14 Oct A Safe Home is Cozy Warm this Winter!
Is there anything quite as pleasant as coming home to a warm and cozy house on a cold winter’s day after skating on the pond, hockey practice, taking the kids sleigh riding or just walking through town? Home isn’t just where the heart is. During the winter months it’s also where the hearth is. It is important to make your home cozy warm and safe this winter.
There are many types of heat: electric, gas, portable space heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces. All of these can pose a threat to families in New Jersey. To keep your family safe is paramount so managing and maintaining your homes heating system is of equal importance. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, heating fires are the second leading cause of all residential building fires. About 50 percent of all fires that result from home heating equipment are reported during the months of December, January, and February. It is possible to stay warm safely this winter by following a few simple suggestions.
- Have your chimney professionally cleaned before lighting the first fire of the year. Removing all debris from the chimney and opening the flue will ensure that your home remains free of dangerous smoke.
- Use only seasoned hardwood such as ash, oak, or maple in your fireplace. Do not burn trash or cardboard boxes.
- Employ fireplace screens or glass fireplace doors to keep embers off of rugs and carpets.
- If you have a gas heating system, place carbon monoxide detectors in your home. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, carbon monoxide also known as the “silent killer” kills about 300 people in their homes annually. There are small, convenient detectors that plug into electrical outlets and sound an alarm if carbon monoxide is in the air. Keep at least one near every sleeping area.
- Never leave electric space heaters on if they are unattended, and always position them away from flammable objects, as well as from people, pets, furniture, and curtains. Unplug them when they are not in use.
- Maintain a three-foot kid-free zone around all heating sources.
- Pay a professional to examine and clean your home’s heating unit annually. He or she can repair potentially deadly leaks.
- Clean your home’s air vents by removing their covers and vacuuming out any dust or debris that may have accumulated in them during warmer weather.
- Never use an oven or stovetop to heat your home, and always use gas or charcoal grills outdoors.
- If you ever smell gas, immediately extinguish all flames in your home, put out cigarettes, and do not operate electrical appliances because they may create sparks. Turn off all gas appliances and make sure pilot lights are out. If you still smell gas after opening windows and doors, turn off your home’s main gas tap. Call the gas company immediately and evacuate.
- If a pilot light goes out, turn off the gas at that heat source and wait several minutes before re-lighting it.
- If your pilot light produces a red or yellow flame, call for service; the flame should be blue.
- Finally, make sure your smoke alarms are all functioning properly.
Tips to Heat & Cool Efficiently
Nearly half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling. Making smart decisions about your home’s heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can have a big impact on your utility costs which affects your comfort. Steps to increase the efficiency of your heating and cooling system.
Change your air filter on a regular basis.
Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer). If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every 3 months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool and wastes energy while increasing energy costs. A clean filter will also prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system which eliminates the necessity for expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.
Tune up your HVAC equipment annually.
Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency and comfort.
Install a programmable thermostat.
A programmable digital thermostat is ideal for people who are away from home during set periods of time throughout the week. Through proper use of pre-programmed settings, a programmable thermostat can save you about $180 every year in energy costs.
Seal your heating and cooling ducts.
Ducts that move air to-and-from a forced air furnace, central air conditioner, or heat pump are often big energy wasters. Sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent and sometimes more.
Consider installing ENERGY STAR qualified heating and cooling equipment.
If your HVAC equipment is more than 10 years old or not keeping your house comfortable, have it evaluated by a professional HVAC contractor. If it is not performing efficiently and needs upgrading, consider replacing it with a unit that has earned the ENERGY STAR. Depending on where you live, replacing your old heating and cooling equipment with ENERGY STAR qualified equipment can cut your annual energy bill by more than $115. But before you invest in a new HVAC system, make sure that you have addressed the big air leaks in your house and the duct system. Sometimes, these are the real sources of problems rather than your HVAC equipment.
Ask about Proper Installation of your new equipment.
Replacing your old heating and cooling equipment with new, energy-efficient models is a great start. But to make sure that you get the best performance, the new equipment must be properly installed. In fact, improper installation can reduce system efficiency by up to 30 percent – costing you more on your utility bills and possibly shortening the equipment’s life.
Additional Resources from https://www.energystar.gov/ :