Fall is the time of year to ensure that your house is ready for cold weather and to prepare your property for the freezing temperatures ahead. This fall maintenance checklist will help you ready your home for the coming winter.

1. Prepare the HVAC system

Ensure that your furnace is working properly and the many parts of your HVAC system are well maintained.

Test the furnace

Turn on your furnace and walk from room to room, checking that warm air is coming from each vent. If your furnace heats unevenly throughout the house, this could be a sign that the furnace is struggling to keep up with demand. It also could be a sign that your ducts need to be sealed. If your furnace is forced to work harder than necessary to heat your home uniformly, the additional stress on your HVAC system could contribute to its early demise. Have your HVAC system checked by a professional.

Change the HVAC air filter

HVAC air filters need to be replaced approximately every three months. You can probably find your air filter in a slot between the return air duct and the blower. Remove the old filter, buy a matching filter at the home improvement store, then insert the new filter in the appropriate slot.

2. Clean the gutters

Gutters are a crucial part of your home's drainage system. When water enters the gutters, it should flow out easily through the downspout. Gutters need to be cleaned at least once a year. If your gutters are easy to reach, you can do this cleaning yourself. To reach the gutters, stand on a ladder with a bucket and a small hand shovel. Wear gloves and eye protection. Scoop the contents of the gutters into the bucket, then empty the bucket as it becomes full.

If you don't feel safe doing this yourself because your gutters are difficult to reach or because your home is more than one story, contact a roofing service.

3. Clean and inspect the chimney

If you own a home with a chimney, contact a fireplace professional to clean and inspect it. This is not work you can do yourself, as it requires a special vacuum and knowledge of chimneys. Have your home's chimney inspected even if you didn't use it last year, as chimneys can become homes to nesting birds.

4. Disconnect the hose, empty the sprinkler system

Disconnect all hoses from outdoor faucets, then drain the hoses and bring them indoors for the season. If you have an in-ground automatic sprinkler system, contact a professional to have the pipes drained. This will prevent the pipes from bursting when the temperature drops well below freezing.

5. Put away patio furniture

Patio furniture can easily get ruined when it sits outside all winter, so clean your patio furniture, dry it, and bring it inside.

If you must leave your patio furniture outside, make sure that all wooden pieces have been properly painted and sealed. Some types of metal must also be protected by paint or enamel. If your metal furniture has a coating of enamel, look for cracks or chips. Sand down the chipped enamel, clean the area thoroughly, then apply new enamel.

6. Rake leaves, tend garden

Dead leaves can destroy your lawn. At the end of the summer and beginning of the fall, lawns are often full of leaves and debris from the garden. Rake the leaves, pull dying annuals from the garden, and turn that debris into mulch. This is an excellent way to take care of your lawn and prevent diseases or fungi from infecting your shrubs, plants, and grass.

Keep an eye on your lawn throughout the fall and rake the leaves periodically as more come down.

7. Weatherstrip

Houses can get drafty in the middle of winter, so after warm weather departs, many homeowners take the opportunity to weatherstrip. Weatherstripping takes many forms, such as strips of foam and sheets of plastic.

If you weatherstripped in previous years, there's a good chance that some of your weatherstripping has deteriorated and will need to be replaced. Weatherstripping is not designed to last more than a few years at most.

Before going to the hardware store to buy weatherstripping, measure the gaps between your doors and their frames, and your windows and their frames. Also measure the perimeter of each door and window. Then you'll know how much weatherstripping to buy.

8. Conduct an energy audit

An energy audit from a professional auditor will identify areas of your home where energy is being lost and where it can be recovered. Your energy auditor will identify repairs that need to be made, appliances that can be replaced, and other upgrades that can help you save money.

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