By KRISTI BAILEY
The first signs of fall are here. It is noticeably cooler in the evenings and early mornings. The forecast for peak fall colors has been made. It is supposed to be a good year for watching the change. These signs are also a clue for homeowners to begin the seasonal switchover for their homes. Getting an early start on the annual winterization chore ensures there are no big last-minute surprises.
Late September is prime time to begin winterizing. The weather is good enough to work outside, and folks who put it behind them have extra time to enjoy the region’s glorious fall vistas. One of your essential winterization checkpoints should be a heating system inspection and tune-up. Unless you are an accomplished do-it-yourself, this inspection is best left to a professional.
An often-overlooked money-saving item that does not necessarily require professional service is heating system ducts. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a central heating system can lose up to 60% of the heated air before it reaches the rooms to be heated if ductwork is not well-connected, clean, and insulated in unheated areas. That equates to more than just a chilly house. It’s a waste of energy and money. Ducts should be vacuumed once every three or four years.
Some of the other energy and comfort items that are part of a heating system’s winterization effort should include stocking up on filters. Dirty filters impede the heating system’s airflow and reduce efficiency. While you are at it, consider switching out your old thermostat for a programmable digital thermostat. It does not cost much, and the energy efficiency increase is worth the cost and effort.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace and the chimney, schedule an appointment with a chimney sweep annually at somewhere between $150 to $250. If you have a wood-burning stove, remember it also needs annual maintenance and exhaust cleaning.
After the heating system is fine-tuned, it is time to move outdoors. Check the doors and windows for any weather-stripping that needs replacing. Rake all debris and vegetation away from your home’s foundation, and then look for crevices, cracks, or spaces around pipes that need to be sealed. Even if it is a small crack, fill it. Your efforts will be rewarded with fewer unwanted creepy and crawly guests seeking shelter. One way to check for air leaks inside the house is to walk around the drafty areas on a breezy day with a lighted incense stick or candle. You will be able to see precisely where the drafts are compromising your electric bill. Once you discover the drafts, you can block the outside air invasion with caulk or insulation strips. Door sweeps are a good idea to close spaces under exterior doors.
After the annual leaf fall, clean your home’s gutters and check the flashing to ensure water cannot enter your home. This time is also ideal for winterizing your summer garden and storing those tools. Be sure to drain all hoses and insulate any exposed pipes. If any tree branches hang too close to the house or electrical wires, trim them. Apply the same trimming to shrubs if their growth touches the house. Lastly, seal driveways, brick patios, and wood decks.
One last money-saving tip is reversing your ceiling fans. By switching the fan’s direction from the summer setting, it will push warm air downward and force it to re-circulate, keeping the room – and you – more comfortable. If you are not sure how to reverse the ceiling fan and the switch does not indicate a winter/summer selection, turn it on and watch the direction the blades move. They should be turning clockwise during the winter.
I hope these few tips help save you time and money so you can spend more time by the bonfire with friends and family. Don’t eat too many s’mores!
NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It’s the largest trade association in Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia region representing over 1,300 members and 100 affiliates involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.