October is here, and that means it's time to get your house in tip-top shape for an energy-efficient winter heating season. This also needs to be done in those warmer climates even though the air conditioning is still working!
Weekend 1: Find Air Leaks and Save Energy
Now is a great time to tackle all of the outdoor and indoor home improvements by sealing up all of those cracks and gaps that will cost you valuable energy dollars. If left to be drafty those small spaces add up to a 4' x 4' hole in the side of your house, so spend a few bucks wisely on supplies and potentially save hundreds of dollars this season.
Indoors: Start by checking the exterior walls of the house by feeling around all of the windows and doors for drafts. If you are having a hard time locating those drafts, light a stick of incense and hold it by the window and door frame. If the smoke is wavering, you may have an air leak. The size, shape, and location of the air leak will dictate how it is to be filled. If the leak is around a door or window frame, the best sealant is a paintable latex caulk. It will give a smooth and clean seal that will best blend into the surrounding areas.
Exterior wall outlets can also be a huge source of air leaks that need to be addressed. Remove all of the outlet covers on the exterior walls, place a pre-cut foam gasket on the back side and replace the cover. This will give you a nice tight seal and stop the air from coming in and out. If there is a large open void around the receptacle, you can fill those in with expandable foam like Great Stuff .
If you find air leaks around the windows but notice it is coming in where the window moves up and down within the sash, you have the option of temporarily sealing that window shut for the season to stop that draft. DAP makes a great temporary caulk called Seal-n-Peal caulk  which is removable and will seal that window closed for the season. Just make sure not to seal all windows shut in the event one needs to be used as an egress during an emergency.
While checking around your doors, make sure that they close securely to keep air from escaping. If you find them to be drafty, foam weather stripping can create a tight seal. While you are at your door, grab some WD-40 and lubricate the hinges to ensure smooth operation and avoid rust. You can also put some WD-40 on your key and insert it into the chamber to make sure the mechanism does not bind from the approaching chill.
Outdoors: Same thing goes for the outside of your house. Check around windows and doors to make sure that the caulk around the frame work has not dried and become cracked. If it appears worse for the wear, remove the old caulk with a blade or a caulk softener and then spray the opening with bleach and water solution to kill any mold that might be growing back there. Let the area dry thoroughly and reapply a paintable latex caulk. If you notice any space on the exterior that might accommodate pests or air leaks, filling those with expandable foam like Great Stuff is a smart option because it will expand to fill the exact shape and size of the opening, its water proof, and darn fun to use.
Lastly, be sure to call your heating provider and arrange for your seasonal maintenance of the heating and cooling system. Try and schedule the appointment before they get busy working on emergencies. Having the system maintained will not only have the entire system operating efficiently, but a smooth running system will save energy dollars. If you haven't done so already, sign up for your heating provider's service plan; a minimal annual fee could save major bucks in the event of an emergency repair.
Weekend 2: Cleaning Up the Great Outdoors
So you are starting to feel that chill, letting you know that winter is not that far off. This is a great weekend to ensure that warmer season items are ready to go for next year. Now is also a great time to make sure that all gutters and downspouts are in good operating order before the snow build up can put water where it does not belong.
Gather all of your warm weather outdoor furnishings and give them a good cleaning, using the proper cleaners as recommended by the manufacturer. Get any dirt and debris build up off before it has time to damage the furniture while being stored up all winter. Once they are clean and dry, stack them up and store them for the winter. If you are short on space, they can be stacked and covered in a weather proof tarp in an area of your property that is out of the way for the winter. It is easy to locate covers made specifically for all types of outdoor furnishing that are going to fit well and protect your investments for many season to come.
Get a head start on preventing leaves from blocking up your gutters by cleaning out your entire gutter system . This home improvement project will prevent the leaves from wreaking havoc on your basement. Be sure to keep a buddy around to help keep your balance on the ladder, and if possible, even take turns with this fun task. While you are examining the gutter system, take the time to relocate any downspouts that are depositing water directly against the house's foundation. This could cause water to find its way into below grade rooms. Ideally, you want the downspouts to extend about 3'- 6' away from the foundation walls, but further if you can. If the whole idea of gutter maintenance isn't your idea of fun, look into local companies that offer seasonal gutter cleanup. The cost could outweigh that fear of climbing up ladders. Better yet, install a type of gutter guard after you clean and you will never deal with this chore again.
Weekend 3: Halloween Decoration Time
Putting up Halloween decorations a few days before the holiday gives you a chance to enjoy them. Whatever your spooky decorating style might be, make sure they do not interfere with walkways, steps, or lighting.
If you decide to place some scary fun onto stair railings, make sure the decorations do not hinder your ability to grab that railing if you need the extra support. If you are placing real pumpkins on the property, go ahead and put them out, but wait to carve them until a day or two before Halloween, otherwise your neighborhood squirrels will enjoy a snack before you get to frighten away any ghouls.
Now is also a great opportunity to make sure that all outdoor lighting and pathways are in good shape to stand up to the coming wintry weather. Make sure that there are no loose bricks, paving stones, or uneven areas of the walkways around your home. Make any necessary home improvements to repair loose footing areas. Trim back any tree branches or shrubs that stick out onto the walking areas. Make sure that all walking areas are well lit. Many low voltage lighting kits are easy to install and can enhance the look of your home while cleverly keeping you on your feet. In areas where you are looking for extra security, install motion sensor flood lights.
Weekend 4: Check Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
It is about to get darker earlier which will make it feel like winter. Use these times to remember other important home improvements in your house. Change batteries in all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Test them to make sure they operate correctly and vacuum out any dust that may have accumulated inside. If you do not have detectors in your home, make sure you install both on every level of your home. Any bedrooms belonging to children or the elderly should have their own detectors within so they will hear the sounds and get up if the detector goes off.
If you have any outdoor faucets, remove any hoses and turn off water flow to that outdoor fixture. Once you have it turned the water off, open the valve and drain out any remaining water within the pipe to avoid a flood from frozen pipes. Taking the extra few minutes to drain the water can save hundreds of dollars.
Finally, carve that jack o lantern. Remove all the seeds and pulp from the inside, clean up and rinse the seeds, lay them out on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, and sprinkle with salt, season salt, and any favorite spice, then bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. When you light your scary jack o lantern, remember to monitor any burning candle or buy a battery operated candle and let the good times roll. Happy Halloween!!!!