Now that autumn has officially arrived, it is time to think of those cold months that will soon be upon us and what that means to our budgets ...... higher bills due to heating costs.
There are a few things we should be doing now to help keep those costs as low as possible. Who wants to throw good money out the window .... or to the gas/propane man? I sure don't!! Routine maintenance is key to preventing problems in the future.
Here are a few things we make sure to take care of before the snow flies....OUTSIDE JOBS....
1. Inspect the chimney. We do not have a wood stove or fireplace (if you do then this step is VERY important) but we do like to check for any cracks, leaks or flashing problems while the weather is still nice.
2. Remove debris, gardening tools and yard decorations. This is extremely important for us as we use an big, old plow truck to clear the yard and driveway. I don't know how many times items were ruined and had to be replaced due to them being buried in snow and were unnoticeable when hubby ran over them. Also remove hoses and store them away. They can easily crack if there is any water remaining in them and purchasing new ones in the spring can be costly.
3. Clean the gutters. Grab a ladder and a pair of gloves, get up there and clean out all the old leaves, branches, twigs and gunk that clogs them up. Maintaining gutters ensures dry basements and prevents foundation problems .... both of which can run into huge amounts of money to repair.
4. Check all windows and doors. Checking windows and doors to make sure the close tightly will help keep energy costs down and prevent ice build up. If you still have the old storm windows ... now is the time to put them up. Check all chalking to ensure tight seals around doors and windows. If you have a door that is not used in the winter, now is the time to make a homemade door drafter. Window quilts are also making a comeback, especially in colder climates.
5. Check driveways and sidewalks. In areas where temperatures dip regularly below freezing...like here in Minnesota, it is important to make sure all cracks are sealed and repaired. Otherwise you might just lose your car or Fido in the black abyss when those cracks get bigger due to the frost!
and now for the....INSIDE JOBS....
1. Replace the furnace filters and get the furnace inspected. Getting the furnace inspected once a year is a great preventative maintenance tip. If you or your hubby are not comfortable doing your own inspection then it is worth calling in a professional. A poorly running furnace can add up to hundreds of dollars lost in fuel costs. Changing out the filters in the fall is another great money saving tip. Using a sharpie marker, I write the date on my filter so I know when it will need to be changed again.
2. Clean out the dryer vent. If you use a dryer, make sure you clean out and inspect the vent that is between the dryer and the outside wall. Lint can easily get trapped and standing out in below freezing temperatures, digging lint out of the hose is not my idea of fun so I make sure it is taken care of now.
3. Inspecting the hot water tank. Routine maintenance of checking for hose wear and damage is critical for a properly working hot water tank. Flushing out the tank once a year is another great way to ensure it is running as efficiently as possible. Flushing the tank is simple as hooking up a hose to the bottom valve and letting the water either run outside or into the tub...whichever is more convenient. Wrapping foam insulation to all water pipes can help to save quite a bit of money during the course of a winter.
4. Test all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. All alarms should be checked monthly but making a point of changing all batteries on the first day of autumn will protect your property and family when candles and wood fires are more likely to be used.
5. Are there any other energy leaks that you could be missing? Take the time to look around your home to see if there are any other ways to help you and your family save energy. Could the attic use more insulation? Is it feasible to change that one, old window you have been meaning to replace? Adding a programmable thermostat can also help to save those dollars.
Now that the house and property are all set for the cold winter, it is time to get outside and enjoy what autumn has to offer! Taking a hike while watching the leaves fall, going on a hayride, perusing the pick-your-own-pumpkin patches, gathering up apples and attending the fall fairs are just a few activities that can be savored.
Remember to give your loved ones a hug!