Remove debris from your gutters to prevent a problem later on. ATTRIBUTION: Photo by Eric Schmuttenmaer (Flickr)

Each summer, I perform home maintenance to prepare for the winter ahead. Cold weather can create hazards in and around your home: Snowblowers can break down, gutters may fill with snow and ice, and pipes have the potential to freeze. Before that first cold snap, give your tools and appliances a tune-up to ensure that they’re in good working order for winter.


The furnace is one of the most important appliances in my home. To ensure that it delivers maximum heat output in the winter, I perform a few simple maintenance tasks at the end of summer. I start by inspecting each component, including the venting pipe and thermostat wires. I’ll then vacuum out loose dirt and debris from inside the furnace. At least once a year, I also bring in a professional technician to thoroughly inspect my home’s furnace and perform any complex maintenance steps.


If you live in a place that gets a lot of snow, you probably own a snowblower. If so, you’ll want to change the oil in your snowblower before its first use of the season. You’ll also want to check the spark plug and install a new one if necessary. While a dirty spark plug can usually be cleaned, any rust or corrosion means you’ll need to replace it. Also take the time to inspect the belts for wear and tear and replace them if needed. If you don’t feel comfortable tuning up your snowblower, take it to a professional.


Over the seasons, leaves, sticks, and other debris can build up in your gutters. When water isn’t able to flow freely, a backup can occur, which can lead to damage to your home. Using a sturdy ladder, gloves, and a gutter scoop, I clear out all of the debris from my gutters a few times a year, paying special attention to the corners where leaves are likely to gather. I also spend a few minutes checking for leaks and structural damage caused by water buildup. Also confirm that the water is flowing out at least ten feet from your home’s foundation.


One of the worst disasters that can happen during winter is frozen pipes. Just a small crack is all it takes to cause flooding, structural damage, and mold growth. Before winter arrives, insulate your home’s water pipes using heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables. Check the area around the pipes to ensure that there are no air leaks that could allow cold air to get to your pipes. Pipes that are most at risk for freezing include those located in exterior walls, exposed pipes in unheated areas of the home, and plumbing on the exterior of the home.

CO Detector

Many people overlook their carbon monoxide detectors, but this small device has a really important job during the heating season. As carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas, it’s undetectable by humans. Having a CO detector, preferably on every floor and in every bedroom, can help increase your family’s safety. Test both your smoke alarms and your CO detectors to make sure they’re in good working order, and change the batteries at least once a year. If your device seems to be malfunctioning, replace it immediately.