Outdoor Fall Maintenance Essentials
This fall and winter, make sure you are taking all the necessary steps to keep your home, and especially your heating, plumbing, and electrical systems, working safely and efficiently.
Here is our Outdoor Fall Home Maintenance Checklist to help you prepare your home for the cold weather ahead.
Outside Fall Home Maintenance
1. Clean your gutters and downspouts.
Your gutters should be cleaned every fall. You can hire a company to clean your gutters for you, but it’s possible to accomplish the task yourself.
Make sure you have a steady ladder you can lean against the house. To determine the proper ladder angle, follow these steps:
- Stand with toes touching bottom beams
- Extend arms until fingertips touch rung
- This should be the safest climbing angle
The ladder and ground should be free from oil, grease, water, or any potential tripping hazards. The extension ladder should should extend 3 feet above the roof or area you are trying to reach.
Get a partner to help you hold the ladder steady and be an extra hand. Go over these ladder safety tips before climbing.
With gloves and a small garden trowel, you can start cleaning the gutters. Be careful when using the trowel not to apply too much force. Throw the debris down below and don’t worry about making it in the garbage can. You can clean everything up later.
You can lean to your left and right to clean out the gutters, but always maintain 3-point contact with the ladder: either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand. Finally, you can flush your gutters and downspouts with a strong water hose.
Watch as the water flows out of your downspouts. Is the water going where it needs to go? You may want to install downspout extenders to direct water further away.
After you’ve finished, consider installing gutter guards to prevent leaves and debris from getting trapped inside.
2. Inspect your roof for damaged shingles.
Damaged or missing shingles can be a warning sign for a more serious problem. You can inspect your roof yourself and even replace shingles by yourself, but if you have leaks or water coming into your house, you should have a professional roofer assess the situation. You can save a lot of money on more serious roof repairs by having a roofing professional inspect your roof for leaks and damaged areas.
3. Drain your gas-powered lawn equipment and store them inside for the winter.
4. If you have a fireplace and chimney, contact a professional to have it cleaned and inspected.
Depending on how much you use your chimney, it is recommended that you have a professional chimney cleaning every year to prevent creosote buildup, which could lead to a fire. Also, make sure you inspect your fireplace damper to ensure it is creating a tight seal. If there is significant air leakage from your fireplace, you can try to seal them using resistant materials such as cement caulk.
Keep your fireplace clean and make sure you have a fire screen in place when in use. Only burn wood and make sure the fire is completely extinguished before leaving.
5. Stow away all patio furniture.
This is pretty self-explanatory. Protect your patio and yard furniture by storing them away during the fall and winter. Make sure they are completely dry before wrapping them up and storing them.
6. Make sure there is a minimum 2-foot clearance around your outdoor HVAC unit.
Check for dirt and debris around your heat pump. If you have a lot of trees and foliage nearby, your outdoor condenser and coils may have becomes clogged.
We don’t recommend covering your outdoor air conditioning unit, but you may want to protect falling limbs from damaging the unit by placing a piece of wood on top, weighed down by a couple heavy rocks.
7. Make sure there is nothing blocking or obstructing the area around your furnace sidewall ventilation.
You may want to install a wire or mesh screen that large enough so snow and ice don’t clog it up, but small enough so critters can’t climb inside. We recommend using something like hardware cloth fencing, similar to chicken wire. The wire mesh weave should be about ¼ inch to ½ inch.
Keep in mind that you will want to check the furnace vents every once in a while to make sure they are not blocked. If your furnace isn’t working, especially after a snow storm or freezing temperatures, check the outdoor vent screens.
8. Check for cracks and air leaks.
Check areas around the exterior of your home for gaps and cracks where utility equipment enters the home, around doors and windows, where masonry meets siding, and your exterior walls (especially brick walls). While you are out there, check for peeling paint as well. A careful check, accompanied with a caulking gun, will save you lots of money and energy in the long run. It is well worth the effort.
On the exterior of your home, use weatherproof caulk for any cracks less than a quarter of an inch and expandable foam spray for any gaps larger than that.
Air leaks make way for a lot of problems — air pollutants, pests, wasted air, humidity, etc. Not to mention, along with that wasted air, out flows your money! Seal those leaks by weather stripping and caulking around windows and doors. Drafty spots include but are not limited to baseboards, appliance vents, and windows.
Remember, however, that if you make any significant changes to your insulation, you will want to have a professional test for proper ventilation. One of the main reasons why we have such poor indoor air quality is because our modern homes are too tightly insulated.
If you can see daylight coming through any window or door seals, try weather-stripping and caulking the cracks.
Learn more about sealing and insulating your home from ENERGY STAR.
9. Shut off water to outside faucets and winterize the sprinkler system.
To prevent problems associated with frozen pipes, it’s a good idea to winterize your outdoor plumbing system by shutting off the water supply and draining the faucets and hoses. Sprinkler systems require a bit more maintenance, which includes shutting down the controller and removing the backflow preventer.
