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Personal Finance > Five Tips
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Preparing your home for Fall
5 Tips: Getting your house ready for the new season.
September 1, 2004: 12:03 PM EDT
By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - It's the unofficial end of summer. While you may be caught up with other things, like getting the kids ready for school, it's important not to neglect your home.

Early fall is the time of year to prepare your house for the cooler weather just around the corner. Most people know to clean their gutters and seal openings around windows that can leak heat. But there are other less obvious measures you'll need to take to keep your home in tip-top shape inside and out.

Here are today's 5 tips on getting your home ready for Fall:

1. Crank the heat.

"You forget your heating system when it's summer. But believe me, you'll notice if it doesn't work right in the winter," says Ed Del Grande, host of Do It Yourself Network's "Ed The Plumber."

It's extremely important to make sure your heating system is working correctly and safely. Ed recommends having a heating and cooling specialist look over your system once a year at this time.

If you have a forced hot air system, your heating and cooling systems use the same filters. If they're dirty, filthy air will be circulating around your home. Filter changing is something homeowners can and should do themselves.

Have the specialist inspecting your unit show you how it's done, then you'll be able to do it regularly whenever you need to. Ed says filters usually need changing three to four times over the course of the winter.

If you have gas heat, your serviceman should check the pilot light, burner and chimney flue -- that's where carbon monoxide byproduct exits your home. If it's not venting properly, you could have carbon monoxide building up in your house.

Forced hot water heating systems (sometimes called baseboard heat) should also be checked and serviced. Typically this involves putting an anti-freeze solution into the heating pipes so they don't freeze while you're away or not using your heat. Ed says the service costs about $100, but it protects a system that's worth much, much more.

2. Prevent trouble down below.

There may also be things that need attending to beneath your property. Ed recommends having underground sprinkler systems flushed before the cold sets in.

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CNNfn's Gerri Willis shares five tips on how to prepare your home for Fall.

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The process involves blowing air into pipes to displace leftover water. This is important because water lines are typically only 6 to 8 inches below ground -- and prone to freezing. If they freeze and then burst, you could have a costly repair situation on your hands.

Homeowners with septic tanks should also think about pumping them now -- before the ground freezes and snow buries your yard. Septic tanks should be checked once every year and cleaned no less than every three years.

3. Go topside.

Roofs usually have a 20 to 30 year life, but that doesn't mean they don't need attention. You or a roofer should get up there once a year to check its condition.

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Look for missing or rotting shingles. While up there, check the gutters to make sure they're free of leaves and debris. It's also a good time to repair any broken gutters and downspouts.

Don't forget to trim dead or overgrown tree limbs hanging over your house. All it takes is one storm to bring weak branches down and damage your roof.

4. The water fight.

Moisture is public enemy number one. Enemy number two is poor ventilation. Put them together, and you have an environment that encourages mold growth.

Molds can seriously damage your home (your biggest investment) and some can even make you sick. Ed recommends good exhaust fans in bathrooms where moisture can easily collect after showers.

Damp basements and crawl spaces can be mold hotbeds. Watch for leaks from your hot water heater, plumbing system and seeping rain water.

Serious floods will require pumping to remove the water, but if what you've got is a damp basement, Ed recommends using a dehumidifier to help remedy the problem.

One more tip: know where your plumbing valves are. That way, if you spring a leak somewhere in your home, you'll know how to shut the water off at the source and prevent further flooding.

5. Beware the dangers in your garage.

An attached garage gives you protected passage to your car. But you may actually need to protect yourself from what's inside.

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When warm air leaks out of your home, air from the garage gets sucked in. That means carbon monoxide and other harmful gases can enter your home.

Not only should you think twice about warming up the car inside on cold days, you should also rethink what you store there. Fumes given off by chemicals, pesticides and fertilizer can be harmful. Think about storing these substances outside in waterproof, plastic containers.


Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News. Willis also is the host of CNNfn's Open House, weekdays from Noon to 12:30 p.m. (ET). E-mail comments to 5tips@cnn.com.  Top of page




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