Now that fall is here, it’s time to prepare your home for winter. These steps will lower your utility bills and protect your home.

  1. Tune up your heating system. Have your furnace or heat pump inspected to be sure the system is clean and in good repair. The inspection also measures carbon-monoxide leakage. If you call soon for an appointment, you’ll minimize the chance of a long wait.
  2. Reverse your ceiling fans. Run the fan’s blades in a clockwise direction after you turn on your heat. The fan will produce an updraft and push heated air from the ceiling down. This is especially helpful in rooms with high ceilings—and it might allow you to turn down your thermostat by a degree or two.
  3. Caulk around windows and doors. If the gaps between siding and window or door frames are bigger than the width of a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk. Silicone caulk is best for exterior use as it won’t shrink and is impervious to the elements. Check window-glazing putty too. Add weather stripping as needed around doors.
  4. Turn off exterior faucets. Undrained water in pipes can freeze and cause pipes to burst. Start by disconnecting all hoses. If you don’t have frost-proof faucets (homes more than ten to 15 years-old typically do not), turn off the shut-off valve inside your home, then drain the water that remains in the faucets.
  5. Drain your lawn-irrigation system. It’s best to call in a professional to do the job. Draining sprinkler-system pipes, as with spigots, will help avoid freezing and leaks.
  6. Mulch leaves when you mow. Mow your leaves instead of raking them. The trick is to cut the leaves, while dry, into dime-sized pieces that will fall among the grass blades, where they will decompose and nourish your lawn over the winter.
  7. Prepare to stow your mower. As the mower sits through the winter, remaining fuel will decompose, “varnishing” the carburetor and causing difficulty when you try to start the engine in the spring. Wait until the tank is nearly empty from use and run the engine to use up the remaining fuel. Check your owner’s manual for more tips.
  8. Don’t prune trees or shrubs until late winter. You may be tempted to get out the pruning shears after the leaves fall, but wait to prune until late winter for most plants, when they’ve been long dormant and just before spring growth begins. To get advice specific to your plants and region, consult master gardeners at local nurseries or horticulturalists with your state university’s cooperation extension department.
  9. Call a chimney sweep. Before you burn the Yule Log, make sure your fireplace, chimney and vents are clean and in good repair. That will prevent chimney fires and keep carbon monoxide from creeping into your home.