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Lou Manfredini’s simple fall fix-ups

Getting ready for winter now can save you a lot of cash in the long run, and you might just be eligible for a federal tax credit. Do-it-yourself expert and TODAY contributor Lou Manfredini shows some home projects you can do to cut costs.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

The chill in the air means you have just a few more weeks to get your home buttoned up for the winter. I have four projects you can tackle yourself to help you save some money this winter and even keep some unwanted guests from moving in.

With the federal tax credit for energy-efficient home improvements in the offing, it makes sense to look at ways to cut your energy consumption as well as qualify for up to $1,500 in available federal funds. While many improvements can qualify, such as new windows and doors, or a new furnace or boiler, adding insulation is one of the most cost-efficient ways to keep you more comfortable in both winter and summer. Your mother always says to wear a hat when you go out in the cold as a way to keep warm; well, the same is true for your attic. Most homes in the U.S. do not have enough insulation, so the heat is literally going up and out of your roof. Adding a layer of insulation is easy and will have a dramatic effect. Roll or batt insulation is one of the easiest ways to install another layer. You do not have to remove the old insulation, just roll out a new layer right over the top. Keep the sections fitted tightly together and make sure you keep any vents in your soffits open to allow airflow into the space. I am a big fan of blown-in loose insulation. I have found that you get more even coverage and can actually get a thicker layer. It does require you to rent a machine to actually blow it in (and boy, is it fun to use). Many retailers will let you use the machine for free if you buy the insulation from them. The average cost to insulate a 1,800-square-foot attic yourself is around $500. To have it professionally done can cost more than $2,000. If you want to learn how much insulation you need for your home depending on where you live, go to Certainteed.com or, to learn what financial help is out there, go to Certainteed.com/energytaxcredits

Colder weather also means that animals, namely rodents, want to find a nice warm place to stay during the winter. Take some time to walk around your home and make sure there is no clutter next to it. If you store firewood, make sure it’s away from the house, as this can be a nice safe haven for mice to plan their entrance into your home. Look for cracks in the foundation or loose siding. Remember, a mouse can fit through an opening as small as a dime. Oh, and there is no such thing as one mouse. But before you seal up those holes, bait the area outside first. Stuff some newspaper loosely in the crack or hole. Then, if the paper has been pushed out on the next day, you know the mice are coming and going. Bait again and stuff the paper one more time. On the third day, if the paper is out, you can seal up the hole. While I cannot guarantee that the mice are outside, you at least have a 50-50 chance of sealing them out. If you have outdoor pets, try to find a milk crate to cover the bait to keep your animals safe.

I have one more lawn project for you after all the leaves are raked up. It’s time to core-aerate the lawn. At your local hardware store you can typically rent a machine to do this if you have a larger yard; it’s about $60 to rent one for four hours. Or you can use a manual walk-behind unit (very eco-friendly) from Agri-Fab to poke holes in the soil to allow air to reach the roots. Then you can use a mulching mower to grind up the leaves that are still on the lawn and apply a winterizing fertilizer. It is really the most important application. This will dig deep into the root bed and promote healthy root growth all winter long. And by applying the fertilizer over the mulched leaves, you’ll help to create a natural fertilizer as well. To learn more, go to Scotts.com

Speaking of leaves, how about this year — after you clean the gutters — you install or have installed some type of leaf-blocking system to your gutters? Thousands of people each year head to the emergency room due to accidents on ladders, and I am sure many were cleaning their gutters. Remember, do not over-reach. Tie off your ladder to the gutter to keep it from slipping, and have someone brace the ladder from below. After they are all clean you can install a leaf-blocking system. The DIY kind I like is called Gutter Stuff. It is expanded foam that comes in 4-foot sections and you install it under the straps that hold the gutter in place. If your gutters are in bad shape and really need to be replaced, the system by Leaf Guard is your seamless answer. Their system gets extruded right on site to create a continuous run of clog-free gutters, which is also a value-added proposition for your home. By installing a leafless system on your home, that’s one chore you will never have to do again.

If you have more questions, please contact me at Housesmartstv.com