Now that the cool and sometimes even chilly Fall nights are upon us, it’s time to do some serious thinking about Winter. Holiday season is nearly here, and while we’re all getting ready to celebrate…we don’t want to forget some important tips to keep your home safe and cozy when the temperatures drop and the snow begins to fall.

  1. Call Your Chimney Sweep!  Wood fires are lovely, and for many people, invoke memories of cool Fall and Winter nights spent with loved ones. But it’s important to remember to make sure your chimney in your fireplace is ready for the season! Burning wood releases volatile gases that cool and condense on the inside of the chimney, forming sticky, smelly, highly flammable creosote. If enough is allowed to build up, you run a risk of a chimney fire. Also make sure the damper is working properly and that the chimney is capped with screening to keep out critters.
  2. Make Sure Your Windows Are Airtight! According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 10 percent of the air that leaks out of a house exits through the windows. Caulk around window frames and apply weather stripping between the sash and window frame to eliminate air leakage.
  3. Clean the Gutters! Even if they have simply accumulated a season's worth of fallen leaves, get them cleaned out before winter rains and snows arrive. After scooping out leaves and debris, flush the gutters and downspouts with a strong stream of water from a hose. This will ensure it washes away any dirt, debris and seeds.
  4. Get Your Furnace Inspected! Call an HVAC professional to check the fan belt that runs the blower, vacuum out dust and debris, and oil the bearings if necessary. Act now, because once winter hits, these professionals will be busy once the weather turns frigid. Look for a heating and air-conditioning contractor that belongs to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America and employs technicians certified by the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) program. The contractor should follow the protocol for ACCAs "national standard for residential maintenance" (or the QM, short for "quality maintenance"). Buy enough filters to see you through the winter months and change them monthly--when filters become clogged with dust, the furnace doesn't operate efficiently and your energy bill goes up.
  5. Protect Your Pipes From Freezing!  Minimize the possibility of water freezing in your plumbing pipes (causing them to burst), wrap each pipe in a blanket of foam insulation. Check hardware stores for these foam tubes, which have a slit on one side. Just cut the tube to the length you need, pull the slit open, and push the tube onto the pipe. You can secure it with duct tape, if needed.
  6. Reverse Your Ceiling Fan! If your ceiling fan has a reverse switch, use it to run the fan's blades in a clockwise direction after you turn on your heat. Energy Star says the fan will produce an updraft and push down into the room heated air from the ceiling (remember, hot air rises).
  7. Mulch Your Leaves While You Mow! Mow your leaves instead of raking them; say studies at the University of Michigan and Purdue. The trick is to cut the leaves, while dry, into dime-sized pieces that will fall among the grass blades, where they will decompose and nourish your lawn over the winter.
  8. Looking to Do Some Landscaping? You may be tempted to get out the pruning shears after the leaves fall, when you can first see the underlying structure of the plant. But horticulturalists advise waiting to prune until late winter for most plants, when they've been long dormant and just before spring growth begins.
  9. Restock Your Winter Essentials Now! Don’t wait until the first winter storm approaches; or you may be greeted with empty shelves. Stock up on some rock salt and ice melt now. Check your shovels to make sure they’re not damaged in any way, and if you have one, make sure your snow blower is maintained and ready to go when the next snowfall hits!