Batten down the hatches! With the Farmers’ Almanac predicting very cold temperatures and heavy snow for many parts of the country, preparing our homes and decks for winter’s wrath should be high on our autumn agendas. With sky-rocketing home energy costs, it’s important this time of year to institute a little structural and mechanical preventative medicine.
- Start by bidding adieu to family cookouts and moving the grill from yard or deck to the back of the shed or garage, along with outdoor furniture and the lawn mower. Giving shovels and snow blowers an easy, accessible front row seat for winter will save time and eliminate frustration with the onslaught of ice and blizzards.
- Now that the decks are cleared, literally, protecting them from rain and snow with stain or water sealant is a good bet without the humid days of summer. According to experts, moisture behind a finish means it’s not going to cure properly. Remember that the temperature must be above 50 degrees when stain or sealant is applied, though, or it dries too quickly and doesn’t permeate the wood, often resulting in peeling and/or diminishing durability.
Inside and Outside The Home
- Autumn priorities should include a preseason furnace or boiler inspection and cleaning by a qualified technician. Tackling these items on your own may result in accidents and injuries. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, only a trained technician can detect hidden problems and correct them, including the presence of carbon monoxide, called the “invisible killer.” While exact statistics vary, each year just under 200 people die from the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning which are often preventable with a little care and planning. What’s more, a proper inspection of your heating system, which may include cleaning filters, can make it function far more efficiently, cutting down on excessive costs.
- If a dose of “do it yourself” is in the cards, some homeowners are comfortable adding an extra layer of insulation to the attic as well as insulating pipes or sealing metal ducts. Insulation is generally available at building, heating, and plumbing supply stores, and adding it is often a good idea as most homes built 25 years ago or more used only six inches around a pipe or against an exterior wall. Today’s structures use nine inches or more.
- For maximum heating efficiency in rooms where ceilings exceed the standard 7 ½-foot height, such as today’s great rooms, reverse or paddle fans are a key investment. Ranging in price from about $110 for smaller fixtures that hug the ceiling to $500 or more for more elaborate models that include lighting components, paddle fans turn in reverse, forcing rising hot air back down into the room.
- Paying particular attention to windows can also result in lowering the high cost of winter energy. With windows and sliding glass doors often serious culprits for escaping air and heat, weather stripping on the home’s first and second floors, and caulking basement windows, can make for a warmer and even quieter environment with regard to wind and drafts. Using storm windows is another option if installing new energy-efficient windows is not an option.
- And while saving money on heating is paramount for most homeowners, many neglect to include the chimney in seasonal home improvement plans. The National Fire Protection Association recommends an annual cleaning and inspection, which includes examining the fire place and flue for cracks or breaks. An exterior inspection involves examining the brick, top of the chimney crown, and flashing — or the area between the brick and the roof. Experts recommend installing a chimney cap, as it keeps animals from nesting in the chimney as well as rain and snow from seeping behind the fireplace.
- Where wood-burning stoves are concerned, annual inspection and maintenance should include removal of creosote, the same material that accumulates in a fireplace flue and can ignite.
- Finally, about that roof: If it’s more than 20 years old, it should be inspected. All those pretty winter icicles that hung down from the gutters last winter can indicate an improperly ventilated attic, and that means trapped water has damaged the roof shingles.
From deck to roof, there is plenty to do before winter sets in to create an environment that is safe, efficient, protective, and warm for you and your family.