We think of the spring and fall as home clean up time but taking advantage of the warmer weather and time off from work makes summer the perfect time to do a home maintenance checkup. Get Ready for Cooler Weather Do an Energy Audit Take a walk around your home and take an inventory of gaps and cracks. Plugging leaks can save you 20% on heating and cooling bills. Look for gaps under switch plates. If you find gaps install foam inserts. Make sure to turn off the electricity at the circuit box before doing this. Don’t forget to check where windows meet walls, walls meet floors and pipes and wires enter the home. Plug all gaps with caulk. Other places to find leaks are fireplace dampers, mail slots, air conditioners, attic doors, baseboards and the weather stripping surrounding doors. Look for daylight, feel for drafts and listen for rattles; all clues to escaping heat. Now look outside the house. Look for gaps or damage where pipes, vents or wiring enter. Also check siding for gaps or damage, pay attention to corners where the material joins and where it meets other materials, like chimneys, windows or the foundation. Save Money on Heat and Hot Water Save on heating costs next winter by insulating the hot-water pipes in the basement or crawl space. Insulating pipes is easy; all you need to do is snap foam jackets (called sleeves) around the pipes. Make sure you know the pipe’s diameter to get the correct fit. Get the Outside in Tip-Top Shape Pretty the Patio There is nothing more uninviting than dirty patio furniture. Mix up a bucketful of soapy bleach solution to keep your patio furniture squeaky clean. Mix 2/3 cup trisodium phosphate (TSP), 1/3 cup laundry soap powder, a quart of bleach and three quarts of warm water. Use a rag and soft-bristle brush to remove embedded dirt on synthetic coverings, metal and wood furniture. Rinse thoroughly and let dry. Don’t destroy the deck Don’t let your pretty deck flowers rot your wood deck. Make drainage room in your potted plants by setting pots on pot “feet”. For a frugal solution; just prop bricks under the pots. Look out for tree trouble Trees that hang over your roof, rub against gutters or dropping loads of leaves and sticks onto the roof should be pruned. Overhanging branches can provide a ladder for rats and squirrels, and diseased or damaged trees may fall on your home in a storm. Fix the fence Look for damage along the fence line. Mow the grass next to the fence low so you can get good visibility. Keep your fence in tip-top shape by make prompt repairs. Check fence posts for signs of rot (poke soft spots in the wood for crumbling or decay). Remove and replace the damaged areas. Keep fences painted or stained to protect the wood. If dogs or other animals are tunneling under the fence attach a 2-foot-wide apron of wire mesh around the inside perimeter of the fence.