Editorial: Cold weatherproof the home
As the weather cools, the focus of homeowners shifts back indoors again. It’s that time to make the domicile suitable for the grueling elements to come.
A Fall Check List regarding preparations has been made available from Angie’s List. Some of the following tips address those outdoor chores, too.
—Service the heating system. As much as 80 percent of emergency calls answered by heating specialists are the result of improper maintenance. Schedule an appointment soon to beat the rush and help avoid a breakdown in the middle of a freeze.
—Check and replace filters. Fall is also the perfect time to check furnace filters and replace, if necessary. Efficient operation distributes heat better and cuts energy costs. Plus, it’s an inexpensive and easy task.
—Protect pipes. Have the plumbing looked at and water lines insulated. Cleaning all lines can help remove clogs. Clogs cause back-ups, which can freeze, then cause the weakening of pipes and bursting. Wrap pipes with insulation designed for plumbing. In many situations, insulation will be all that’s necessary to protect pipes.
—Drain water from the water heater. Improve the water heater’s efficiency by 50 percent by draining sediment build-up from the holding tank.
—Add insulation. This is one of the lowest-cost options for improving the energy efficiency of the home. The proper amount of insulation to have depends on the climate where one lives. Obviously, the colder the weather, the more that’s needed. Look in the attic; if exposed two-by-fours are seen, more insulation is due.
—Seal drafts. Caulk, seal and weather-strip where drafts are detected. Walk through the home with a lit stick of incense or a candle. Drafts will pull the smoke that direction, making it easier to determine where the cold air is seeping in.
—Schedule a chimney sweep. Creosote build-up can lead to a chimney fire. Have the chimney inspected at least once a year and more if used regularly.
—Check gutters. Gutter blockage of dead leaves and other muck can cause serious water damage. If they are clogged, hire a professional for cleaning. If they’re not clogged, check again after the leaves have fallen.
—Rake up the leaves. Fallen leaves will deprive grass of crucial sunlight during the fall months. Leaves can also accumulate and get wet, leading to mold growth and a breeding ground for pests.
—Vehicle inspection. Summer travel can take a toll on the car. Schedule a maintenance check with a mechanic so it will be in good working order to endure the long winter months. If the trunk hasn’t been packed with an emergency kit, now is the time.
—Clean and store outdoor furniture. This will help prevent rust and damage from freezing. If storing outdoor furniture inside for the winter (which is recommended, if at all possible), allow for some airflow. Encasing the furniture tightly in plastic could lead to moisture damage.
—Properly discard or store paint, caulk or adhesives in a heated area to prevent them from freezing. Call a local hazardous material removal service for instructions on discarding products that could be toxic. Drain all gasoline containers, including lawn mowers and other gasoline-powered tools.
—Check lighting. With dark days ahead, exterior lighting is very important. Check all bulbs and consider using timers to turn lights on at dusk and off in the morning.
Specifically about heat bills, here’s some money-saving advice:
—Ductwork. Up to 20 percent of the warm air moving through the duct system may be lost to leaks and poor connections. Sealing up these air leaks with caulk, spray foam and/or weather stripping will keep that warm air where it’s wanted. Air leaks should always be sealed before insulation is applied to improve the efficiency of the insulation.
—Programmable thermostats. Constantly changing the temperature on a thermostat is a sure-fire way to burn energy dollars inefficiently. Many heating systems have optimum temperature ranges ensuring top energy efficiency. Consult the owner’s manual or a service technician to find out the most energy-efficient temperature range for the particular situation. Programming the thermostat down 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours at a time during the heating season can save five to 15 percent in heating bills each year, according to the Department of Energy.
—Couch blockade. Check heat registers. Are they clear of obstructions? A couch, chair or bookcase blocking good airflow can trap the heat wanted in the air.
—Solar power. The sun is essentially free energy to be used. By keeping the blinds up and the curtains open on a sunny winter day, the home will suck in the heat. Close the curtains at night to keep the heat inside.