Pre-season furnace clean and check/inspection
First things first: Make sure your heater is ready for the winter. You can do that with a pre-season clean and check/inspection.
You want to make sure it’s in tip-top shape for the winter. The last thing you want is it breaking down in the middle of January. And, that’s probably when it will do just that.
You figure if there’s something wrong with your heater it’s going to break down when it’s working its hardest. And, that’s the dead of winter. So, you want to do what you can ahead of time to prevent that.
We send out a certified HVAC tech to inspect the unit. They clean out dust and debris, so nothing gets gummed up. Then, the tech replaces any parts that are worn down and ready to break.
Also – and this is really important – they check for carbon monoxide leaks. I think we all know by now that carbon monoxide is a deadly gas.
Heaters produce carbon monoxide, and it escapes through the exhaust. But, if there’s a leak somewhere, it can build up in your house. And, in the winter, you’ve got your windows closed. If there’s a leak, the gas is going to stay in the house, becoming a grave danger to anyone inside.
Test carbon monoxide detectors
On a related note, this is the time to test out those carbon monoxide detectors. You have them, right? If not, go get a couple today. They could literally save your life.
We looked at how heaters produce carbon monoxide. And, yes, it’s deadly. But, even before it reaches that point, it’s harmful.
Even mild carbon monoxide poisoning causes dizziness, nausea and similar symptoms. Eventually, you pass out, and your respiratory system stops working. That’s when it becomes lethal.
But, you can’t tell it’s there on your own. The gas has no smell, and you can’t see it in the air. Even if you start to feel sick, you may not realize that’s the cause. And, if there’s a leak in the middle of the night, you won’t even feel those first symptoms.
That’s why you want a detector on every floor. And, as the seasons change, check the batteries. Make sure they’re in great shape for the winter.
Use draft blockers and window curtains
Here’s a simple way to keep warm in the winter: use your windows! Of course, you’re probably keeping them closed all the time now. But, they can still make a difference with draft blockers and winter curtains.
First off, invest in some draft blockers. These are cloth tubes with some kind of insulation in them. You put them on your window sills to prevent wind from blowing in around the window.
You’d be surprised what a difference they make. That’s especially so if you have older windows. They usually don’t seal up tight.
Next, know when to open your blinds and when to close them. In the daytime, let the sunshine in!
Throw open those blinds or curtains. The sunlight will warm the house a little. Then, when dusk hits, close them again. That will help block some of the wind and cold from getting all the way in your house.
Bonus-level window use: invest in heavy winter curtains. The thicker the material, the more cold air they’ll block at night.
Insulate your attic and pipes
If you’ve got an attic, then you’ve got a space where heat will probably escape from the house. And, everyone’s got pipes. If they freeze, you could be in for trouble.
Let’s start with the easier one: pipes. The problem is simple. If they get too cold, the water in them freezes.
When that happens, the water doesn’t run in your house anymore. It’s blocked by the ice. So, you need to warm those pipes to get it flowing again.
But, there’s a bigger problem if you let it go too long. Eventually, the pressure from the backed-up water can make the pipe burst. Then you’ve got a flood in your house.
Now you’re looking at a massive repair bill plus all the damage to your home and your stuff. That can quickly end up being $5,000 or more!
The good news is insulation pretty cheap, usually around 50 cents per foot. And, you can probably install it yourself. In a pinch, cut an opening in your kid’s pool noodles and wrap them around the pipes. Just remember to buy new ones for the summer.
Now the attic’s a little more involved. There probably won’t be a catastrophe if it’s not insulated. But, you’ll spend a lot more on your energy bills.
Remember: heat rises. And, it’s also attracted to the cold. So, when your warm your house it reaches the attic. Then it finds its way outside. You want to prevent that.
For this, you probably need to call in an expert. But, Energy Star can get you started on what to look for.