Now that the fall season has officially begun and temperatures cool, residents will turn on their heating systems in the coming weeks. Here are some important tips to consider in preparing homes for colder weather:
Have your heating system professionally serviced. Having your heating system cleaned and serviced regularly could reduce your fuel costs by 10 percent or more.
Getting your system professionally serviced now also reduces the likelihood of needing emergency service in cold weather.
The service technician should:
• Make sure the pilot light (if you have one) and thermostat are working correctly.
• Check the fuel pipe and heat exchanger for cracks or leaks.
• Test the efficiency of your heating system (how effectively your furnace or boiler converts fuel to heat).
Having your heating system checked is also a safe practice, since improperly-functioning systems can produce carbon monoxide. UGI recommends that you check your heating system as soon as possible if you have not already done so to ensure it is operating properly.
Clean or replace the filter. One of the simplest and most important ways to keep your heating system running efficiently is to maintain and replace the filters as recommended.
Filters that are properly fitted and cleaned or replaced regularly can have a significant impact on your energy costs and the quality of air in your home.
Filters should be replaced or cleaned, depending on your type of filter, about every three months. By keeping your filters maintained, you will not only have your home better prepared for winter, but you may benefit if you experience fall allergies.
Ensure the exhaust flue or chimney is clear of obstructions and in good condition. Check for holes in the exhaust flue, particularly where the pipe meets the furnace. Small holes can be patched with foil tape, but corroded flues must be replaced. Have your chimney inspected for any damage that may have occurred during summer storms. Record rainfall over the past several months may have caused some chimneys to be blocked with debris.
Blockages, cracked liners and other structural damage to chimneys can cause carbon monoxide to enter your home or soot to accumulate outside the liner, eventually leading to a chimney fire.
Make sure your appliances have proper air flow. If your furnace and the water heater are in an enclosed room or closet, make sure they get plenty of air. Furnace rooms or closets should have door louvers or a duct directly to the outside to provide sufficient combustion air.
If you renovated your home this year and enclosed your furnace or water heater in a small room or closet, you should inspect the work carefully to ensure your appliances have proper air flow. Lack of air flow will cause your system to function improperly and could create a dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide in your home.
Seal air leaks. Small air leaks around windows, doors, pipes, recessed lighting, and electrical outlets can add up to a significant loss of heat. Sealing air leaks can reduce your heating bills by 10-20 percent and possibly more depending on specific conditions in your home.
Seal door leaks with weather-stripping or a door sweep. Window leaks can be sealed with caulking. Pay particular attention to the attic hatch or pull-down stairs and to any interior wall top plates in the attic, as these areas leak frequently.
Ensure that vents in the house allow air to flow. Your home’s vents make sure that the air inside your home can be circulated properly. If vents are not allowing air to flow because of an obstruction, your heating system will work harder to heat your home evenly, leading to higher energy bills. Examine your vents and ensure that air can pass through. Clear clothes, toys and furniture from vents.
“Seal tight and ventilate right” should be the guiding principle when it comes to sealing air leaks and keeping vents unobstructed. The key: making sure your home doesn’t lose valuable heat but provides enough fresh air to maintain good indoor air quality.
Clean and unblock heat registers. Dirt, dust, and pet fur reduce the effectiveness of ducts and registers that distribute heat. Make sure furniture, curtains and blankets are not near or resting on your heat registers. Clean these elements regularly and make sure furniture and drapes don’t inhibit the air flow.
Remove all flammable objects from around your furnace and water heater. Move combustibles, such as paper, books, blankets, decorations, etc., that may have piled up over the summer away from heat sources. These materials should be at least 36 inches away from your furnace or water heater.
Check to ensure all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your home are working properly. Make sure detectors have fresh batteries. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be located on every floor of your home and near bedroom areas.
Do not overload extension cords. As you start to use electric blankets, decorations and more lights with earlier nightfall and cooler temperatures, do not overload extension cords. Cords that are overloaded or coiled when in use can overheat and cause a fire.
Inspect cords for damage (cracked/frayed/bare wires, loose connections, etc.) before plugging them in and never use a cord that feels hot to the touch. Do not nail or staple a cord to the wall or floor. In addition, do not pinch cords in windows, doors or under heavy furniture, or through walls or ceilings. Make sure the cord is rated for your intended use and meets the needs of the appliance or device being used.
Check for rebates. Most UGI natural gas and electric customers can qualify for a variety of rebates for the installation of energy-saving measures in your home or business. These rebates cover items such as a wi-fi thermostat, energy saving measures such as insulation, or the installation of an ENERGY STAR certified furnace. Visit www.ugi.com/savesmart for full program details.