Whether you’re staying put in your year-round home this winter or are a part-timer on weekends, these maintenance tasks will ensure your house can weather the storm this winter.
All systems go: check your plumbing and heating
High on the list of must dos for your house is an all-systems check for heating and water says Ebony Smith, service manager at Montauk Plumbing and Heating.
“We suggest changing filters and performing inspections at least annually, depending on how you use your house, and do your water system, and boiler and hot water heater at the same time,” she says. Typical issues include inadequate insulation that can cause pipes to freeze; built-up sediment that can decrease water pressure in faucets and showers, and eventually cause erosion; and infrequently changed furnace filters, which slow down performance and could actually shorten the life of your furnace. Smith says homeowners often neglect changing the filter on the water main to the house. “Whether you’re on town water or your own well, there will be sediment that affects the way your plumbing fixtures work,” she says.
She advises shopping around for a service professional based on experience, not price. “Find a good company you trust and stick with the same person. You want your technician to know your house inside and out. It’s not always about the rate, but it’s always about the service and someone knowing and caring about your home.”
A clean sweep: chimney care
Chimney sweeping is one of the oldest home-maintenance tasks, dating from ordinances established in 16th-century Tudor England. While soot and creosote are timeless byproducts, heating technology and cleaning methods have advanced, making it easier than ever for homeowners to keep their chimneys up to par. Mike Scanlon, owner of Sag Harbor Fireplace, says chimneys should be swept and inspected depending on use.
“If you use it a lot, should be inspected and swept every year. You can go every two years if you use it only on weekends,” he says. But, he adds, “It’s more about the way you use it: If you have a lot of smoldering, smoky fires, you get creosote built up, which is very flammable.” Hot-burning fires and dry, seasoned hard wood produce less of the tarty byproduct that can line a chimney and cause it to ignite.
Gas-powered units, too, should be cleaned yearly. “A lot of people think once they put them in they don’t have to think about it,” he said. Though this is a busy time of year, he recommends not putting off an inspection and sweep “Have service this year, and do it again at the end of the season so you’re ahead of the season.” Final check: don’t forget the chimney cap to keep debris out.
Free and clear: fall is prime yard work time
“I really recommend taking care of winterization in October and if it’s a warmer fall, like it is right now, this can also be done through November,” says Frederico Azevedo of Unlimited Earth Care in Bridgehampton. It’s prime time to remove debris that could cause damage to your home: tree limbs that could be susceptible to breaking in storm, and leaves from the gutters so they can continue channeling water away from your roof and foundation.
Azevedo says it’s also the time to cut back flowering and perennial shrubs, and “anything that appears risky or as if it won’t survive the winter,” and dressing vulnerable bushes, hedges and trees with protective wrapping such as burlap. “Many people think of winter as an off time for a garden, but actually what happens to your garden and landscape over the winter affects it for the rest of the seasons,” he says. For that reason, he’s big on protective deer fencing, intentional planting of deer-resistant flora and fauna, and planting evergreens, which not only give color all year round, but also provide a habitat for birds over winter. “It’s all about balance with sustainable garden maintenance.
Power play: choosing the right generator
If you don’t have a generator for your home, now is the time to consider adding one to the suite of home-protection equipment.
“Anybody who has power lines above ground where trees can take them down or if they lose power once or twice a year is a candidate for a generator,” says Mike McNeil, owner of Long Island Power Systems, in Southampton. “If you live in area are where you get a lot of snow and you need power for heat, I would highly recommend you have a generator.” And it’s about more than just comfort: for households that have critical loads such as medical equipment or systems in wine cellars, it’s essential.
Most generators are installed based on needs — either supporting the entire house or just specific circuits. McNeil recommends, installs and maintains the appropriately powered equipment, and apprises homeowners on monitoring options. Preventative maintenance is key, too, he says. Batteries should be changed every three years, and he recommends a certified technician check twice a year to “put their eyes on the machine” and perform necessary tune-up tasks such as changing the oil, filter and spark plugs, and cleaning the intake system. “With good maintenance, a generator can have a shelf life of 20 to 25 years,” he says.