Q. In preparation for winter, what consumer tips may BBB provide for homeowners?
A. Yes, winter weather is about to arrive in our area. These tips will help take advantage of what mild weather we have left to get our home ready for the really harsh weather to come.
» Give your home heating system a pre-winter tune-up. Contact a BBB accredited business heating and air conditioning contractor soon to inspect your furnace or heat pump, making sure the system is clean, in good shape and operating at peak efficiency. The contractor will also check to see if there is a carbon monoxide danger. Do this as soon as possible. You don't want to be at the bottom of the service list when it gets really cold.
» Inspect your roof. Look for damaged, loose or missing shingles that could leak. Also inspect the metal flashing in the valleys and around chimneys. Winter storms and possible melting snow can cause destruction and leaks leading to costly repairs and mold.
» Protect your home's roof and attic from damaging ice formations. Ice can cause water to back up and flow into your house when temperatures rise above freezing. Have a BBB accredited business home insulation contractor identify if you have adequate insulation, or need to fix any air leaks in your attic. Also inspect gutters, water backing up and freezing in plugged gutters and downspouts, so be sure to clean all debris, leaves and branches from them.
» Be sure to turn off and drain your exterior water faucets. Disconnect all garden hoses and drain them too. Drain water in pipes that can freeze, causing them to burst as the ice expands. If these pipes are not used, they may go undetected until spring when temperatures rise and water flows unstopped.
» Check the seals around windows, doors and siding. If you can see gaps, you need to reapply caulk or sealant. Use a silicone caulk for the exterior. It won't shrink, and it withstands the elements well.
» The garage door is the biggest entrance to your home and possibly the largest drain on your home's energy efficiency. Close the door and inspect it from the inside. Do you see light shining through anywhere? Also, check the door for air coming through. Raise the door about halfway and check the seal for any rips or tears.
» Make sure your chimney is doing its job too! It carries dangerous gases from the furnace, fireplace, water heater and wood stoves safely out of your home. Have a certified chimney sweep verify your chimney and vents are clean and in good repair. Doing so will prevent chimney fires and prevent deadly carbon monoxide creeping into your home.
» Some experts recommend mowing your leaves instead of raking them. If you cut dry leaves to about the size of a dime, they filter down into the grass, decompose and fertilize your lawn over the winter.
» Finally, if you haven't done so already, trim branches away from roofs and electrical wires to prevent damage and power outages due to ice and wind.
BBB advises that you select service provider companies based on their BBB Business profile report at bbb.org/Chattanooga. Proactively, making sure your home is ready for winter will help you stay healthy, warm and cozy, while also saving energy and money.
Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.