Every year as the leaves start to fall, your energy bills tend to rise. Your home works hard each winter to keep you comfortable, warm and dry. Spend some time this fall on the basic maintenance listed here and your wallet will thank you come spring.
Check big offenders like windows and doors, and don’t overlook areas around exterior faucets, hose bibs, dryer vents or air conditioning condensation lines. Caulk or use weather stripping where you can, but larger holes might need to be filled with an expandable foam.
Another reason to seal the cracks? Rodents like your warm house. “Walk around the house with binoculars. Look at the gabled areas and the vents and any tiny place that a mouse or squirrel could get inside,” says Danny Lipford, home improvement expert and host of syndicated TV/radio show Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford.
Add hardware cloth — a type of wire mesh animals can’t chew through — to any area you think the pests could squeeze in, he recommends.
Ignoring gutters clogged with leaves or dirt could result in roofline wood rot, damaged siding or worse. “You need water to be able to flow freely away from the foundation,” says Leah Ingram, the financial expert for Homeadvisor.com, a website that connects homeowners with professional contractors.
“Hiring someone to clean your gutters is about $160. Hiring someone to fix water damage in your basement can be about $3800,” Ingram says.
Button Up the Attic
A good rule of thumb for attics: If you can see the joists, you don’t have enough insulation. Layer it on until you have about 14 inches, measured from the back of the filling, Lipford says.
Fold-up attic stairs often are not insulated well, if at all. Trap hot air before it escapes to the rafters with a special “tent” that covers the stairway.
Finally, turn on your heating system and examine the ducts with a flashlight. Seal any gaps or cracks you find with foil-backed tape and top with duct mastic. “You can save 30 percent on your energy bill if you close up the leaks in your ducts,” Lipford says.
Outdoors, turn off the water and blow out the sprinkler system or hire a pro to do it, or else you risk exploding pipes. Also drain and put away hoses and use the shut-off valve on the spigots.
“Repairing burst pipes or water in your basement is expensive,” says Alex Roberts, president of Mr. Handyman, a residential and commercial home repair franchise. “Turning off the water and blowing it out of exterior pipes is not.”
Indoors, wrap your hot water heater and any exposed hot water pipes with insulation to keep them working efficiently. “This will keep your water at a better temperature and make heating it up more less costly,” Roberts says.
Service the Furnace
Homeowners tend to overlook the recommended annual professional furnace cleaning. However, spending a few hundred dollars each fall on maintenance will not only shave down your energy bill each month but prolong the life of a very expensive, very necessary piece of equipment. “It’s just like changing the oil in your car,” Lipford says.
Check the Chimney
See if you can feel any drafts in the chimney – to make it easier, wet a hand and hold it inside the flue. If you feel an air leak, and can’t seal the flue yourself, call a chimney sweep.
Reverse Ceiling Fans
This might seem counterintuitive — don’t fans cool things down? — but reversing the direction of ceiling fans can help evenly distribute a room’s warm air. “There might be a five- or 10-degree temperature difference between the ceiling and the floor,” Lipford says. The trick is to keep the speed low, and the blades running clockwise.