Save Time and Energy With These Fall Home To-Dos

By Maura Keller

hen the nights turn chillier and the days become shorter, we know all too well that fall is on its way. Homeowners should take the time now to ready their lawn, garden and home for the upcoming cool weather. In fact, performing a few quick and easy maintenance chores around your home could save you a lot of time and money later.

YARD TO-DOS

Lisa Briggs, garden coach at the Bruce Company in Middleton, says that when it comes to lawn and garden prep for the fall and winter, if summer heat thinned your lawn in places, you can re-seed in early September as the temperatures drop and fall rains kick in.

“[When you re-seed,] applying a starter fertilizer will ensure that those new grass plants are strong and healthy,” Briggs says. “The end of summer is also an excellent time to think about weed control, but be sure to keep broadleaf herbicides away from newly-seeded areas.”

In your garden beds, cut back perennials as the foliage yellows, being sure to dispose of anything that suffered from a fungal disease. And put some thought into planting spring flowering bulbs, like tulips, daffodils and allium.

Gail Stroh, lawn and garden buyer at the Bruce Company, adds that dry summer and fall weather will stress any plants, from grass to trees.

“Gardeners will often water when things are newly planted, but summer activities understandably command their attention and they forget. So, keep on watering anything that you planted this year,” Stroh says. “An inch of water per week will ensure that all of your plants go into the winter as established as possible.

Stroh also recommends applying a slow-release fall fertilizer after your last mow of the season.

Experts also recommend:

  • Mulch leaves with your mower — to use for winter mulch, for composting or to place around tender perennials.
  • Place fencing or tree wrap in late October to keep animals away. Wrap tender evergreens with burlap for added protection.
  • Pruning in late fall and early winter is ideal as the branching structure is visible but there are no leaves.

HOME PREPARATION

There are several steps to consider to prevent energy loss as winter approaches. This includes applying weather stripping or caulking where appropriate.

Your actual windows are also important to consider for energy loss.

“Despite claims of [energy] savings of up to 45%, replacing all the windows in your home will rarely reduce your heating bills more than 10 to 15%. Because window replacement is expensive, the payback in energy savings may take 20 to 30 years or more,” says Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) residential energy engineer Leah Samson. “However, replacing your windows with Energy Star-rated ones will often make you feel more comfortable.”

When it comes to maintaining a warm abode during fall and winter, Samson says that the majority of energy loss in your home is typically due to insulation and windows.

“If your attic has less than seven inches of insulation, consider adding more. If your walls have no insulation between the studs, insulating the cavities can make a big difference,” Samson says.

Also, an energy assessment, sometimes referred to as an energy audit, can help you determine the current levels of insulation in your home and identify areas that need air sealing. Learn more about energy assessments and available incentives from MGE’s statewide energy efficiency partner, Focus on Energy, by visiting focusonenergy.com.

Experts also recommend for fall home maintenance:

  • Changing your furnace filter.
  • Checking weather stripping in windows and doors and making any needed repairs.
  • Opening or closing vents. Properly opening and closing high and low vent returns will help your furnace to operate efficiently.

PEST CONTROL

When the weather turns cooler, insects and other critters turn their attention to finding a warm place to reside — and they often head toward your home. To keep pests from invading your home this fall and winter, the Bruce Company team recommends applying a granular pesticide to the perimeter of your house.

“This can help to prevent insects from moving in as temperatures drop,” Briggs says. “And a home insect spray applied to window and door frames can keep those dreaded stink bugs and Asian ladybeetles outside, where they belong. Be sure to read and follow the product instructions.”

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