How To Get Your House Ready For Winter: A Must-Do Maintenance Checklist

autumn, avenue, bench

I know you’d rather this post was about Christmas decorations (pretty!), DIY gift ideas (fun!), or cozy holiday recipes (yum!), but the truth is, home maintenance should be part of your fall routine, too. Spring has its cleaning, so it’s only natural that fall has its prep. And, oh boy, should you prep. Here are a handful of tips to help you make the most of this season of transition, and help your home stay safe and warm all winter long.

  1. Reverse your ceiling fans

    In the summer you want your fans blowing counterclockwise so they push air down. As weather get colder they should spin clockwise. Most fans have a switch that will change the spin direction. By lifting cold air up in the winter, warm air is pushed down letting you to feel warmer while keeping the thermostat set a few degrees lower.

  2. Check your water heater

    Water heaters can last a long time (10-12 years), but they do need to be replaced. Waiting until your current water heater fails could cost you more in the long run.

    Visit to take a short quiz and find out if your water heater is due for replacement.

    Home Energy Cost Infographic

    Water heater shopping? Make sure to check the annual cost of ownership, which combines the original purchase price plus installation and annual energy costs.

    A propane tankless system can cost more up front, but can also last up to 10 years longer. Propane-powered water heaters use less energy, cost less to operate, have lower CO2 emissions, and can even save floor space compared with electric systems.

    Water Heater Replacement Map

    Download the PDF

  3. Hang extra thick curtains to help insulate windows
    Your house can lose a lot of heat through its windows. Use thick curtains or even thermal curtains to minimize heat loss.

  4. Change your furnace air filter

    Have you even looked at that thing recently? Seriously; if your air filter is doing its job, it’s going to get really, really filthy. That’s a good thing! It means all that dust and dirt isn’t getting into your lungs! But you should be sure to swap in a new one every 3-6 months. It’ll make your HVAC system run more smoothly, and improve your indoor air quality.

  5. Limit your carbon footprint

    Tankles propane water heaterTankless water heaters produce fewer CO2 emissions

    With furnaces, boilers, and water heaters running overtime in the cold winter months, you may be contributing more CO2 into the atmosphere than you might like. For example, standard electric storage tank water heaters produce about two times greater emissions than tankless propane units (about 1,300 lbs. more per year!).

  6. Check your water heater’s temperature setting

    Most people keep their water heater turned up too high. If you’re using both the hot and cold handles in the sink or shower then you’re just heating up water only to then cool it down again! That doesn’t make sense. Adjust your heater’s thermostat to one setting lower and see if you notice the difference.

  7. Mow your leaves instead of raking them

    Recent data suggests that mowing and mulching your leaves is better than raking them. By mowing them you turn those big leaves into little leaves that will decompose and provide nutrients for your lawn come spring.

  8. Caulk around windows and doors

    You wouldn’t walk around in a t-shirt in December would you!? Ok, maybe if you live somewhere warm, but for the rest of us, bundling up is a fact of life. Make sure your home is bundled up as well by checking for gaps and cracks near doors and windows. Use color matched exterior caulk to seal them up! If you can spring it, get a full home energy audit with an IR camera inspection to find out where your really bad spots are.

  9. Clean the gutters

    Filthy gutters mean moisture, and moisture in winter means ice. Clean out your gutters to prevent ice build up. Speaking of gutters…

  10. Divert water away from your home

    Use extra long gutter spouts to get water far away from your home and its foundation. Water near your home can penetrate your foundation and crack and damage it when frozen.

  11. Turn off exterior faucets

    This is fall prep 101. Again, the whole goal here is keeping water from freezing in winter, expanding, and damaging your pipes! Find your outdoor spigot shut-off valve and turn it off before the weather gets too cold. Then open your spigot outside to let the remaining water drain out.

  12. Drain your lawn irrigation system (if you have one)

    Underground irrigation pipes freeze too, and they can be very expensive to replace. If you have an irrigation system, but have no idea how to approach this, consult a pro to stay in the clear

  13. Run your mower to use up any remaining gasoline

    Speaking of mowing, you should never leave gasoline in a motor for long periods of time. Gasoline breaks down over time and can gum up your motor making it harder to start in the spring. You have two options for fixing this:

    1. Run the motor till it has no more fuel or

    2. Buy fuel stabilizer. Add some fuel stabilizer, then fill the tank up with gasoline. Run the engine for a few minutes to make sure the stabilizer gets inside and then store for the winter.

  14. Tune up your heating system

    You should probably just hire a pro to check on your heating and cooling system every 6 months. Gas (such as propane) heating systems can be super efficient (as much as 95%) but can rapidly lose that efficiency if not properly maintained. Since gas heaters create exhaust, you want to make sure the exhaust vent isn’t feeding exhaust right back into the air-intake. If it is, you may need to have a heating professional move the exhaust and intake vents further away from each other.

  15. Do an exterior walk-around

    Look for rotted or deteriorating wood, especially on window sills, soffits, and crown molding. Look for signs of critters getting in where the foundation meets the ground. Check for peeling or flaking paint; a touch up now may put off a full re-paint down the road.

    This type of exterior inspection can be quick, but doing it at least once a year is important because it’s how you get to ‘know’ your house. Repairing exterior wood, sealing up foundation holes and cracks; these are the type of easy maintenance jobs that can really save you money later on.

  16. Call a chimney sweep before starting the fireplace

    He won’t sing and dance for you like in Mary Poppins, but a chimney sweep will make sure you don’t burn your house down when you go to light the yule log. Just do it.

  17. Check your roof for damage to shingles and replace if necessary

    This is pretty self explanatory. Keep snow and ice out of your attic!

  18. Check Insulation

    Many older homes haven’t had their insulation updated in years, so make sure you have good insulation to prevent heat loss.

  19. Check fire alarms and CO detectors

    With your heater working overtime and less sunlight meaning more electricity use, you should really make sure your alarms are working properly. It takes five minutes to check your fire alarms, yet most Americans forget to do it. Don’t be a sheep! Check your alarms!

That’s it. A few simple steps and you should be good to go!

Have any other fall prep ideas for your home? Share them with us in the comments below!
winter house
Winter is coming


This post sponsored by The Propane Education & Research Council, but all opinions are mine alone. Thanks for supporting the brands that support Curbly.