September 1, 2019

Take care of home winterization, then enjoy the fall season


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 the first hints that fall – our most colorful season – is just around the corner.

Those crisp mornings are a big clue for savvy 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 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 put it behind them have 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 inspection is best left to a professional.

An often-overlooked money-saving item that doesn't 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 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 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 air flow, and reduce efficiency. While you are 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. 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 needing replacement.

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, seal it. Your efforts will be rewarded with fewer unwanted guests seeking shelter in your home.

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 exactly 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 fall leaf fall, clean your home's gutters and check the flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home. This time is also ideal 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 fans. By reversing 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.

NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It’s the largest trade association in Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia region representing over 1,200 members and 100 affiliates involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. Pending sales, monthly Trends Reports, and the regional market analytics can be found on the NETAR websites at .