The Complete Homeowner’s Guide to Preparing for the Fall Season

Fall is the perfect transitional time here in Central Indiana – it’s not too hot, and not too cold. There’s plenty of time to work outside and get things done around the house in preparation for colder temperatures to come. Williams Comfort Air shares the tasks you’ll want to complete over the next few months, so your home, your HVAC equipment, and your plumbing system are all ready for winter weather!

Exterior Home Inspection

It’s a lot harder to make exterior repairs to your house once there’s snow on the ground and outdoor temperatures are bitterly cold. In the fall when it’s pleasant enough to spend time outside, dedicate an afternoon to performing a thorough inspection of your home’s exterior.

The purpose of this inspection is to identify damage and problem areas so they can be corrected now. Harsh winter weather could cause minor issues to worsen, inflicting more serious damage on your residence.

  1. Inspect the foundation for cracks. Vertical hairline cracks aren’t typically cause for concern and simply are the result of the home settling – you can cover them with paint if you have aesthetic concerns. Small cracks no wider than an eighth of an inch should be marked for monitoring – make pencil marks on each end of the crack with the date so you can check for any growth later on. Larger cracks need to be sealed to keep moisture out of the foundation and home. If you find any water moving through a crack, the crack should be sealed, and you need to divert water away from the area to prevent moisture and mold problems in the future.
  2. If any exterior walls are painted, look for areas where paint has started to peel or blister. Remove loose paint and repaint the surfaces to protect these exterior building materials. Ideally, you want to paint these walls on a day where there is little or no wind, the temperature is above 60 degrees, and the humidity is between 40 to 70% to ensure proper drying.
  3. Check the roofline for damaged materials such as buckled, cracked, or missing shingles, rusty flashing, and missing vent caps. Missing and damaged shingles should be replaced to prevent leaks and water damage. Rusty flashing should be cleaned and sealed or removed and replaced to protect against leaks around the chimney.

Clean Out Gutters and Test Drainage

Once most of the leaves have fallen from the trees on your property and nearby, it’s time to clean out your gutters.

  1. Remove all large debris like leaves, seeds, and small twigs from the gutters.
  2. Use a garden hose to spray out the gutters and remove any grime and sludge left behind by decaying matter.
  3. While using your garden hose to clean the gutters, watch how the water drains. Each gutter run should drain efficiently to a downspout without any areas of pooled water in the gutter. Downspouts should be free of clogs and allow water from the gutters to exit away from the home.
  4. Check the installation of gutters and verify they are secured to the roofline.
  5. If you noticed issues with the pitch of your gutters or found missing or damaged gutter hangers causing gaps between the gutter and gutter board, make repairs now or contact a guttering company to do so this fall.
  6. Check downspout extensions. Make sure they empty at least four feet away from your home and are not positioned in such a way that will cause water runoff to drain back toward the foundation. If extensions empty into a storm drain on the property, make sure the ends of the downspouts securely connect to the piping that runs to this drain.

Heating System Maintenance

While temperatures are still mild, take time to maintain your furnace, heat pump, or boiler heating system so that it is in top shape once it’s time to turn on the heat later this season.

  1. Replace the existing furnace filter with a new filter so your heating system can start the season off with fresh filtration.
  2. Schedule your yearly heating system maintenance tune-up with Williams Comfort Air so your system can be maintained prior to the start of heating season.
  3. If you noted any performance issues with your heating unit at the end of last heating season, schedule a repair service appointment with your HVAC technician now and have these performance problems corrected before you need to turn on the system.

Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance

If your home has a working fireplace and chimney that you use, it should be maintained yearly to ensure safe operation and prevent house fires.

  1. Schedule an inspection with a professional chimney sweep to check your chimney, fireplace, and vents.
  2. Have the chimney and fireplace swept and cleaned to remove soot and creosote buildup. This is recommended if there is 1/8-inch of buildup on the interior walls.

Seal Air Leaks Throughout the Home

Air leaks throughout the home will allow heating energy and warm air from your furnace or heating system to escape outside in the winter. Sealing areas where this air loss is likely to occur will help your heating system operate more efficiently this winter and help your family stay comfortable indoors.

  1. Check for drafts in common problem spots around windows and doors. Open the window or door slightly, insert a strip of paper, and close the window or door. Take hold of the paper and attempt to slide it around in this space – if the paper is easily moved, seal this area.
  2. Use weatherstripping products within window frames and door jambs. Seal any gaps around the outside of the window or door frame using caulk.
  3. Seal duct leaks by scheduling professional duct sealing Duct sealing improves the efficiency of your duct system as well as increases energy efficiency of your heating system this winter. With leaks sealed, heat energy won’t be lost into unconditioned areas of the house as it travels from your heating system to your living spaces.

Maintain and Test Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be tested every month and their batteries changed every six months to ensure they are working properly. It’s also a good time to check these alarms to see if they require replacement.

  1. Carbon monoxide alarms should be replaced every five to seven years. Remove each carbon monoxide alarm in your home from its location on the wall. Look on the back of the unit to see the alarm’s date of manufacture or expiration date, depending on the model. If the unit is marked with a date of manufacture, uninstall the model and replace it if the date was five to six years prior – if you’ll pass the seven-year mark before the next check in six months, go ahead and replace it now. If dates of expiration are past or within six months from the date you check it, replace it now.
  2. Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years. Remove each unit in your home and check the backside for its expiration date – if it has passed or is within the next six months, replace it now.
  3. With units off the walls, replace the batteries in each carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarm. Install fresh batteries even if the current batteries are not dead to ensure the device has a power source when needed.
  4. Reinstall smoke detectors to test. Press the test button and hold it down until the alert sounds. It should be steady and loud; if the alert is quiet or weak, replace the unit.
  5. Reinstall carbon monoxide alarms to test. Press the test button and hold it down until you hear the alert sound. If the alert is weak or if the unit does not play the alert, replace it.

Prepare Plumbing System

Just like heating equipment, plumbing systems require regular inspection and maintenance to ensure the condition and performance of the various system components.

  1. Check all taps inside and outside the home for leaks.
  2. Disconnect garden hoses from outdoor spigots. Drain hoses, coil them, and store them for the winter.
  3. If you do not have a frost-free hose bibb, winterize the outdoor spigot after removing hoses.
  4. If you have a tank water heater that has been regularly flushed, flush the tank to remove sediment buildup.
  5. Add insulation to piping in vulnerable areas, such as along exterior walls, near windows and doors, and running through unheated parts of the house.
  6. Remove your sump pump from the basin and inspect the unit for rust, corrosion, and damage. Clean debris from the pump inlet screen. Inspect sump pit for debris and remove. Replace sump pump back into the pit and test its operation by pouring a 5-gallon bucket of water into the basin – make sure the float switch activates the sump pump, observe the pump’s operation, and verify the float switch turns the pump off correctly. Outside the home, inspect the discharge pipe for damage and make sure there is nothing clogging the exit point – watch water drain and make sure the discharge line fully empties so no water freezes within it over the winter.

Get Ready for Winter with Williams Comfort Air

Using the list above, you can get your home ready for the cold season this fall! To schedule heating maintenance tune-ups or plumbing services in preparation for winter, contact us today.

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