Start Autumn Home Maintenance Now!

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As summer fades and the cooler weather arrives, homeowners need to start preparing now for the coming fall and winter. Some important home maintenance duties are simple and will take only a minute. Others are more complicated and a few require a professional.

Quick fixes are the easy ones. Switch the direction of the airflow on your ceiling fans. The base of the fan has a switch; flip it so the air will move clockwise to direct hot air down into your living space. Drain your garden hoses and put them in a place where they won’t freeze to avoid damaging them. Turn off outdoor faucets and winterize sprinkler systems. Cover and store outdoor furniture and clean and store warm-weather yard equipment. Check doors and windows for damaged frames and install weather stripping to lower heating bills. And, of course, test your smoke alarms, your carbon monoxide alarm and your fire extinguisher and replace if needed.

Maintain Your Furnace
Call a pro for a yearly furnace tune-up. Then, replace your HVAC furnace filter every month, especially if there’s a dog or cat in the house. This keeps indoor air clean and keeps the furnace running efficiently, saving money. A house’s climate system is the biggest user of energy, at about 45 percent of energy costs.

For gas furnaces, check to see that the exhaust flue to the outside is clear. A blocked flue can quickly cause a build up of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, which can cause serious health problems, even death.

Test to see that the blower is working properly. A noisy motor might indicate a problem. Have a professional come in and clean the ductwork. Then, you can remove clutter around the furnace and check to see that room vents aren’t blocked.

Retire Your Air Conditioning
Window units should be removed and covered, then placed in storage. For central air conditioning units, find the circuit box and switch the power to off. Clean off any debris, then rinse your AC system with a hose, cleaning the grill, the fan blade and the air intake components. Trim away bushes or plants that block the unit. But don’t cover the unit for the winter. This can trap humidity and cause more problems than it solves.

Fight Back Against Invasive Critters
There are 20 species of termites in the USA that like to invade homes. While they’re rare in the northern tier, infestations are possible in every state except Alaska. Fall is the best time to check for signs of termite invasions. Indicators of an infestation include discolored or drooping drywall, peeling paint that looks like water damage, tiny holes in drywall and mud tubes around the outside of the house. Call a professional to get rid of the vile creatures.

Rodents, too, like to come inside where it’s warm. Mice can enter through holes the size of a dime. Walk around your property and check for any tiny openings, then seal them with spray foam or steel wool.

Clean Your Gutters
Clean all gutters and downspouts of fall leaves and other materials. Neglecting them can cause leaky roofs, damage to fascia and can even cause damage to the foundation if water overflows and ends up in a freeze/thaw cycle, creating cracks and leaks. In addition, some animals and nasty insects like to make their homes in the materials in gutters.

Call the Chimney Sweep!
How often you use your chimney and what kind of wood you burn determines how often you need to call a professional chimney sweep to remove soot, blockages and built-up creosote. For most homeowners with a wood-burning fireplace, a once-a-year check-up by a professional is recommended, before the fireplace season begins. According the Chimney Safety Institute of America, just an eighth of an inch of creosote build-up can cause a house fire. A chimney sweep can also check for birds and other animal nests and deterioration of parts of chimneys that is not easily visible.

Drain the Water Heater
While you can do this any time of year, cold weather is no time for a cold shower. If you have soft water, this undertaking won’t be necessary and may, in fact, be counterproductive. But if you live in an area with hard water, sediment can settle at the bottom, considerably shortening the life of the heater or causing sudden bursts of cold water. Draining a water heater is not difficult and many homeowners do the job themselves. To begin; for electric water heaters, turn off the power at the circuit breaker to avoid burning out the element. For gas heaters, shut the gas by turning the valve on the gas supply line at the tank. If this already seems too complicated, call a professional. ■

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