Homeowners typically know they need to protect the outside of their homes from winter weather extremes. But what about maintenance to make sure you stay comfortable and safe inside when the temperatures drop? Here are some thoughts on where to start.
Nedra Rhone of the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) says one of the best ways to stay comfortable is to install a programmable thermostat that can maintain a temperature band throughout the day, like a lower temperature at night when everyone is sleeping under blankets or a higher one in the evening when everyone is home.
These thermostats can help you avoid wasting money by heating your home unnecessarily and also help make sure you’re comfortable when you’re actually at home. But Rhone cautions that programmable thermostats are best for homes with furnaces, not heating pumps.
“When a heat pump is in its heating mode, setting back its thermostat can cause the unit to operate inefficiently and cancel out any savings achieved by lowering the temperature setting,” she says. So, “it is better to maintain a moderate setting—presumably at 68 degrees.”
One important note: The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) suggests keeping your home heated to at least 65 degrees to prevent your pipes from freezing.
Heating equipment inspections
Furnaces, heat pumps, heating ducts and chimneys should be inspected at least once a year by a qualified technician, according to the Georgia Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner (OISFC). You need to be sure that furnaces’ thermostats and pilot lights are functioning and that their filters are clean, says the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which also suggests that any furnace older than 15 years should be replaced.
Bill Garwood, writing for the AJC, says that owners of a fossil fuel-fired furnace system should check the supply and return registers, the flue and the burner compartment for rust, dust or other signs of wear regularly. He also reminds homeowners that any HVAC system—including a humidifier—has filters that needs to be replaced or cleaned regularly according to the factory specs listed on the filters.
Rhone of the AJC adds that you can also improve circulation and block unwanted cold in your home by keeping chimney flues closed when they are not in use, running ceiling fans in the clockwise position during the winter, opening curtains during the day to let heat from the sun inside and drawing any curtains after sundown to trap the heat inside.
Safe space heater use
The OISFC warns that home heating systems, including space heaters, are one of the leading causes of home fires in Georgia, so manufacturer’s recommendations for operation should always be followed and care should be taken to prevent any units from tipping over—especially if the units run on liquid fuel.
With these types of risks, Rhone of the AJC says that it may be better to try to heat yourself by wearing extra layers of clothing than heating whole rooms. Georgians may be familiar with this advice, says columnist Jeff McIntire at TreeHugger, recalling former president Jimmy Carter’s advice, urging Americans during a 1977 televised national address to help conserve energy and save money by putting on a sweater.
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
Finally, it’s important that you make sure that your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly. Check to make sure that the units are not expired; that they’re equipped with fresh batteries; and that they’re placed properly throughout your home—so you can be warned of any signs of danger.
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