Once the leaves begin to fall, our minds wander to apple cider, jumping in piles of leaves and ... caulking our windows? (Who says we don't know how to have fun?)
Just as spring cleaning helps us shed the winter doldrums, we have five autumn chores that make it easier to welcome Old Man Winter — and maybe save a little money on home energy bills, too.
Inspect Fireplaces and Sweep Chimneys
The arrival of autumn means chilly nights are on the way, perfect for cuddling in front of a crackling fire.
But before that happens, be sure your fireplace is functioning properly by having it inspected and cleaned. The National Fire Protection Association recommends you do so every year. Annual chimney cleanings by professional sweep service will reduce creosote buildup and rid your chimney of other debris (such as nests and branches), reducing the risk of accidental fire as well as carbon monoxide poisoning.
Have a gas fireplace rather than wood burning? You'll still want to schedule that appointment to be sure your chimney hasn't become home to bird nests or other debris that may block the flue.
Check Outdoor Window Caulking
Old, cracked window caulking can be blamed for about 10 percent of heat loss in your house, says the U.S. Department of Energy. How can you tell if your caulking needs help? You can hire a professional to do an energy audit on your home, or save money by doing it yourself with a candle on a windy day (move a lighted candle around closed door and window frames — if the flame wavers, that's a leak).
Re-caulking windows and doors will seal air leaks, and while you're already caulking take the opportunity to prevent water damage around your home by applying some around faucets, bathtubs, pipes and other plumbing.
To be sure the new caulk you apply adheres well and forms a nice seal, first do a little cleaning. Use a putty knife to remove any old caulk from around window frames, then apply new caulking compound with a caulking gun. Smooth it out and wait for it to dry. You'll want to apply new caulk before the temperatures drop — the best time to re-caulk is on a day where temperatures are above 45 degrees F and there is low humidity.
Did You Know?
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Americans spent an average of $1,400 to heat their homes.
You probably don't think much about the gutters on your house until you see vegetation trickling out of them, but with a bit of maintenance, they do a lot of work for you. Gutters keep water away from your house, reducing the chances of water damage to your siding, windows, doors and foundation. You'll know gutters and downspouts are overdue for a de-clogging when water runs over them during a rain storm.
Clean them yourself with just a few tools: You'll need a ladder, a bucket, a gardening trowel (to scoop out debris), a garden hose, rags and a pair of gloves. Or if you're worried about safety, schedule a gutter cleaning with a professional service.
Ideally you want schedule your fall gutter cleaning after all the leaves have fallen from your trees.
An Outdoor Window Treatment
Prepare to let the sunshine in during winter's short days by giving the outsides of your windows a spotless cleaning. All you need to clean windows is soap, water and a cloth or squeegee but many people swear by the window cleaning power of crumpled newspapers. The best days to clean windows are overcast ones — skip window washing on bright sunny days when the sun may cause soap and water streaks.
Don't forget to clean the screens! Screens collect dust and dirt that can be easily removed with the dusting-brush attachment on your vacuum (vacuum from the inside, it'll be easier).
Maintain Lawn Equipment and Tools
As summer comes to an end, so will gardening and yard maintenance. Prepare your yard and gardening tools for the coming cold snap by draining and storing garden hoses, cleaning shovels and other yard tools (usually a wire brush along with some soap and water will do the trick) and sharpening the blades on pruning shears.
Lawn care equipment should be maintained and stored, too. Use a rag to clean the surfaces of your lawn mower, edger and any other yard equipment. Also be sure to use up or siphon the gas from any motorized equipment, then run until the tank is dry. Also, grease and oil equipment according to their manuals.
Did You Know?
Experts recommend changing your lawn mower's oil after every 25 hours of use.