Fall fell on us on September 22 (although it didn’t feel like fall in West Chester until much later!). If you haven’t yet begun your fall home maintenance tasks, it’s time to get started. And, to help, we’ve gathered some tips.
Fall and winter see an increase in home fires, according to the American Red Cross, and faulty smoke alarms were to blame for more than 20% of home fire tragedies.
Sadly, nearly 40% of the incidents occurred in homes that didn’t have smoke alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
If you have smoke alarms in your home—required by fire codes here in Chester County—now is the time to check that they’re working properly.
Change the batteries if you can’t remember when they were last changed.
Also, ensure that you have enough smoke alarms in the home. They should be installed outside of each bedroom and on all levels of the home.
“If you and your family sleep with the doors closed, install smoke alarms inside sleeping areas, too,” suggests the NFPA.
NFPA also suggests the following:
- Consider connecting your smoke alarms so that when one sounds, they all do.
- Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old
- Use both ionization and photoelectric alarms throughout the home. The former detects flaming fires and the latter will warn you about smoldering fires.
Check the weather-stripping
Windows and doors are notoriously leaky, allowing our toasty indoor air out and that frosty stuff in—a real concern in the chilly Pennsylvania fall & winter!
Not only is this uncomfortable for the occupants of your home, but it’s tough on your utility bills as well—something every Chesco resident is sensitive to.
Weather-stripping is the way to stop the leaks, but it doesn’t last forever. It has to be replaced periodically.
How to test if you need new weather stripping:
- Try rattling your windows. If you’re successful, you probably need to replace the weather-stripping.
- If you can see daylight around the door frames you’ll need to strip there as well.
It’s an easy DIY project and Sal Vaglica of This Old House offers a handy walkthrough of how to choose the right product and you can get tips on installing weather stripping from the U.S. Department of Energy.
It can be a time-consuming task, but it’s well worth it. Replacing worn out weather-stripping can save 10-15% on your energy bills this winter, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Get a tune up
HVAC systems (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) last from 15 to 20 years, if properly maintained. Components within the system, however, have shorter life spans, according to the experts at This Old House.
This is especially true if the system gets a lot of use—and you know the PA winter counts as “a lot of use” on that heating system.
The heat pump, for instance will die at around 16 years after installation. The vast majority of Chester County homes are older than 16 years, so chances are good your heat pump needs replacing!
Since we’re entering into that time of year when our heating systems will start getting heavy use, call in a Chester County HVAC professional to inspect yours.
If you have an oil heating system, inspect the entire system – tank, line, pipes, fittings and valves – for leaks. for leaks.
The Massachusetts Environmental and Energy Affairs department claims that the cost of cleaning up a heating oil leak averages between $20,000 and $50,000.
Have your oil company service the furnace and replace any damaged parts.
In many areas—Chester County among them, to my knowledge—oil companies are required to check these heating systems, at least before the first delivery. Or at the very least, they set those required checks as internal policies to avoid getting wrapped up in a messy cleanup!
Forced air systems require seasonal maintenance as well. At the very least, stock up on filters and change them monthly during fall and winter.
Don’t forget the home’s exterior
Step outside and inspect the exterior home from top to bottom.
Check the gutters and if they’re clogged, clean them out and then check for leaks. Ensure that the downspouts are still directing water away from the home.
No one in Chester County (or anywhere, really) wants an ice dam!
A few other tips:
- If you have siding, check to see if it needs caulking.
- Check the siding and caulk it, if needed. Also check the exterior corners, where two walls meet. Caulk there as well, if needed. For answers to questions about what should and should not be caulked, head to com and read their guide.
- If you’ve been putting off blowing out the irrigation system, consider doing it soon and then wrap the pipes.
- Check trees around the house and trim back any branches that might break during heavy winds.
Of course, there’s lots more you can add to your fall honey-do list, but these tasks will get you started and ensure that your home is safe and sealed from the elements for the southeast PA fall and winter!