Knowledge and Learning

Things can get a little crazy during the holidays.

All the shopping, decking the halls and visions of sugar plums can cause homeowners to lose focus and overlook issues that can turn a season of joy into a season of oops.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Just a few minutes a day can help keep the ghost of deferred maintenance away.

By following these simple tips you can help protect your home against the rigors of winter and the pitfalls of the season.

Clean your gutters and downspouts

Gutters and downspouts play an important role in diverting water away from foundation walls. That means less water and moisture related damage. If you clean before winter weather moves in you can keep your basement and crawl spaces dry and leak free.

Drain exterior water lines

Frozen pipes that can crack the lines are history if you remove, drain and store outdoor hoses now.

Give your garbage disposal a hot water bath

Cooking for crowds puts additional stress on garbage disposals. Flushing the garbage disposal with one pot of hot water and a half cup of baking soda now and after the holidays can help prevent plumbing problems and costly repairs. Grinding citrus fruits with a dish soap solution can remove the smell of decay.

Inspect your home heating systems

Nearly half, 44 percent of all home heating fires happen in December. Schedule a professional inspection of your home’s heating systems, including furnaces, boilers, fireplaces and water heaters every year before winter weather sets in. Stock up on furnace filters and change them regularly.

Re-caulk and weather-strip all doors and windows

Save energy and energy costs by sealing air leaks around doors, windows, corner boards and joints. Make it a habit.

Trim back tree limbs

Over hanging tree limbs are both a falling hazard and a chimney or flue blockage hazard. Also consider installing a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector. Replace batteries when Daylight Saving Time begins and when it ends.

Keep a fire extinguisher handy

Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the nation. Buy and place a fire extinguishers away from potential fire sources so that you can reach the extinguisher in an emergency. Make sure it’s charged and ready to go.

Test your electrical circuit shut-off switch

Plug outdoor decorations only into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Ensure that the circuit shuts-off properly by using a nightlight or radio. Click the circuit button. If it clicks and the nightlight or radio stays on, the circuit has not shut off. Consider contacting an electrician to check for problems.

Be steady on the ladder

Falls account for an average of 5.1 million injuries and nearly 6,000 deaths a year. Before hanging Christmas lights, wrap pipe insulation around your ladder beams (vertical members that the rungs are attached to). The insulation helps prevent the ladder from slipping and provides insulation against electrical shock.

Use extension cords sparingly

Avoid using extension cords except when absolutely necessary. If you do, be sure they are the proper gauge and don’t run them across hallways or doorways, under carpeting or furniture or through walls. Never, ever staple them in place.

Follow these guidelines, and you’ll have a home that runs smoothly, with very few issues.