By Wayne Allen
The greater Portsmouth area has undergone changes including, leaves changing colors and falling temperatures. With the falling temperatures will come the necessity of heating. There are steps you can take to help ensure your furnace is working properly.
The United States Department of Energy (DOE) recommends you give your furnace some TLC before switching it on for the first time.
“Clean your furnace annually each autumn. Sediment build-up can cause your system to work less efficiently or potentially become a fire-hazard. Cleaning your system and getting it inspected will reduce the risks,” DOE recommends. “During the winter try to change your filter regularly; a dirty filter will decrease air flow and energy-efficiency. And if your furnace is ready to be replaced, buy an energy-efficient model. It will save you money and energy each month.”
Randy Cooper Energy Coordinator for Scioto County Community Action Organization (CAO) says one of the most important steps to winterizing your furnace is checking the filter.
“First off filters, make sure they have a clean filter. If they have central air they are already changing filters. If they don’t that filter has sat in there for eight months without being changed,” Cooper said. “The importance of changing a filter include, the furnace will not run clean and will run dirty. If the furnace is running at 85 percent, it’s only going to run 75 percent on a dirty filter.”
DOE also recommends sealing heating ducts to save money, “Your ducts are often times out of sight, out of mind, tucked away in the attic or basement, but a home with central heating can lose about 20 percent of the air that moves through the duct system. Make sure your ducts are in order by properly sealing and insulating them. Tightly sealed and insulated ducts can potentially reduce your annual energy bills by $120 or more.”
Cooper also recommends checking the batteries in your thermostat and furnaces should be cleaned and turned at least once a year.
Cooper said it also makes a difference what temperature your thermostat is set on.
“For every degree they drop, it’s a five percent savings. On the reverse side of that, if you kick it up it will cost $5 on your bill,” Cooper said.
He also recommends letting light into your house during the day, allowing Mother Nature to help heat your house.
Cooper said CAO offers some programs aimed at helping low income residents with heating bills.
From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2015, Columbia Gas will be offering home energy audits for free to qualified customers in Portsmouth.
Weatherization upgrades (air sealing and insulation) will cost $300 and the high efficiency furnace replacement rebate remains at $1,000.
“That’s a full weatherization program, we do attic and wall insulation. It does not matter if there is $5,000 worth of work done its $300,” Cooper said.
Other important tips include, checking your carbon monoxide (CO) and smoke detectors.
Check your windows for gaps. If there is a gap between the siding and the window frame make sure to caulk the gap to prevent a draft. Even if there is no visible gap you should still install window insulation kits to cover entire windows with a material like shrink wrap. These kits are inexpensive and are an effective way to stop air leaks. You can purchase them at any local home improvement store.
Turn off exterior faucets and disconnect garden hoses. You can turn off the faucet with the shut-off valve in your home. This will help prevent frozen pipes from bursting during the cold months.
Before you use your fireplace for extra heat, make sure to get your chimney cleaned. A clean chimney will prevent a chimney fire or CO from building up in your home. And, he said to make sure to call a certified chimney sweep.
For more information about services offered by CAO call 740-354-7541.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT