Fall is the time of year when many home maintenance, repair, and improvement projects begin. Heating systems are serviced, roofs are checked and clogged gutters are cleared, windows are washed and caulked — it all happens in autumn. While you may not think about much beyond raking leaves, fall is an excellent time for home maintenance tasks, both big and small. After all, nobody wants to deal with a broken furnace or a drafty window in the middle of a winter storm.
One easy way to remember these fall home improvement projects is that when the leaves change color, it’s also time to change a few things around your house. This article outlines some of the most important fall maintenance checklist items that you should consider to help keep your home in tip-top shape all winter long.
1. Change Your Thermostats Settings
As the temperatures start to dip, it’s important to change your thermostat settings from cooling to heating. Not only will this save you money on your energy bill, but it will help to extend the life of your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save up to 10% a year on your heating and cooling costs by turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.
During winter months, the recommended thermostat settings for heating season are as follows:
- Gas Furnace - Set your thermostat to 68°F when you are home and awake, and lower it to 63-65 °F when you are asleep or away.
- Heat Pump - Set your thermostat to "Auto" mode and keep the temperature at 68°F when you are home and awake. This will allow the system to switch between heating and cooling modes automatically as needed.
2. Change Your Ceiling Fan Direction
Did you know that the direction your ceiling fan turns can make a difference in how comfortable your home feels? In the summer, ceiling fans should rotate counterclockwise to create a cooling breeze.
As fall arrives and temperatures start to cool down, you should switch the direction of your ceiling fan blades to rotate clockwise. This will help push warm air near the ceiling back into the room, making it feel more comfortable and requiring less heat from your furnace or heat pump.
Switching directions for pull chain ceiling fans is usually pretty simple — just look for a small switch near the base of the fan and flip it to the opposite direction. Meanwhile, many newer models of ceiling fans have a switch right on the remote control that allows you to change the direction of rotation.
3. Change Your Furnace or Heat Pump Filters
One of the most important and often overlooked fall home maintenance tasks is replacing your air conditioning, heat pump, or furnace filters.
Dirty filters not only make your HVAC system work harder (and use more energy) but can also lead to poor indoor air quality. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the air inside your home can be two to five times more polluted than the air outside.
To help improve the quality of your indoor air and keep your HVAC system running smoothly, we recommend you replace your filters at least once every three months — or more often if you have pets or someone in your household who suffers from allergies or asthma.
You can also try a different type of filter. There are three popular filter rating systems that rate the filtration capacity of each filter: Minimum Efficiency Rating Value (MERV), Microparticle Performance Rating (MPR), and Filter Performance Rating (FPR). Typically, the higher the number, the more material and the smaller the particle that filter can capture.
When changing your filters, check your owner's manual to see if there are any special instructions for your particular model of furnace or air conditioner.
4. Change the Battery in Your Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
If you have not already done so, fall is a great time to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. It is also a good idea to test all your detectors to ensure they are working correctly.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than two-thirds of home fire deaths happen in homes without working smoke alarms. So, ensuring that your detectors are in good working order and have fresh batteries can literally help save lives.
The NFPA recommends replacing the batteries in your smoke detectors at least once a year, and replacing the entire sensor every ten years. Carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced every five years.
Learning how to change a smoke alarm battery is easy and only takes a few minutes. Most detectors have a small access panel that you can remove with a screwdriver to get to the battery compartment. Once you have replaced the batteries, always test the detector to ensure it is working properly.
5. Change Old Door and Window Seals
Cold weather can take a toll on your windows and doors, so it is important to inspect them each year to look for any damage that needs to be repaired, and make sure they are in good shape. One of the most common problems is broken or missing seals. Over time, the seals around your doors and windows can become dried out, cracked, or loose, letting in drafts and making your home less energy-efficient.
If you can see daylight around your doors or windows, or if you feel a draft when they are closed, it is time to replace the seals. You can usually do it yourself with a few tools and some caulk or weatherstripping.
First, use a putty knife or screwdriver to remove the old caulk or weatherstripping. Then, clean the area and apply new sealant. Be sure to follow the instructions on the package for the best results.
Tips To Help Boost Home Energy Efficiency During Fall
Energy-efficient homes cost less to operate and are more comfortable to live in. Here are a few easy tips that you can use to make your home more energy efficient this fall, and be ready for winter weather:
1. Install Efficient Appliances and Fixtures
Electricity bills can be expensive, especially during fall and winter when we use more energy to heat our homes. One of the best ways to reduce energy costs is by installing efficient appliances and fixtures.
ENERGY STAR® certified appliances are up to 40% more efficient than traditional models, so they can help you save money on your utility bills. You can also look for ENERGY STAR-certified light bulbs, which use up to 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.
2. Educate Your Family About Energy Efficiency
One of the best ways to make your home more energy efficient is to educate your family about how to save energy. Simple things like turning off lights when you leave a room and wearing layers of clothing instead of turning up the heat can make a big difference.
3. Integrate Smart Technology Into Your Home
Nowadays, there are all sorts of smart devices that can help you save energy and money, and prevent damage to your home. Smart thermostats, for example, can learn your heating and cooling preferences and automatically adjust the temperature to save energy when you're not home.
4. Get Your Home Inspected By A Professional
If you want to make sure your home is as energy efficient as possible, it is a good idea to get it inspected by a professional. Home energy auditors can assess your home's energy use and recommend ways to improve efficiency, giving you time to prepare for necessary upgrades.
5. Harness Solar Power
Solar power is a renewable energy source that can help you save money. With plenty of south-facing windows, your home can harness the power of the sun to provide heat in the winter and natural light all year long. You can also install solar panels on your roof to generate electricity, reduce your carbon footprint, and save money on your monthly electricity bills.
If you are thinking about installing solar panels, be sure to check out our Free Solar Design and Savings Estimate Tool. Palmetto is a leading solar company serving over 25 states across the United States, and we can help you find the right solar solution for your home.