For the lawn, rather than gathering leaves and lawn clippings in bags, cut the leaves while dry with your lawnmower into dime-sized pieces. They will fall among the blades of grass where they will decompose and nourish the lawn over the winter. Bagging them is such a waste of nutrients!
Also outside, remember to disconnect all garden hoses and drain the water that remains in the faucets. Water that remains can freeze and cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. If you don’t have frost-proof faucets, turn off the shut-off valve inside your home.
Remember, your roof is your first line of defense in protecting your home throughout the winter season. Without your roof functioning in good condition, water damage can occur which in turn can cause deterioration to insulation, wood and drywall, making electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems vulnerable. It’s better to proactively deal with repairs in the fall than to discover a leaky roof during a snowstorm.
When all the leaves have fallen, it’s time to clean out gutters and downspouts, flush them with water, inspect joints, and tighten brackets if needed. Clogged gutters are one of the major causes of ice dams. Replace old or damaged gutters with new ones that have built-in leaf guards.
This kind of advice is easy to dole out, but very honestly, for safety’s sake, I have never once been on a ladder to the second story of any home I’ve owned. Scratch that. It’s not for safety’s sake. It’s my fear of heights. No matter the reason, it’s always a good idea to have a roofing professional or handyman check out the condition of your roof.
It’s also a good idea to extend downspouts three or four feet to take water away from the foundation of the house.
On ground level, I have checked weather stripping and caulking on doors and windows, walking around examining the areas where window, door, and corner trim meet the siding, caulking any gaps I’ve found.
Inside the home, winter’s goal is having a home that is well-insulated, devoid of drafts which occur when cold air seeps in from the outside or when warm air exits. Having always lived in older homes, I’ve probably used every trick in the book to supplement inadequate insulation until it could be upgraded. Among them, and my favorite, has been the frequent use of draft snakes at the foot of doors to keep drafts at bay between rooms.
The draft snake was adopted during the Great Depression era as one of the easiest ways to cut back on energy waste. You can make one on your own by simply rolling up a towel or filling up a pouch of fabric with either sand or kitty litter. There are many on the market, however, which can lend craft charm to the winter indoor landscape, even though you have to nudge them out of the way when that door has to be opened and closed. It’s worth the bother in heat saving, however.
The old fashioned remedies of lined draperies at windows and at open doorways between rooms still work today as well as they did 200 years ago in stopping drafts.
But air leaks around windows and doors are not the main culprits in robbing a house of warmth in cold weather. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, the more significant leaks come from the attic and basement: knee walls, which are the side walls that support attic rafters, the attic hatch, wiring holes for cable, electric and phone lines, recessed lights, furnace flues or ducts and basement rim joists, where the foundation meets the wood framing.
If you haven’t done it as yet, the very best chore on your checklist should be to have a home energy audit which can determine where your energy is being wasted and prioritize your efficiency upgrades. An energy auditor analyzes your energy bills, completes visual, health and safety inspections, and may use special equipment to detect sources of energy loss.
The good thing is that there are incentives and rebates available through New York State and local Westchester and Putnam county agencies to help finance your energy upgrades, and any provider found online will be happy to explain how they work and assist you through the process.
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.