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As the summer ends and the weather gets cooler there are several good projects to get started on so that when the cold weather does come you are ahead of the game.

  • Do your annual HVAC checkup

Be sure to have your HVAC contractor in to do your annual checkup and cleaning.

Do keep in mind that you need to change the furnace filter monthly to maximize the heating system’s efficiency. Though a good contractor will replace the one they find during the cleaning you need to stay on top of it the rest of the year. The filters trap dust and other airborne particles, and some also catch bacteria and pollen. This can reduce utility bills while also extending the lifespan of the furnace. While replacing the filter is straightforward, a common problem is inserting the new one backwards. Make sure the arrow along the filter edge is pointing toward the furnace blower motor. Installing it backwards decreases the filter’s effectiveness.

If you have an air to air exchanger, or a heat recovery ventilation (HVR) system, make sure it’s turned on for the winter. The exchanger has a couple of fans that bring fresh outside air into the home, warming it up in the process. At the same time, stale indoor air is exhausted outside. The process improves air quality in the home.

  • Have Your Gutters Cleaned and Consider Adding Extensions

Cleaning the gutters is vitally important all year round but particularly as you prepare for winter. Clogged gutters can fill with ice and catch snow causing water damage to your trim and siding if the water runs behind the gutter and threatening to pull the gutters away from the edge of your roof. Additionally, this can become a starting point for icicles which can be dangerous and also add weight to the gutters which are not designed to support weight. While you’re at it add extensions to the ends of your gutters and lead the water away from the foundation, onto ground that slopes away from it, if possible. As the temperature drops so does the absorbency of the soil and water that is against the foundation will follow the path of least resistance. Any cracks or porous places in your foundation will channel that water into your basement.

  • Chimney Sweep and Wood Stove Check Up

As it cools down and the fireplace becomes a gathering place again be sure to have your chimney cleaned and check that your damper is in good shape. Make sure all the seals and the catalytic converter in your wood stove are in good shape.

As you start to stock up on wood find a good place to keep the wood stacked and dry that is not in contact with your house. Firewood is a great place for insects to live and nest and you don’t want them going from the woodpile into your structure so leave at least a 6-inch gap. Don’t stack all the wood on your porch – as convenient as that seems you won’t like it if you start an infestation in your house that way. Keep a smaller hoop that on the porch where you can stage a fire or two worth of wood and keep the ends of the logs away from the siding.

  • Fix driveway cracks

This is also a good time to repair and fill any cracks in your driveway. Water that gets into those cracks and freezes will enlarge them and make it easier for water to get underneath. This is a good thing to check on every year. Staying on top of any cracking can extend the life of your driveway considerably. If the cracks are minor, you can easily take care of these yourself with one of the myriad driveway crack fillers and sealers on the market. Just follow the directions carefully regarding prepping the surface and temperature ranges to get the best results.

  • Winterize outside faucets

When you are no longer watering you want to remove and drain your hoses and store them inside somewhere. I keep mine in my crawlspace (after they are well drained) where they are not subject to freezing and thawing all winter which shortens the life of the plastic and or rubber. Be sure to turn off the outside faucets at their inside shutoff and then drain the outdoor faucet by opening it. This will prevent the pipes bursting which can be a mess or even a disaster. Consider switching your outdoor faucets to “frost proof” faucets and this chore will be off the to do list for next year. You will find many choices at any hardware store and online. You will still need to take care of your hoses, but the faucets pretty much take care of themselves.

  • Check Outside GFI’s

While you are at it, test all your outdoor GFCI outlets and make sure they are functioning as they should. These outlets have a life expectancy of about 10 to 15 years and that may be shortened depending on use and weather. It is important to have them working properly for safety and you don’t want to struggle with these when you are ready to plug in your Christmas lights and it is cold and possibly snowy outside.

About the Author

Eric Wolff is a licensed home inspector serving New Haven and the entire shoreline of CT.  He is a background verified ASHI member with hundreds of homes inspected.  Eric is available for home inspections, pre-sale or renovation consultations, as well as testing for radon, water quality testing and well performance tests. He can be reached at