Fall is here and winter is just around the corner. This is a good time to pay attention to your property and make sure it is winter-ready. Whether you own a single family home or a condo, there are many things to be mindful of before snow and freezing temperatures hit our region.
1. Heating system – have a licensed plumber/electrician service your furnace or air pump prior to its activation. Such inspection should also measure Carbon Monoxide leakage. If you have baseboard heat, it might be a good idea to check if your system needs to be purged or bled. In this process, trapped air in radiators/baseboards is removed, allowing for much more efficient (and quieter) operation. The contractor should follow the protocol for ACCAs “national standard for residential maintenance” (or the QM, short for “quality maintenance”).
2. Windows – leaky windows can bring not only physical discomfort (brrr…) but also expensive, and sometimes exorbitant, heating bills. The worst your windows are, the higher the chances you will compensate by reaching to your thermostat. If you are not planning on replacing your windows, make sure to weather strip each of them to minimize heat escaping and cold air penetrating your home. Issues such as condensation can be addressed by a window repair company for a reasonable cost. To learn more about window replacement and energy efficiency, I find Masssave.com a very informative site.
3. Water heater – water heaters work extra hard during the winter when the need for hot water is greater. The last thing you need is a water heater leak and the need for a replacement during the winter months. Finding a plumber and an electrician will be much harder and priced accordingly. If your water heater is reaching its life expectancy, be pro-active and initiate replacement. New tankless water heaters offer much more energy efficiency while taking very little space. If you live in a condo, such replacement can free room for additional storage.
4. Roof – a healthy roof should be a concern for you even if your primary home is a condo and your unit placement is not the Penthouse. Most water issues begin at the top but neglect can allow water and melting snow to travel down and cause much damage. If you own a single family home, contact a roofer to inspect your roof and gutters before winter begins. Make sure to check your chimneys for cracks in masonry. Every homeowner association should have a plan in place to inspect roof, gutters, chimneys and masonry before mother nature bares her winter teeth.
5. Exterminator – it doesn’t make a difference if you live in nature surrounded by woods and vegetation or in the city surrounded by restaurants and cafes. When temperatures go down, rodents are looking for a warm place inside. Make sure to hire an exterminator for a pre-winter visit and be vigilant about sealing all possible entry points. In city dwellings, exterminators can use a variety of tools, inside and outside your condo, to decrease the possibility of pest intruders. Make sure to emphasize if pets and children reside in the building prior to an exterminator visit.
6. Ventilation – the coming of winter is a good time to inspect all vents in a house or building. Make sure kitchen, laundry and heating system vents are cleaned carefully.
7. Ceiling fans – ceiling fans are not only useful on hot summer days. Check your fan to see if it has a reverse switch. Use it to run the fan’s blades in a clockwise direction once the heat is on. The fan will produce an updraft and push heated air down into the room from the ceiling (hot air rises). This flick of a switch is especially beneficial in rooms with very high ceilings and should allow you to dial down the thermostat and reduce your heating bills.
8. Keep water away from the house – Make sure to inspect your home or building downspouts so that water runs at least 3 to 4 feet away from the foundation. Downspout extensions are very inexpensive and can prevent serious water-related issues.
9. Exterior faucets – undrained water in pipes can freeze, causing the pipes to burst as the ice expands. Have a plumber disconnect all garden hoses and drain the water that might still be in pipes. Make sure to turn off the shut-off valve. This item often goes unnoticed by many city dwellers with deck faucets. A burst pipe can become an expensive repair when it causes damage to other neighbors as well. Homes that are more than 10 or 15 years old might not have frost-proof faucets.
1o. Sump pump – many homes and buildings have sump pumps in order to address rising water levels. Check your sump pump (especially if you have a basement or live in a lower level condo) and make sure it works properly. Pour a few gallons of water into the sump pit to see whether the pump turns on. It is highly recommended to check your sump pump every few months, but especially after the summer is over and the rainy season approaches.
It is also very important to check all your exterior drainage spots and make sure they are clean and not clogged. Do this often throughout the winter.
Lastly, make sure you have all winter essentials stocked up in your basement or in a closet in your condo. It is not fun running to Home Depot during a snowstorm only to find they have sold out of snow shovels.