A few simple steps can help you winterize your home this fall, keeping you safe and comfortable during the colder months -- and saving you money in the process.
Kit Selzer, senior remodeling and projects editor at Better Homes and Gardens magazine, says winterization is important even in warm parts of the country. "Fall is a great time to improve energy efficiency," she says. "It's also a great time to do annual home fix-ups that really make a difference in winter."
Here are Selzer's top suggestions for projects to consider right now:
- Gutter maintenance. First clean out any debris, then check for gaps where leaking water could freeze and damage the gutters. Finally, spray a hose through downspouts to make sure they drain easily.
- Window sealing. Check for air leaks: On a cool day, run your finger around the window frame to feel for cold air seeping in. Adding window film or weather stripping will help reduce leakage. You also can install insulated blinds or curtains, which can add visual appeal while reducing energy costs.
- Insulation check. If you have an older home, you probably can benefit from additional insulation, Selzer says. Check the thickness of your insulation and compare it to standards for your area, or contact your utility company to see if your heating and cooling bills are higher than for other similar-sized homes.
- Heating system tune-up. Heating systems operate most efficiently when they are clean and properly maintained, so have a professional inspect and maintain your system annually, Selzer says. If you use a wood stove or fireplace, creosote can build up inside the chimney and create a fire hazard. Hire a professional to inspect the chimney and clean it if necessary.
- Detector check. Winterization sessions are great times to check all smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers. Check them again in spring to ensure they're up to date and in good working order.
- Energy audit. Your utility company or state government's energy office may provide free or inexpensive energy audits. Energy assessors will review your heating and cooling bills and inspect your home, possibly by taking infrared images of your house to determine where leaks are. The results can help you determine what projects and practices could best reduce your energy use. Your utility company or local government may even offer rebates for products and services that increase your energy efficiency.