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  • Heidi Falter

Fall DIY Home Projects That Can't Wait

Shorter days and cooler weather make it tempting to curl up under a blanket and hibernate until spring. It’s a good plan, but before the snow flies, cross these improvements off your list.

Clean the gutters

The first snowfall of the season is not the time to learn your gutters are filled with debris or too loose to handle the weight of the snow.

Clean your gutters, or better yet hire a pro to tackle the job. While you're at it, look for areas where gutters are loose and may have torn away from the house. Reattach them using gutter spikes, brackets or hangers. Clean, well-secured gutters are essential to protect the foundation of your home and reduce the risk of basement flooding.

Check smoke detectors

When you change the clocks to standard time, change the batteries in your smoke detector.

Remember, if your alarm chirps—a sign the battery is low—replace it, no matter the time of year.

Once you’ve replaced the batteries, test the smoke detector: It’s as simple as pushing the button to make sure the alarm goes off. Don’t ignore hardwired smoke detectors; many have battery backups and those batteries need to be replaced, too. You should also replace any smoke detectors that are over 10 years old.

Hire a chimney sweep

A chimney sweep isn’t just a character from Mary Poppins. These fireplace pros remove soot and creosote that build up in the chimney and pose a fire risk. A professional chimney sweep, certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), will clean the chimney and inspect the entire fuel venting system for warped metal on the damper, cracked or collapsed flue tiles, cracks in the exterior masonry and other signs of fire damage. The National Fire Protection Association recommends an annual chimney inspection.

A clean chimney makes it safer to build a cozy fire in the winter; it’ll also make your fireplace more efficient.

A chimney that has been swept not only helps prevent chimney fires but will also aid your fireplace ... to operate more efficiently as the smoke and other flue gases can exit the chimney more quickly,” Dimmitt explains.

Perform furnace maintenance

Call in the pros before turning on the heat. Regular maintenance ensures that your furnace runs at peak efficiency. Without semiannual maintenance (in the spring before running the air conditioner and in the fall before turning on the heat), airborne allergens may get trapped in the filters, resulting in poor indoor air quality.

Cunningham suggests having the furnace inspected to make sure it’s in good working order and changing the filters before starting it up for the first time.

Furnaces that are not cleaned at least once a year can wear out more quickly and can stop working altogether. And soaring energy costs make it more important than ever to ensure the furnace is running efficiently. ​


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