Mow your leaves!
When leaves decompose, they feed your lawn invaluable nutrients for winter. Not only does mulching your leaves with a mower nourish your lawn, you won’t have to do all that raking! The key is to cut the leaves into dime-sized pieces when they’re dry, so they readily break down into your grass.
Use your mower without a bag, or get a mulching blade, which runs around $20. Rick Wroblewski, owner of iMow, says this blade “creates lift under the mower and cuts the leaves multiple times before they’re discharged.” He recommends one to save time plus get best results. Watch Mow, Don’t Rake, Those Leaves!
Prep your mower
As your mower sits all winter, remaining fuel in its engine decomposes and “varnishes” the carburetor, causing trouble in the spring. Rick says the simplest way to winterize your mower is to add fuel stabilizer. Then run the engine for a few minutes to make sure it circulates through the gas tank and carburetor. “If you don’t at least do that, your mower won’t start in the spring. Gas has a very short shelf life, especially gas with ethanol, which ruins rubber gaskets and such.”
It’s tempting to get out the pruning shears after the leaves fall, when you see the underlying structure of your trees and shrubs. But horticulturalists say wait until late winter, just before spring growth begins.
It’s best to get advice specific to your plants and Utah. You can consult a horticulturalist or master gardener at local nurseries. One exception: Hire someone to remove deadfall or trim limbs close to your home or power lines that cause trouble in a winter storm.
Prevent water damage!
If your home had lots of icicles last winter or ice dams—which can cause meltwater to back up into your house—an energy auditor or weatherization contractor can fix air leaks and inadequate insulation that cause these issues. You may be eligible for an energy tax credit or rebate for this.
Also, make sure your gutters are clean and in good condition, and add extensions to downspouts so water runs at least 3 – 4 feet away from the foundation. You can get these for under $10, e.g., this one at Home Depot.
Caulk windows & doors
If gaps between siding and window or door frames are bigger than the width of a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk. (Check the joints in window and door frames, too.) Silicone caulk is best for exterior use, because it’s impervious to the elements and won’t shrink.
Tune your HVAC system
A technician will inspect your furnace or heat pump to make sure it’s clean and working well so it’s getting manufacturer-rated efficiency. The inspection also measures carbon-monoxide leakage.
Reverse ceiling fans
If your ceiling fans have a reverse switch, use them year-round! Reverse the blade direction when you turn on your heat. Since hot air rises, the fan will push heated air down into the room. This can save you money in heating bills, especially great if you have high ceilings!
Drain faucets & sprinklers
Disconnect all garden hoses from their faucets. If you don’t have frost-proof faucets (if your home is older than 15 years, you probably don’t), turn off the valve inside your home, then open the faucets to drain them. We recommend getting professional help to winterize your sprinklers. It will probably cost you $50-150 but will prevent bursting pipes and big headaches come spring.