Fall officially arrived in Colorado (last week). As promised, here is your House & Home Ultra Lite Fall Maintenance List. This is the biggest quarterly maintenance list – there’s a lot to do to prepare for winter. & Please note there is some work to be done from a ladder in the maintenance list.
Replace furnace filter(s):
Changing furnace filters will improve air quality and enhance the efficiency and life of your home heating & cooling systems. Furnace filters should be replaced regularly (at a minimum four times a year and more preferably 6 – 12 times a year). Homes with pets should consider changing filters at least monthly. Make sure you use the proper type of filter for your furnace. Make a note of the type of filter you are replacing. Purchase the same or as similar as possible. The wrong type of filter can limit air flow and possibly even freeze your air conditioning system.
Vacuum refrigeration coils/condensers:
Refrigerators, freezers, wine chillers all have coils & condensing units (usually behind a panel at the bottom of the unit – consult your models owners’ manual). Keeping these clean will reduce energy costs and prolong the life of the unit.
Inspect for evidence of uninvited guests:
Again, not your in-laws! We’re talking about mice, birds, squirrels, insects, etc. Check attic areas and crawlspaces. Look for droppings and possible damage done to wiring, insulation, siding, roofing, etc. Note: They will be looking for a winter safe haven over the next few months – before they settle in, keep an eye out for them.
Inspect stairs and railings for safety:
Give railings a good tug to make sure they’re not loose.
Inspect fire extinguishers:
We think every home should have at least two (2) good, properly rated fire extinguishers. They should be checked that they are charged, readily accessible, and in good shape. Discharged fire extinguishers should immediately be recharged or replaced. Fire extinguishers come with a warranty (typically 10 years). They should be replaced once the warranty expires.
Kidde has some good diagrams and information on their website about types and placement of fire extinguishers. As a rule of thumb, remember to place fire extinguishers near exits – never in a room without an exit. In the event of a fire, your first steps should always be towards an exit. If you decide to fight the fire, you’re headed in the right direction. If you decide not to fight the fire, you’re still headed in the right direction.
Clean dishwasher filters:
Follow your model’s owner’s manual.
Replace the batteries in your smoke and CO detectors:
The rule of thumb is to replace them when we change our clocks (fall back). Anytime between now and then is probably safe. Also, while you’re on the ladder vacuum the units. Dust build-up on the units can lead to false alarms or possibly prevent them from functioning at all.
For much more on Smoke & CO Detectors, please see our article: Stopping the Killers Carbon Monoxide and Fire.
- Clean gutters and downspouts:
Gutters and downspouts perform a simple but vital purpose and they are often overlooked because cleaning them is not enjoyable. Gutters must be cleaned to protect your home. (Here’s How to Clean Your Gutters.) Water must be diverted away from your home’s structure. There is no simple way to clean them. Just bite the bullet, get a good pair of gloves, some trash bags, and a hose and go for it. Be very careful on the ladder, watch for overhead electric lines and wear gloves – there are lots of sharp edges in a gutter.
Note: Wait as long as you can to do this. Hopefully you can wait until all the leaves have fallen. It’s just one of those things that if you’re too quick, you’ll need to do it again, but if you wait too long, you could find yourself in icicle hell and possibly sustain damage to your eaves and roof. We’ll try to send an alert out when we think it’s an optimum time to get it done.
Clear the roof of debris:
While you have the ladder out doing the gutters, take the time to clear your roof of any debris and make sure all roof vents are clear also. This is a good time to inspect the roof, flashing and valleys for damage as well. Again, exercise caution.
Inspect chimneys for uninvited guests, cracks or potential leaks:
It’s just one more thing to do while you have the ladder out.
Clean the dryer vent and ducting of lint:
This is not an easy task – it could require some specialized tools. It is one of the most common causes of house fires.
Clear crawlspace vents of debris and overgrowth:
We advocate keeping your crawlspace vents open year round. However in some homes they need to be closed for the winter to prevent pipes from freezing. If you’re uncertain about your crawlspace vents, call us, we’ll try to help.
Vacuum the furnace blower box:
This can be dangerous and you could cause more damage than good if you are not careful. If you’re uncomfortable or unsure about this task contact us or another professional for help.
Replace any and all water filtration filters:
You could have a whole house system, a single sink system and/or filters for your refrigerators/icemakers. It’s time to change the filters and reset any alarms.
Winterize the whole house fan:
If you have a whole house fan, it should be winterized before you start losing heat through it. With Colorado weather, this is another one of those things you would like to hold off as long as you can.
Replace batteries in your thermostats:
These guys go dead also. You’ll be embarrassed (and a bit poorer) when you call a heating guy out because you’re cold and all you needed was a new battery in the thermostat.
Inspect door weather stripping and replace as necessary:
If you see daylight – it’s not good! This was also on the summer list – check again!
Clean/replace the furnace humidifier pad and set for winter:
Over the summer these things get clogged and turn solid. Make sure it’s operating efficiently by changing the pad now – before it’s needed.
Just a few other miscellaneous items:
- It’s about time to shut down your sprinkler system. Get it on the schedule.
- Extend the life of you patio furniture by storing it or covering it for the winter.
- Don’t let your hose spigots freeze. We’ll watch the weather and try to send an alert out when it is a must to disconnect your hoses.
The Ultra Lite maintenance list is intended to inform DIY homeowners about general home maintenance. The list suggested above is by no means a complete list of items that need maintenance in a home. The list above is only a compilation of maintenance suggestions based on our experience in homeownership, homebuilding and remodeling.
Remember to be safe when performing your home maintenance tasks.
Note from the hosts: Thanks to friend Paul Coates. Paul and his Colorado-based Da Vinci Remodeling publishes seasonal maintenance lists to their House and Home Ultra Lite subscribers. Thanks. ~ jb