Test your home for radon. A radioactive gas that causes lung cancer, radon can build up when windows and doors are sealed tight. So January, the coldest month, is an optimal time for an annual test, says Elias Rodriguez, an EPA spokes-man. Visit epa.gov/radon.
Make sure your attic insulation is doing the trick. If snow melts off the roof soon after it falls, or if icicles form even when temperatures remain consistent, too much heat may be escaping from your home. If so, call a contractor.
Check your sump pump. Do this now, before the first spring thaws of March, when melting snow and rain showers can cause basement flooding. To test, pour two gallons of water into the drain to raise the float and activate the motor. It should stop running once the water level drops below the activation level.
See if your gas meter is iced over. On average, February is one of the snowiest months of the year. According to Managemyhome.com, accumulated ice on the meter can cause it to malfunction and create a gas leak. If the meter is iced over, contact your gas utility. (Chipping off the ice yourself can damage the unit.)
Put new batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Do this when you turn your clocks ahead for daylight saving time.
Make sure your fire extinguisher is properly pressurized. Check the gauge; the needle should be in the green section.
Paint the house. “Latex paint performs best when the temperature at the time of application is 50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Mark Schulte, director of membership and education for the Paint & Decorating Retailers Association, in St. Peters, Missouri. Under direct sunlight and scorching summer heat, “paint may lose adhesion, bubble, and peel.”
Examine outdoor play equipment. Pieces made of wood, in particular, can get damaged during the winter. Cut or sand any splinters, and look for rotting at the base, which could weaken the structure.
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Tasks for May Through August
Spray for poison ivy. This bothersome plant starts sprouting in the spring. And ecologists say that it’s reproducing more rapidly than ever, due to increased carbon dioxide and global warming.
Keep pests at bay. You want to enjoy the warmer weather by opening the windows but don’t want to let in flies and mosquitoes. Starting now, hose down garbage cans once a week and dump and refill anything like a bird bath, with standing water.
Swab the deck. Power-wash a wood deck to get rid of mold; summer humidity can cause it to proliferate.
Schedule your annual chimney inspection. It will be more difficult to book an appointment in the fall. And you’re more likely to get a discount in the off-season.
Let the grass grow. In summer, keep grass tall, which slows water loss by shading the soil. “Raise the mower’s blade three inches or higher from now until Labor Day,” says Paul Tukey, author of The Organic Lawn Care Manual (Storey, $20).
Lower the blinds on south- and west-facing windows. This will prevent up to 45 percent of the sun’s heat from entering your home.
Clear dryer vents. Birds often build nests in vents, creating a potential fire hazard. By August, they stop breeding, so you can easily remove any nests.
Seal concrete garage floors. Salt on winter roads can erode concrete. Apply a coat of protective epoxy now, when you can work with the garage door open and temperatures are still high enough (at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit) for the epoxy to dry.
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Tasks for September Through December
Have your furnace inspected now. “If you don’t have heat when that first 45-degree fall day rolls around, others won’t either, and they’ll be begging for a pro, too,” says Doug Kirk, an instructor for Green Plumbers USA, in Sacramento, California.
Resod. As temperatures cool, your grass puts more energy into its roots to store nutrients for the winter. “Also, many garden pests are gone at this point,” says Leonard Paul, greenhouse foreman at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, in New York City.
Bleed radiators. To reduce built-up pressure in pipes, fit a bleed key into each radiator’s valve and turn it counterclockwise. Use a bucket to catch trapped water, then close the valve.
Test windows for drafts. Run a lit candle along the perimeter of each window. If the flame flickers, the window may need caulking or weather stripping.
Turn off the outdoor water supply. Trapped water can freeze, causing pipes to burst. Empty the garden hose to prevent it from splitting. Unscrew it and coil it up, leaving one end on the ground. As you coil, gravity will force the water out.
Lubricate locks and hinges on windows and doors. The dry winter air may cause them to stick, so treat them with a lubricant, such as WD-40. Do this to the garage-door rollers, too.
Ensure that toilets are in tiptop shape before the holidays. To test for leaks, put a few drops of dark food coloring into the tank. If you see dye in the bowl, the flapper may need adjusting or replacing.
Clean gutters. Some trees release their leaves this late, and just four or five leaves can block a downspout.