installed properly. Factors such as critters, severe weather and whether you are in a highly populated tree area will speed up the deterioration process. From the outside look for signs of worn, loose, or missing shingles and shingles with mold or rot on them. Check eavestroughs for granules from the shingles (a sign of heavy wear) and ensure that your eavestroughs and are securely attached. If you have a metal, tiled or a roof with solar panels, it is best to have a professional do an inspection. You should also inspect around vents for missing caulking and broken seals and do a visual check of your chimney to ensure there are no crumbling bricks or critter nests inside. From inside your attic check the underside of your roof for water damage and holes. Also make sure there are no nests in your attic insulation and that vents in your soffits are not blocked.

Put your air conditioning unit to rest: Removable A/C window units should be removed and safely stored according to the manufacturer’s instructions before winter to protect the unit and help keep cooler outside air from getting inside. Whole home A/C units should be powered down from the breaker in your main electrical panel. If you have a safety shut-off switch located outside by the A/C unit that should be turned off as well. Use a short cover over the unit to protect it from debris and leaves getting inside the top while letting the unit “breathe.”  Another cover option is a piece of plywood cut to size on top of the unit.

Shut-off and drain outside faucets: The faucets you use outside in the spring and summer are susceptible to freezing. If proper care is not taken to shut-off and drain these lines before winter, it can lead to pipes and faucets bursting or cracking and can create a huge, potentially expensive, disaster. All faucets that exit your home should have a shut-off valve located inside. These shut offs are usually located close to where the faucet exits the basement to the outside but can also be located further back in the home closer to where the pipe for the faucet branches off from the main water source. Once the water is turned off inside, open the outside faucet to let it completely drain. If the inside shut-off valve has a drain plug, open it while the outside faucet is still turned to the on position but make sure to have a bucket under it when you open it as water will come out. Once all the water has completely drained from the line, close the drain plug on the shut-off valve and turn the outside faucet back to the off position. If you have access to the run of pipe that goes outside, adding pipe insulation around it is bonus protection and will also help keep condensation down in the summer months as well.

Clean and inspect your furnace: The first thing you should do before kicking on the heat once the cooler weather hits is to clean or replace your furnace filter. This not only helps the quality of your inside air, but also keeps your furnace running more efficient (and the more efficient your furnace runs the less money you waste heating your home). Filters should also be replaced every 90 days. If you have a permanent filter, follow the directions on how to clean it and only use the recommended cleaning solutions (you breathe the air that passes through the filter so cleaning it with harsh chemicals will only contaminate the air and could be potentially dangerous, especially if the cleaning solution is flammable). Doing a good vacuuming around your furnace and inside your floor and air intake vents also helps keeps air moving better so your furnace does not have to work as hard. If you have pets (or have just moved into a newly built house) having your ducts professionally cleaned is highly recommended. If your home is heated with baseboard or a heat pump, they should be cleaned and inspected for potential hazards as well.

While you are taking care of the bigger exterior and interiors items, now is also the ideal time to:

  • Clean and inspect your fireplace
  • Clean and inspect your dryer vent
  • Change the batteries in your smoke detectors
  • Check that carbon monoxide detectors are working properly
  • Inspect fire extinguishers
  • Inspect and test sump pumps
  • Empty and store rain barrels
  • Winterize outdoor lawn and patio equipment

Taking the time to prepare your home for Autumn will not only potentially keep your expenses down but also help to keep you and your family safe and healthy.