Fall is near and the changing leaves and shorter days mean that it’s time again to get your home ready in time for winter. While a quick look at your family’s busy schedule might make you think there’s no time for home improvement projects, we’ve got you covered. Here are 16 fast tips that you can easily tackle in a single weekend to improve your home’s energy efficiency, save money, and be ready for winter.
8 Tips to Prepare Your Home’s Exterior for Fall
1. Clean the Rain Gutters
Leaves and other debris can very quickly accumulate in gutters and clog everything up. Putting a plastic gutter-guard over the gutters will keep the leaves out of the gutters and downspouts so water can flow freely. And when you’re clearing the gutter, keep your eyes peeled for holes under the eaves in the soffits where cold air (or rodents!) can enter your attic.
2. Prune Your Trees
If any tree limbs are touching your home, trim them back. Not only can branches damage roofing and siding, but leaves can deflect rainwater onto the side of your home and lead to damage and rot. There’s also the possibility of limbs coming off during a storm and causing damage. Aim to keep at least a foot of space between your home and any branches. And if it’s a big job, just call the professionals.
3. Seal the Windows
Air leaks can account for up to 40 percent of the energy used to heat and cool a home, so check your windows for loose glazing or gaps. Reglaze or seal them with silicone caulk to keep the cold, wet weather out of your home. If any panes are broken or cracked, replace them. Not only do they affect efficiency, but cracked and broken glass is a safety hazard.
4. …And Seal the Doors, Too
And you need to do the same with your doors. In addition to any gaps, take a look at the weatherstripping. That’s one part that’s long overdue for replacement in many people’s homes. If it’s old, cracked, coming apart, pick up a replacement and install it. It’s a fast and easy job and a fresh seal will do wonders to improve overall efficiency.
5. Take Care of Water Damage
A draft can make things uncomfortable but unwanted water can make things expensive. Stay vigilant of signs of water damage or wood rot around your windows and doors. You can check by pressing on the window or door trim with your finger. Soft or spongy wood indicates a rot problem that should be repaired and replaced before winter weather returns or the problem progresses.
6. Inspect Your Garage Door
Much like the weatherstripping that seals up doors and windows, your garage door has a bottom gasket. Check it and make sure it’s free of rot. You can also install a vinyl garage threshold on the floor to create a more effective seal with the door gasket. These kits are straightforward, simple to install, and they’re really effective at keeping out cold drafts and unwelcome rodents.
7. Wrap the Pipes
For those who live in places where it freezes, it’s a must to insulate any and all exterior pipes and water faucets. Foam tubes are readily available and very easy to install. Just measure, cut, wrap, and tape. It’s an effective and cheap way to avoid the nightmare scenario of broken pipes. And if you know you have exposed pipes in other places, like the attic or garage, wrap them too, just to be safe.
8. Prepare Your Air Conditioner
The air conditioning unit outside is built to withstand the elements but it’s still smart to cover the top of your outside air conditioning unit (the fan area) to lessen the possibility of ice and other debris damaging the inside. It’s not necessary or advised to completely cover the unit, which can trap moisture and damage components.
8 Tips to Prepare Your Home’s Interior for Fall
1. Test Your Heating System Early
Don’t wait until it’s freezing cold to turn the heater on for the first time. Turn it on and make sure it runs and shuts off properly now. This way, not only will it be ready when you need it, but if you do require maintenance, you can get it done in early fall, which is a slow time for repair technicians. You’ll have a better chance of a fast repair than when the first frost hits.
2. Replace Furnace Filters
If you’re not changing the furnace filters until they look like a sheep that needs to be shorn, you’re doing it wrong. Change the HVAC air filter every three months at a minimum. Many people even make it a monthly task. Clogged air filters inhibit air circulation and increase heating costs. And remember to clean your return duct vents (and don’t block them with furniture or carpeting, either).
3. Tighten the Ductwork
Some of these tips will have you up in the attic. When you’re there, check the ductwork for loose or leaky joints, which are a huge drain on the efficiency of your HVAC system. Use caulk to plug any holes, wrap poorly sealed joints with duct tape, and if anything needs to be tightened, turn the screws. Just to illustrate the importance of this one — properly sealed ductwork can reduce energy costs up to 20%.
4. Install a Programmable Thermostat
Programmable thermostats are one of the most popular innovations in HVAC technology since the central air conditioner. Not only do they allow for more efficient management over your home’s climate, but they can be controlled with your smart phone so if you’re going to be home late and don’t want the AC to kick in, press a button on your phone and it’s done.
Reverse the Ceiling Fan Blades
Not a lot of people know this, but, in the summer, ceiling fans should pull cool air up along the walls and blow it down into the center of the room. In the winter, you want them to pull warm air from the middle of the room and circulate it down along the walls. So, make flipping the switch on the ceiling fan or getting a screwdriver and reversing the blades one of your seasonal chores.
6. Flush and Refill Your Water Heater
Flushing your water heater gets rid of the sediment that often builds up around the bottom of the tank which, in turn, restores efficiency. If you’re worried that this sounds too complex, don’t. It’s fairly simple routine maintenance that can usually be done in just a few steps. Check your unit’s manual for your exact instructions.
7. Insulate the Attic
You might be wondering, “Wait, isn’t my attic insulated already?” And it probably is, but if it’s like the average attic, it’s not insulated as well as it could be. If your attic has less than ten inches of insulation throughout, it’s affecting your system’s efficiency and adding to your bills. Check your attic and add insulation where needed. If it’s in your budget, consider having spray foam insulation applied.
8. Install a Water Heater Blanket
One item that significantly influences your gas or electricity bill during the cooler months is your water heater. Lower your usage by installing a water heater blanket or pre-cut jacket. These make your hot water heater more efficient by providing extra insulation so that hot water stays hotter for longer. so your water stays hotter longer. Available for under $50, these are almost a no-brainer.
Make Your Home More Energy Efficient This Weekend!
Owning a home is both a responsibility and an investment. Make sure you’re taking care of it and protecting it by performing this routine maintenance. Not only can any of these suggestions help to prevent a bad situation, but they’ll help to tie up the loose ends that, if left undone, constantly affect efficiency. Don’t do that! Tune-up your house with these tips and save on your monthly electricity bill.