The long, dark days of winter are upon us, and with COVID-19 still keeping us closer to home, we’re keenly aware of all the maintenance tasks we’ve put off or let slip through the cracks.

And we hate to break it to you, but it’s time to get to work.  Do I have to?!

Well, no. You don’t have to do anything. But if you do, we guarantee you’ll save some money—and maybe even your sanity—down the line. A modicum of maintenance now will prevent astronomical repair costs in the future.

So we asked a few experts for a list of things we should do while we hole up at home. Some of the tasks are things you can tackle yourself, and some might be better suited for a professional—following COVID-19 safety precautions, of course. But don’t worry: We’ve outlined how you can get them all done—as quickly as possible, of course, so that you can get back to your precious spot on the sofa.

1. Get an energy audit for your attic

We marvel at the beauty of the occasional sparkly icicles that hang from the eaves—but they could also mean your attic isn’t adequately insulated.

These primarily occur when there’s heat being lost from the interior living space of your home that leaks into your attic space, When that heat [from the roof] ‘interacts’ with the frozen snow on the outside, it can create an unnatural melting cycle that doesn’t actually allow for the melting snow to leave the roof. 

If you don’t resolve the fluctuating temperatures in the attic, these ice dams can cause water accumulation to back up into your attic, causing damage to the roof and ceiling of your home. 

DIY: If you’re feeling ambitious, you can inspect your attic yourself.

Call in the pros: If you’re not sure where the leaks might be, call in the experts. Home audits typically cost 8-50 cents per square foot with a minimum cost of $100 to $200.

2. Check for cracks 

Bundle up and head outside to take a closer look at the foundation. Walk around the whole perimeter, and check for leaks or cracks where water can enter your home.

Even though there might not be a leak at the moment due to the freezing temperatures, look for areas that are compromised that could lead to melting snow or new rain seeping into your home.

DIY: Hairline cracks up to an eighth of an inch are common as expansion and contraction occur due to temperature fluctuations. You can fill them with caulk suitable for concrete.

Call in the pros: If you spot anything bigger than a half-inch, call a structural engineer for an assessment. It’ll cost you about $300-$1000, we know, that’s a lot. But larger horizontal cracks could mean the structural integrity is compromised

3. Get a jump-start on spring painting

Get a head start on your next painting project.
Get a head start on your next painting project.gilaxia/iStock

With the double whammy of COVID-19 and winter, we’re spending even more time in the house, looking at the same faded colors of peeling and marred paint on the walls. 

In fact, here’s why you should do it now: The air is drier in the winter, and with the warm temperatures inside, the paint dries faster.  Also Low-Voc latex paint is less toxic and has fewer odors.

Call in the pros: If you’re comfortable with their COVID-19 safety precautions, you can hire painters and likely get it done faster for around $3.50 a square foot.

Plus, scheduling a painter in winter might be quicker and easier to coordinate. You might even get a discount because winter is traditionally the slow season for painting.

4. Swap out your outdoor dryer vent covers

There are myriad reasons to upgrade these things: Once the temperatures take a nosedive, your old dryer vent can become a toasty nest for mice and an invitation in to your house. Snow can pile up on top of old hooded vents and prevent them from opening, raising the risk of carbon monoxide buildup in the house. And vents with flimsy louvers can get clogged and not open and close properly—which can cause lint to back up, creating dryer failure or worse, a fire hazard. 

Regardless of the season, you want to use a vent cover with the best airflow efficiency, [that] meets code, and is pest/rodent-resistant.

Call in the pros: If the thought of heading outside makes you shiver, a handyman should be able to tackle this for you. Small jobs like this one may cost $60-$250 for 1-2 hours of work.

5. Upgrade to a smart thermostat

A smart thermostat will save you money in the long run.
A smart thermostat will save you money in the long run.nn Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

Stop us if this sounds familiar: Every winter, you turn down your thermostat when you leave the house or before going to bed. You turn it down on sunny winter days and back up when it’s windy and cloudy. Then there are the times you leave for a few days and agonize over whether you remembered to turn the heat down to save money.  Think about installing a smart programmable thermostat.

This one change will make your entire home more energy efficient. Just lowering the heat 8 degrees while you’re at work or sleeping can save an average of $180 each year.

DIY:  If you decide to tackle this job yourself, but don’t forget to turn off the power before you get started and take safety precautions.  Home depot has DIY instruction on line

Call in the pros: Most electricians can install a thermostat in two hours or less for under $200. But don’t forget to factor in the cost of the device itself, which can run you $300 or more.

6. Install hardwired smoke detectors 

If you’re over going room to room checking the batteries on your smoke detectors there’s no better time than now to upgrade to hardwired versions.  After all, there are more house fires in winter than any other time of year, according to the American Red Cross.

The added benefit of hardwired smoke and carbon monoxide detectors is that they interconnect.

“If any one detector is activated, it triggers the rest of them and notifies everyone in the home,” says Dion.

DIY: Install your new hardwired detectors using the guide from the Home Depot.

Call in the pros: An electrician can install three hard wired fire detectors for about $270.00

7. Give your portable generator a checkup

A portable generator will be a lifesaver if you lose power during a winter storm—now’s the time to make sure yours will fire up and generate power when you most need it. (Be sure to avoid dangerous mistakes if you’re firing up a portable generator for the first time.

DIY: If you haven’t already, you’ll want to service the engine’s oil and add fuel stabilizer for winter storage.

“You should also remember to start and run the engine for 10 to 15 minutes to circulate the stabilizer,” he says.

And think about where you’re going to keep the portable generator before finding yourself in crisis mode to restore power. Shield generators from snow and rain, place them at least 25 feet away from doors and windows, and be sure you have a safe, clearable path to access it.

Call in the pros: If your generator is throwing up red flags, call a pro in to repair it right away. It might cost you up to $300 but you’ll be grateful you shelled out the dough when you don’t have to bundle up during the next ice storm.

This blog is meant for information only not professional advise.   Please contact a professional for above jobs.