22144328_SIt won’t be long before winter arrives. Is your home ready? The good news is that winterizing your home doesn’t have to be costly or time-consuming. With a free afternoon (or two!) and a little elbow grease, here are some simple steps you can take to prepare your home for the coldest months of the year:

Get a furnace checkup. It’s always a good idea to have a professional furnace checkup in the fall. Disposable filters generally need to be changed every 1-3 months, depending on the type of furnace you have. Once you know the proper filter size, don’t hesitate to buy extra, so you’ll have them on hand the next time.

Check your safety devices. Change the batteries in your smoke detector and test your carbon monoxide detectors. Both are live-saving devices, and the fall is a great time to make sure they are in good working order.

Clean out your gutters. Before winter hits, clean the autumn leaves and debris from gutters to prevent ice dams and water from leaking into the wrong places. Check your downspouts and make sure water will be directed away from your home this winter.

Disconnect and roll up those hoses. Before night temperatures regularly fall below freezing, empty and roll up your garden hoses.

Check for drafts. When things cool off, it’s usually pretty easy to pinpoint any window and door seals that need repairs or caulk. If you find a window that is letting in too much cool air, consider re-caulking the seal. If you find a door that’s still allowing a breeze, buy a simple weatherstrip to install in the gap. These adjustments can help to lower your heating bill throughout the season.

Consider energy-efficient upgrades. If you’ve been considering replacing windows, upgrading insulation or making any other changes to improve your home’s energy efficiency, now might be a good time to accomplish that. The weather isn’t too hot or too cool, and you can reap the benefits of your upgrades right away.

Prepare your yard. Keep up with the leaves; they can damage your lawn over the winter if they aren’t removed. Fall also is a great time to have a professional trim your trees before winter storms hit. Don’t forget to move temperature-sensitive potted plants indoors. You can also get an early jump on next year’s landscaping by planting some winter-hearty bulbs (like tulips or dahlias) for a brighter spring.