1. Check for window and door drafts.
The Department of Energy estimates that drafts account for 10% of heating bills. To find drafts in your house, hold a lit candle near the edges of windows and doors to see if it flickers and waves. Re-caulk around the windows or replace weather stripping or seals. You can also make homemade draft stops out of old socks and towels filled with dried beans or rice.
2. Get gutters ready for winter weather.
Break out a ladder and inspect your gutters; remove any leaves, debris, or nests that have accumulated through the spring and summer to avoid blocked passage to the downspouts.
3. Examine your roof for needed repairs.
While you're doing the gutters, take a peek at your roof. Check for any loose, damaged, or missing shingles. Small repairs are easily done yourself, but if you notice significant changes in your roof, you should probably call a professional for an examination before the cold weather hits.
4. Inspect your driveway and walkways.
Ice can turn the smallest cracks into huge financial problems if you don't address them now. Take time to seal them now with a repair & patch kit from your local home improvement store before the icy weather hits. Lowe’s sells one for $8.
5. Pack a power outage emergency box for the house.
When the electricity is out, cooking can be difficult. You can certainly buy commercially sold emergency kits, but you can easily make your own—especially if you’re a couponer and already have a stockpile. The Department of Homeland Security has a great website dedicated to helping you prepare emergency kits. As power outages can be stressful for kids as well, add some of their favorite board games, books, and art supplies to keep them entertained.
6. Clean up and pack away patio furniture for the season.
Head to the home improvement store and grab a bottle of the cleaning spray that attaches to your garden hose for effortless cleaning of your patio furniture. Let dry thoroughly to avoid mold before covering or storing away in your shed/garage.
7. Trim trees to avoid breakage and damage to your house.
Take a walk around your yard and examine the trees on your property. Trim back any branches that could get weighed down with ice and break, causing damage to your house, garage, or cars.
8. Prep your humidifier for the season.
Did you know an excessively dry environment can cause your woodwork to crack and become brittle? Humidifiers add much-needed moisture to the air during winter months when we run heaters and fireplaces for months on end. Now is the perfect time to replace old filters and clean/freshen the inside compartments with white vinegar before you put them to use.
9. Get your fireplace ready and practice fire safety drills.
If you have a working fireplace, you should get it examined and cleaned by a professional chimney sweep prior to firing it up. It's also the perfect time to practice fire exit drills with your family since FEMA stats say that 905 people die in winter home fires each year.
10. Winterize your garden and get ready for spring planting.
First-time gardeners (and even those with green thumbs) can find winterizing gardens daunting. Take advantage of a checklist like the one at Better Homes and Gardens that walks you through step by step on how to prep your garden, perennials, roses, and bushes for harsh weather.
11. Freshen up your winter linens.
Dig out those flannel sheets, heavy knit blankets, and throws! Take advantage of the last bit of good weather and air dry your freshly laundered winter linens outside on the line.
12. De-bug your pinecones by baking them.
Before you decorate inside with any pinecones you find or coat them in scented wax, bake them for 20-30 minutes in a 200 degree oven to kill off any bugs that live inside and to make any residual sap shiny and hard.
13. Swap out seasonal clothing and donate unused items.
End of summer means digging out cooler weather clothing to see if they still fit and packing away the shorts and swimsuits. Donate or recycle what no longer fits and what your kids will have outgrown by next season. Some stores will even give you a discount for recycling used clothing. Learn more: 17 Stores That Will Reward You for Recycling.
14. Cover up and protect your air conditioning units.
If you have window air conditioning units, remove them or purchase inexpensive covers from a home improvement store to prevent air leaks and save on your heating bills. You can even purchase larger covers for outside central air conditioning units to prevent winter damage from ice and snow.
15. Stack wood away from the house to avoid bugs.
Fall is the perfect time to stockpile firewood and kindling for winter usage. Be sure to stack your woodpile away from the house to keep bugs from finding their way into your home, and tarp it to keep it dry.
16. Make your own lint fire starters.
There are commercial fire starters available for purchase, but you can make your own using dryer lint and petroleum jelly practically for free! They're really easy to make and are some of the best fire starters we've ever used. We take them camping, use them in our outside fire pit, and our fireplace during the winter. Get the instructions here!