It’s not too late to address a few home maintenance musts before winter fully sets in. Colder weather ahead doesn’t mean you have to forfeit your precious outdoor space. This year especially, you’ll want to enjoy your backyard or balcony as long as possible. Here’s a list of last-minute tasks to knock out before you go into hibernation mode and some tips to make the most of your space this winter.
1. Check and clean the gutters one last time. As the last leaves have fallen, take time now to make sure your gutters are completely cleared out. Blockages can create ice dams, which will damage your gutters and prevent proper drainage of water away from your foundation.
2. Check your furnace. If you have a furnace, replace your filter if you haven’t already, and commit to changing it once a month. A dirty filter will increase your heating costs and reduce the life of your equipment. Home heating systems that aren't properly maintained may be less than 50 percent efficient. If you can spring for it this year, an inspection done by a licensed professional is always recommended.
3. Maintain your home's exterior. Trim back trees and branches that are hanging too close to your home. Seal driveways, brick patios, and wood decks. Look for cracks and gaps around doors, windows, and eaves, and seal them.
4. Test smoke/carbon monoxide detectors This one is easy to overlook, but takes only a couple seconds: hit the "test" button on your smoke/carbon monoxide detector. If the alarm sounds -- you're good to go. If not, replace the batteries and test again. Replace your smoke detector if fresh batteries don’t result in a proper test.
5. Consider an energy audit An energy audit can show you how and where your home is using energy, so you can make simple updates to increase your home’s efficiency – saving you money. Home energy audits typically range in cost from $200-$400, and many energy companies offer rebates that make them even more affordable (or sometimes free). Perform your own quick energy audit by following some of these tips from Energy.gov. Taking these steps will not only lower your utility costs, but they will protect your largest investment, your home, from the unexpected weather conditions ahead. If you have questions about professional services for home energy audits, contact me.
6. Electric or propane outdoor heaters can help extend the outdoor mingling season. With free-standing, tabletop, and umbrella-style versions available in a variety of sizes, there are options available to fit your needs. (If you live in a condo, check regulations first.)
7. Instead of putting it all in storage, leave your patio furniture outside. Add some covers to keep the weather off the furniture between uses. Circle your furniture around a fire pit with the outdoor heaters outside the chairs and you’ll be roasting (and burning) s’mores in no time.
8. Don't get depressed in the dark. Rope lighting or white holiday lights can create an inviting ambiance and lighting at ground level will illuminate your landscape. Solar powered, weather-resistant lights are more affordable than ever and make for hassle-free installation and upkeep.
9. While your at it, keep the barbecue under a canopy and in working order and your propane tank filled. Grill up some goodies, then enjoy them outside. It’ll be just like a winter tailgate, only cheaper and without a line for the bathroom.
10. Make a winter bucket list of 12-16 items you can do outdoors (as long as it's not frostbite cold) and hang it in a place you look at often. Pick at least one activity each week. Your list may include grilling out with a couple friends, making snowmen and snow angels, horse drawn buggy ride (or private group hay ride), ice skating, freezing temp science projects, ice fishing, sledding, skiing, winter scavenger hunts, decorating your yard with lighting as mentioned above, organize neighborhood caroling or parade... what are your ideas?