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Fall Is Here, Are You Ready for Winter?

Fall is a great time to get your home ready for the colder winter weather. Here are some tips that won’t take you a lot of time, but should prove to save you a lot of money and prevent your home from having a disaster during the colder winter months.


Don’t allow the cold winter draft to eat away at your monthly energy bills. You can save 10 to 15 percent on your energy bills by simply weather stripping your windows and doors. Leaks can cause a 50-75 percent increase in heating bills. A draft leak test can to be done around your home’s window and door frames. 30 percent of a home’s heat escapes through small cracks and holes around windows and under doors.

A great way to test if your windows have leak problems is to hold a lit candle close to the window seams. If the flame bends, you have a draft. Check the caulk on the outside of the window frame. The heat of the summer can dry out the caulk. Therefore, you may need to re-caulk. Also, for just a few dollars, you can pick up a window insulation kit at your local hardware store.

Additional Weatherstripping Essentials

V Strip

You can get V-strip, also known as tension seal, at your local hardware store. The V-strip get’s it’s name from the shape it forms when pressed against the corner of a window or door. To install, first measure the door or window that you want to seal. Make sure to clean the area you?ll be applying the V-strip to. Cut the seal to the desired length. Peel away the the adhesive backing and press it on to the corner of the door or window. You can also use finishing nails to keep the strip in place.

Tubular Seals

Tubular seals are available in rubber, vinyl, or silicone. It is applied at the base of doors and windows, the top or bottom of a window sash, the bottom of a door, or between a door and it’s jamb. To apply the seal, peel and stick. Or, fasten with screws through the slot holes. Silicone seals are pressed into a channel you create with a router.


Just like V-strip, you can buy felt in rolls at your local hardware store. It is plain or reinforced with a flexible metal strip. Cut the felt to the desired length. Then, fit the felt into the door jamb allowing it to press against it. You can use the reinforced felt as a seal around doors and windows stapling it or nailing it in place.

Adhesive-Backed Foam Tape

Foam tape is another way to seal up inside door frames or the top and bottom of windows sashes. This is installed in the same way as the V-strip. The material is made from rubber, foam or sponge rubber. It comes in various widths and thickness.

Door Sweep

Putting a sweep on your door will help tremendously. Place it on the bottom of the interior door between the door and the threshold. Most sweeps will fasten with screws.

Winterize Pipes

If you live in an area where the temperature drops drastically, winterizing your pipes is a must. A bursting pipe can cause a lot of damage to the home and it can be expensive to fix. It’s always a good idea to call a licensed contractor to inspect your pipes to make sure they are ready for the colder winter.

Pipe Insulation

For all the unheated areas, wrap the pipes in insulation tubes made of polyethylene or fiberglass. To make sure you purchase the correct size of tube, measure the outside diameter of your pipes. Stores like Home Depot sell pipe insulation.

Heat Tape/Heat Cable/Heat Cord

Sometimes insulation will not cut it and you?ll need more to keep your pipes from freezing. This is where heat tape, heat cables or heat cords comes in handy. There are different power densities and temperatures heating devices come in. It’s important to talk to an experienced contractor or plumber about which device will be best for your plumbing needs.

Additional Tips

You can take preventative action during the cold weather to save your pipes from freezing and bursting.

  • Check areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas: basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs.
  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces.
  • Relocate exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
  • To prevent a pipe from bursting, even if it freezes, open up the faucet to have a small, steady drip. This will eliminate the pressure and may prevent a bursting pipe.
  • For all those pipes that are on the exterior walls, opening up the cabinets will allow heat to reach them.
  • Look for cracked basement windows that could allow cold air to make contact with pipes.
  • Fix exterior cracks or holes along the outside walls and foundation of your home.

Clean the Furnace

You should have your furnace inspected by a professional once a year. There are some signs that you should have a furnace inspected sooner, such as noisy belts, poor performance or erratic behavior. A furnace that is not properly maintained can be less the 50 percent efficient. Here are some things you can do on your own to keep your furnace in tip-top shape.

Maintenance Tips

  • Check the pilot light. If it is out, relight it. Look for the instructions on relighting on the access doors or manufacturer’s website.
  • Move all materials and objects away from the furnace to avoid a fire.
  • Change the filters monthly when the furnace is in use. If an air filter is dirty, it will clog the airflow and overwork the equipment. There are different filters on the market and some are more efficient than others.
  • Check the blower. Vacuum out any dust and debris in and around the unit.
  • Vacuum all the dust from the vents around the house.
  • Remove any furniture, rugs, curtains, etc. that may be blocking the air from flowing freely.

Inspect Fireplace

A certified chimney sweep should check and clean your wood-burning fireplace at least once a year to inspect your masonry, flue liner, chimney cap, and venting system to make sure everything’s clean, clear, and up to code.

Maintenance Tips

  • Check to see if the smoke exits as it should vertically into the chimney and not into the room.
  • Check for other debris in the chimney like bird or animal nests.
  • Install a cap/screen at the top of the chimney that will keep out birds, bird nests, or other rodents.
  • Make sure the damper opens and closes tightly.
  • If the metal grate is cracked or sagging, replace it.
  • Clean ash from the fireplace whenever it reaches the bottom of the grate. Wear a dust mask and gloves when you are cleaning.
  • Replace any ripped or damaged screens or mesh.
  • If you notice creosote and soot build-up over 1/8-inch on the inside of the chimney, have it cleaned immediately and before you burn a new fire.
  • Burn hardwoods, not softwoods. Hardwoods are denser and heavier and deliver more heat.
  • Don’t burn more than three logs at a time. If heat saturation increases, it could ignite combustible materials nearby the fireplace.

Inspect the Gutters and Roof

It’s time to jump on the roof and remove any debris that has accumulated. Or, you can hire a qualified contractor. The roof should be inspected annually. A soft bristled broom will prevent any damage to your shingles. The gutters need to be cleaned as well. You can use a small handle tool to get rid of smaller debris. In addition, clean the downspouts. Check to see if the downspouts or gutters need any repairs. If you take the time to clean your roof and gutters, you can prevent extensive water damage that could cause a leak through the roof.

Additional Tips

  • Check flashings on the roof. Flashings are strip of metal used to stop water from penetrating the junction of a roof with another surface. These cover interruptions in a roof such as dormers, chimneys and vent pipes.
  • If you see any asphalt granules in the gutters, this is a sign that the roofing materials are aging.
  • If your roof has wooden shake or shingles, look for signs of dry rot or warpage.
  • If you have a metal roof, look for signs of pitting, rusting and corrosion that can be the natural results of aging.
  • If you have slate, clay tile, and asbestos cement shingles check for broken, chipped or missing pieces.

Test Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detectors

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, smoke detectors should be tested at least once a month. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are lifesavers and should be properly inspected and maintained.

  • Batteries should be replaced at least twice a year. Buy extra batteries.
  • Use the alarms test button to test the device. The test button only checks the battery.
  • To test to see if the smoke detector works properly, purchase a spray can of smoke detector test aerosol. Then, wait 5 to 10 seconds for a response.
  • Clean detectors with the extension tube on your vacuum cleaner to suck out any dust that may be blocking the openings.
  • Replace detectors every ten years.
  • There should be a smoke detector in every room.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace and/or water heater.