Good planning during the winter season can help reduce home maintenance and utility costs.
Replacing furnace filters and insulating your pipes are common tasks associated with winter. But there are other just-as-important tasks that could easily be overlooked.
Here are 10 tips to add to your winter checklist.
- Check for critters: Animals may seek shelter from the cold and decide to nestle in closer than homeowners find comfortable. The key to prevention and removal is to secure all potential entrances and exits. Walk around the exterior of your home and look around downspouts for signs of dirt or mud or scratch marks – signs that rodents could be using as entry points to get in. The most common indicator will be the racket they make as they get behind walls or in attics or crawlspaces. If you hear noises in those areas, check for droppings and chew marks, and indications that doors and vents have been breached. Other indicators include bits of insulation, or pieces of shingles or siding on the ground outside the house.
- Prevent ice buildup: If you have long icicles hanging from your gutters, that’s a warning sign of possible ice dams. An ice damn prevents melting snow from draining off your roof which could lead to wet interior walls, carpets, or a flooded basement. Also, icy sidewalks and driveways are hazardous to people and pets so keep them clear. But some deicers are dangerous and toxic. Avoid using any salt-based products because they may cause concrete to crack or discolor. They may also be harmful to pets because the salt accumulates on paws that get licked. Be careful not to dump snow or ice that has been treated with deicers on plants.
- Monitor invisible gases: Keep an eye on radon and carbon monoxide levels as homes are often deprived of fresh air during the cooler months. You can find out if you have radon in your home with a test sold at your local hardware store. The testing is easy and inexpensive, usually less than $25. You can purchase carbon monoxide detectors at hardware stores too.
- Drain your water heater: Sediment in your water heater can build up, which slows down heat transfer and can reduce its efficiency by as much as 50 percent. You can have a plumber drain your heater, or you can do it yourself by attaching a hose to the drain valve or using a 5-gallon bucket to drain the water from the bottom of the tank. The water is very hot, so it’s best to turn down the temperature an hour before draining.
- Clean your dryer vent: A clogged vent requires the dryer to work longer and harder to dry clothes. In addition to it being a fire hazard, energy is wasted and the heating element and blower in the dryer wear out quicker. Clean the lint filter before each use and have the dryer vent inspected and cleaned once a year. A clogged dryer can take two-to-three times longer to dry clothes.
- Fix water leaks: Fixing simple household leaks can save you more than 10 percent on your water bill. Some leaks may not be noticeable, unlike a leaky faucet or running toilet, so it’s good practice to regularly check your water meter for indications of unseen leaks. To do that, first turn off all water sources being used inside or outside your home, including toilets, appliances, and lawn irrigation. If the indicator dial continues to move, you have a leak and should contact a qualified plumber.
- Clean underneath your fridge: Dust and debris accumulate on the floor and around the coils, forcing your refrigerator to work harder. Unplug the appliance and pull it away from the wall. Remove the panel and vacuum up the dust.
- Prep your garage door: The cold weather can be hard on your garage door. Check weather seals on bottoms and sides to make sure they’re intact. If the garage door doesn’t close completely check the travel limits. To adjust, pull emergency release and check door travel to ensure that it operates smoothly. If it does not, then the door may be obstructed.
- Service your lawnmower: Beat the spring rush by taking your mower in for service. Having regular maintenance done on your mower can help avoid ill-timed breakdowns and extend its lifecycle. A service appointment should include an oil change and an inspection of the blade, sparkplugs, air filter, carburetor, cables and belts.
- Organize your garage: Get whatever you can off the floor and put into cabinets and shelving. This way you can have space on the ground for items like your lawnmower and you can clean the floor a lot easier. Also, create zones as if you were in a hardware store. Group all garden items together or camping gear all in the same zone.