September 3, 2017

Get your home winterized, then sit back and enjoy the fall vistas


It's most noticeable in the early morning and late afternoon hours. It makes you go back inside for a sweater or rush to the car and switch on the heater. The "it" I'm talking about is much cooler temperatures - the first sign that fall is rapidly approaching.

2017 NETAR President

It's also a reminder to homeowner that’s it time to begin the seasonal switchover for their homes. Getting an early start on the annual winterization chore ensure there are no big last-minute maintenance surprises.

If you think about it, early September is prime time to begin winterizing. The weather is good enough to work outside, and folks who take care of the chore will bank some extra time to enjoy the Tri-Cities’ glorious fall vistas.

One of the most important winterization checkpoints should be a heating system inspection and tune-up. But unless you're an accomplished do-it-yourself, this is best left to a professional.

An often-overlooked money-saving item that doesn't necessarily require professional service is heating system ducts. If they haven't been inspected and cleaned, now is the time. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a central heating system can lose up to 60% of its 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 over a winter's time a waste of money. Ducts should be vacuumed once every three or four years to clean out dust and other foreign material that gather there.

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 air flow, and that reduces efficiency. While you're at it, consider switching out your old thermostat for a programmable digital thermostat. It doesn't cost much, and the energy efficiency increase is worth the cost and effort.

If you have a fireplace and the chimney has not been cleaned for a while schedule an appointment with a chimney sweep during their slow season. And, if you have a wood-burning stove remembers that it also needs annual maintenance and exhaust cleaning.

After the heating system is fine-tuned, it's time to move outdoors. Check the doors and windows for 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's a small crack seal it. Your efforts will be rewarded with fewer unwanted guests seeking shelter in your home.

One way to check out air leaks inside the house is to walk around the drafty areas on a breezy day with a lighted incense stick or candle. You'll be able to see exactly where the drafts are coming from. Then 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 fall leaf fall, clean your home's gutters and check the flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home. That's also the time to winterize your summer garden and store those summertime tools. Be sure to drain all hoses and insulate any exposed pipes. Trim trees if any branches hang too close to the house or electrical wires. Apply the same trimming to shrubs if their growth touches the house. Lastly, seal driveways, brick patios, and wood decks.

Another thing to remember is reversing your ceiling fan.

It's a small thing often overlooked. But by reversing the fan’s direction from the summer setting, it will push warm air downward and force it to recirculate. That keeps the room - and you - more comfortable.

If you're not sure and the switch doesn't indicate a winter/summer selection turns it on a watch the direction the blades move. They should be turning clockwise during the winter.

For more tips and advice on winterization or a variety of other topics tailored to help homeowners by the National Association of Realtors® visit the HouseLogic site at

Eric Kistner is the 2017 president of the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors®. The real estate education and trade group is the voice for real estate in the Tri-Cities and has over 1,200 local Realtor® members and over 100 affiliates.