Learn how to winterize your sprinkler system.
10. Check your air filter every 30 days and wait no longer than 90 days to replace it.
Learn more furnace maintenance tips.
11. Service your plumbing and electrical systems
Before the heating season hits us, make sure you schedule your professional plumbing and electrical safety inspection. This will make sure that your home is protected from plumbing disasters and electricity-related fires. Considering the fact that most home fires occur during winter months, it’s especially important to take the necessary safety precautions.
12. Service your HVAC system
You should have your furnace/heating system professionally tuned and cleaned every year. Some manufacturer warranties require it, as it reduces breakdowns by up to 95% and reduces your energy bill by as much as 30%.
In addition, remember to check and/or change your air filters every month. Depending on the occupancy of your home, including pets, you should change your dirty air filter every 30-90 days.
Don’t wait until your HVAC system is completely broken before replacing it. You could be saving a lot more money and energy by replacing it sooner. If your HVAC system is more than 10 years old, speak with a professional about how much you could save by replacing it.
Because regular HVAC maintenance is essential for keeping your system safe, efficient, and long-lasting, be sure you have a trained HVAC professional deal with all of your system maintenance. Don’t forget to change your filters and check your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms!
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Fall and Winter Home Safety Tips
Check Smoke Alarms and CO Detectors
Ideally, smoke and CO detectors should be tested once a month. If they have replaceable batteries, they chose be changed every 6 months, during daylight savings time. Don’t use the excuse that the sound is annoying to put this simple home maintenance task off. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that “three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (40%) or no smoke alarms that were working (17%).”
Units should be placed outside of every sleeping area and in your attic and basement. If they are older than 10 years, they should be replaced. For the safety of your family and home, check and/or install these life-saving devices.
For interconnected smoke and CO alarms, bed shakers, strobe lights, and other safety features, contact the professionals at Brubaker Inc.
Outdoor Electrical Safety Inspection
- Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring. Frayed wires can cause fires, so replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately, or simply discard the appliance and get a new one.
- Replace any electrical tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out, or gives off smoke or sparks.
- If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
- Don’t allow children to play with or around electrical equipment.
- Use electrical extension cords wisely. Follow all instructions and make sure you are using an outdoor-rated extension cord that has been certified by an independent testing laboratory, such as UL. Extension cords should not be used in tandem (two cords or more to extend reach), and they should never run under carpets, rugs, bedding or baseboards.
- Never overload extension cords or wall sockets using extension plugs.
- Extension cords are a temporary solution only. If you find that you are using an extension cord as a permanent solution, contact a professional electrician to install more outlets.
- Be very careful with nails or staples used to attach electrical cords to the walls or baseboards because it is easy to damage the cords and cause fire or shock hazards. An alternative is to tape cords to walls or floors, or carefully use cable ties or “U” fasteners.
- Fix electrical problems right away. If fuses blow often, circuit breakers trip often, switches get hot or people are shocked, something is wrong.
- A ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a special type of outlet that prevents shocks and these outlets are recommended – and often required by code — for areas where water is used, like in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry areas, garages, basements, outdoor outlets, and around pools, saunas, and hot tubs. Test these outlets monthly (there is a “test” and “reset” button on GFICs).
- Make sure electrical products are turned off before plugging them into an outlet.
- Keep lights, lamps, heaters, and other electrical equipment far away from any combustible materials, such as decorations.
- Consider adding tamper-resistant receptacles throughout your home to child-proof all your outlets.
- If you don’t have whole-home surge protection, ask your electrician about it. Whole-home surge protection prevents electrical surges from damaging your electrical system and connected products and appliances.
- Schedule an electrical safety inspection every year from a licensed electrician.
Brubaker Inc. technicians are highly trained to detect all electrical hazards. Contact us today for your annual home electrical inspection. We recommend doing this before the winter season, when home fires peak.
Additional Winter Home Safety Tips
- Trim your dead tree limbs and branches to avoid injury. If your tree is “sick,” call a professional arborist to inspect your trees for safety.
- Clean your gutters and downspouts to reduce the risk of backups and water damage.
- Inspect your porch, steps, and handrails for safety in slick conditions.
- Change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. CO alarms should be replaced every 5 years, while smoke alarms last about 10 years. Check your devices for proper battery operation every 30 days.
- Make sure you have ice-melting products on hand to melt ice on your steps and walkways.
- Check your exterior lighting for safety and curb appeal. Make sure your address is easily visible and your walkways and steps are well-lit.
- Do not run generators in or near your home. All fuel-burning appliances release carbon monoxide, a potentially lethal gas that is undetectable except for CO detectors.
Brubaker Inc. is here to help you get ready for the colder weather ahead. Contact us today for professional, on-time HVAC, plumbing, and electrical service in Lancaster, PA and the surrounding area.