If you are a homeowner in or around Chicago, it’s time to get serious. November is your last chance to take care of a few important issues. By now, you should’ve cleaned your gutters, fixed any damage to your roof and taken care of anything else that could escalate during the winter into a full-blown emergency. There’s still time to do some winterization and make sure your family will stay safe and warm during the Chicago winter.
Weather-stripping is easily the most cost-effective way to rein in heating and cooling costs. This simple material also reduces drafts and keeps your home more comfortable year-round. Because weather stripping can deteriorate over time, it is important to inspect it periodically.
If you suspect a problem with weather stripping, you have several options for checking. Close a door or window on a strip of paper; if the paper slides easily, your weather-stripping isn’t doing its job. Or, close the door or window and hold a lighted candle near the frame. (Don’t let the flame get near anything flammable!) If the flame flickers at any spot along the frame, you have an air leak.
2. Check your driveway and walkways.
Walk the walks (and drives). Damaged walkways, drives, and steps are a hazard year round, but their dangers are compounded when the weather turns icy. Fixing problems in the fall is also critical to preventing little problems from becoming expensive headaches.
Look for cracks more than 1/8-inch wide, uneven sections, and loose railings on steps. Check for disintegration of asphalt, or washed-out materials on loose-fill paths. Most small jobs are well within the ability of a doing it by yourself, but save major repairs for experienced hands.
3. Clean or replace furnace filters.
Furnace filters trap dust that would otherwise be deposited on your furniture, woodwork, and so on. Clogged filters make it harder to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, and can serious increase your utility bills. A simple monthly cleaning is all it takes to keep these filters breathing free and clear. If it’s a disposable filter, then make sure you replace it before the winter.
4. Get a humidifier.
Dry winter air is bad for your health, but did you also know it can make fine wood more prone to cracking? You and your home will feel more comfortable if you keep your central humidifier in tip-top shape during the months it is running. If you don’t have a central humidifier, then consider getting a portable one.
5. Be prepared for emergencies.
Hopefully, you won’t need it, but if you do, you want to be prepared. Establish a 72-hour stock of emergency provisions. Allocate a space; keep everything you’ll need in case the power goes off there. Train your family members. If you don’t already know where it is, find the main water shutoff for your home as well as gas shutoffs in case of emergency. Also, check your car and make sure that it’s been serviced and all small problems are taken care of. Check each tire’s tread and pressure, the battery, and all fluid levels. Replace windshield wipers, especially if you didn’t do it last year. Create a winter emergency kit and keep it in the trunk along with your chains and flares. Include water, high energy snacks, blankets, a flashlight and spare batteries, jumper cables, and a first aid kit.