We all have small switches we make that indicate the transition to fall from summer. We swap out t-shirts for sweaters, smoothie bowls for bowls of soup, and bright paint colors for deeper, rich hues. But what about the unglamorous stuff?
There’s so much more to prepping your home for the changing season than adding a few seasonally-appropriate throw pillows. From updating light fixtures to making sure your heater works, there’s a maintenance checklist you need to walk through as well.
We turned to Michael Dimopolous, expert house cleaner at Thumbtack and founder of Lazy Susans Cleaning, to get the rundown on all the practical things you need to do to ensure your house is ready for cooler weather.
Clean Your Windows
This means cleaning both inside and out—and don’t forget between the sills. Just be careful of the type of cleaner you use, as some new windows have UV filters that aren’t supposed to be cleaned with the cleaners meant for glass.
“Instead, use a mixture of 40 parts vinegar to 60 parts water with a good quality paper towel. I recommend taking a microfiber cloth—you can get them at the dollar store—and dampening with warm water,” instructs Dimopolous. “Wipe the window, then use a dry microfiber cloth to dry it. Clean again with the vinegar and water solution, and watch your windows sparkle like crazy.”
Uninstall Your Air Conditioning Unit Safely
This is a must for all city-dwellers—unfortunately, fall means you can probably kiss the warm weather goodbye, along with the need for air conditioning. However, in order to do this safely (please do not drop your AC unit on passing pedestrians and end up with a lawsuit) there are a few steps you need to follow:
- First, cover all your bases, and either send someone out to give passers by a heads up if you’re removing the unit on your own, or make sure the contractor you hired has general liability insurance to avoid mishaps down the line.
- Get another person to help you shoulder the load. “There’s no shame in not being able to manage a precariously perched, 40-pound behemoth of an appliance on your own, ” says Dimopolous. Just turn off the power and unplug the unit first.
- Lay down a fresh towel to sop up any water that has accumulated, making sure you’re wearing a long-sleeved shirt, closed-toed shoes, and maybe even some protective gloves.
- If necessary, unscrew the unit and hold it from behind while your helper lifts up the window. Scoot the air conditioner out of the window, and place on the towel to let excess water drain out.
- Prep it for the next season. “Don’t forget that it’s crucial to change the filter at least twice a year, or you could risk incurring water damage and mold,” says Dimopolous. Clean the filters before storing the unit away for the winter.
Don’t Neglect Your Gutters
“Fall is a great time to install gutter protectors that keep debris—like falling leaves—out of the gutters,” says Dimopolous. Do this as early as possible to prep for the inevitable rain storms and stopped-up gutters full of leaves.
Fall Cleaning Is the New Spring Cleaning
Dimopolous suggests taking the time to do a thorough house cleaning before spending the entirety of the autumn and winter months indoors. “Any deep cleaning you didn’t get to this spring should probably be done this fall,” he says. Start with the kitchen because “Fall means the holidays will be here before we know it, and holidays often bring guests. Deep clean all of your appliances and organize your cabinets to make sure you can easily find what you need.”
Then, work your way to the closets—“Pull items that you no longer wear or don’t fit into anymore, make a pile of clothing to donate, and swap out the summer styles for the winter coats”—and deep clean your home from top to bottom. That means vacuuming the drapes to get rid of the dust that accumulated over the summer, getting your rugs cleaned from all the outdoor debris brought in, and turning over your mattress.
Make Sure You Have Heat
“Before the chilly weather of fall begins, make sure your furnace is turned up for the winter, and change the filter,” says Dimopolous. “Homeowners with a fireplace should check the flue and have the fireplace cleaned if it is wood burning. Fall is also a good time to have your air ducts cleaned.”
And while you’re at it, examine your chimney for any damage—you’ll be happy to have a working one once it gets so cold, all you want to do is stay inside by the fireplace.
Beware of Bugs
Unfortunately, seeking shelter from the cold is not a phenomenon unique to humans—bugs and mice are looking for warm spots to stay in, too. “I find more cobwebs in homes in the fall, because the spiders are coming in to get out of the cold. It’s probably a good time to look for rotted or damaged wood around the house—the perfect entrance for critters into your home,” advises Dimopolous.
Get your home sealed and re-caulked. Dimopolous suggests caulking around windows and doors to keep out air and unwanted buggy guests—even though caulking is generally not required by newer homes. There are plenty of other ways to save energy during the cold months as well, such as insulating and wrapping pipes, or having an energy audit done that’ll tell you where heat is escaping your home—and therefore costing you money.
Another tip? Install ceiling fans. “[It] might sound like a strange autumn task,” says Dimopolous. “However, with the fan blades tipped to push warm air down, homeowners can help save on heating bills and make themselves more comfortable.”