Tips for "Winterizing" Your Smithtown Home
Change Furnace Filters
Changing your filters is easy to forget but also an easy way to save money on your energy bill! It is important to replace or clean your furnace filters once a month during the heating season. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy demand.
You may want to consider switching to a permanent filter, which will reduce waste and hassle. They're easily washable and much more effective. Did you know that disposable fiberglass filters trap a measly 10 to 40 percent of debris? Electrostatic filters trap around 88% and are much better at controlling the bacteria, mold, viruses, and pollen that cause illness and irritation. They cost $50 to $1,000 more. Another good choice is a genuine HEPA filter, which can remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles. HEPA filters are based on Department of Energy standards. But avoid "HEPA-like" filters, which can be significantly less efficient.
Check Your Chimney
If you plan to use your fireplace this winter, make sure your chimney is clean and, no critters have made themselves at home in there. The last thing you need when cozying up to your hearth is a disaster waiting to happen in the chimney. Call a chimney sweep to inspect your chimney and clean out soot and other hazardous debris.
If you are not planning to use your chimney, you may want to invest in a "chimney pillow," also known as a fireplace plug or chimney balloon. This product is essentially a large plastic bag that is inflated to block airflow through a chimney so that air neither escapes from nor enters the interior of the house. The plastic bag, which comes with an inflation tube, is usually installed by partially inflating the bag, placed inside the chimney, and then inflated to fit snugly. Homeowners are advised to leave the inflation tube hanging down into the fireplace so that they remember to deflate the bag and remove the device from the chimney before lighting a fire.
Have Your Boiler Serviced
You don't want to realize there is a problem with your heating system when it stops working on the coldest night of the year! Just as cars which need tune-ups every so often to run at their very best, so does your heating equipment! Keeping your furnace clean, lubricated, and properly adjusted will reduce energy use, saving up to 5 percent of heating costs. Many companies will offer a free annual check-up by a certified technician, but try to book your appointment! If you used a contractor (like Sunray or Mr. Frost), they typically would also offer free or discounted inspections. If your entire furnace is in need of replacement, it will cost a lot more - however, replacing an inefficient burner for a modern machine will save you money every month through the heating season.
Check Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
This one is just plain safety. A good rule of thumb is to have, at the very least, one smoke alarm and one carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home. You should be checking that they are working correctly every month, but an excellent way to remember to change the batteries is to do it on Daylight Savings, twice a year.
Run Your Ceiling Fans in Reverse
It may seem strange because most people think of ceiling fans when they want to stay cool, but many ceiling units come with a handy switch that reverses the direction of the blades. Counterclockwise rotation produces cooling breezes while switching to clockwise makes it warmer. Air pooled near the ceiling is circulated back into the living space, cutting your heating costs as much as 10 percent!
Dodge the Drafts
After identifying the source of that cold draft, you can purchase and install a new, thicker border of insulation or choose from the hundreds of different types of "draft stoppers" for your doors and windows available at most stores and online marketplaces. You can even make your own using a pool noodle, pinto beans, or just plain sand (to name a few). Properly insulating your doors and windows will save you big dollars on your heating bill.
For just a few dollars, you can purchase a window insulation kit at your local hardware or superstore. Don't worry, properly installed window plastic is mostly invisible. Adding a buffer against drafts and extra still air space can give a nice boost to your home's ability to hold heat.
Save even more by hiring a pro to install a high-tech "Low-E" film directly to the window glass.
If your windows are old, consider investing in a set of efficient windows, which of course, will qualify for a federal tax credit! This credit covers 10 percent of the cost (not including installation), up to $200 for windows and skylights.
Protect Your Pipes
According to the Department of Energy properly insulating your pipes can raise water temperatures by 2 to 4 degrees, allowing you to lower your water temperature setting and, in turn, reduce your heating bill. Also, be sure to turn off all outdoor faucets and disconnect and drain all hoses.
Remember Your Thermostat
It's easy to forget to turn down the heat when you leave your house, but doing so is one of the surest ways to save money. Most households shell out 50 to 70 percent of their energy budgets on heating and cooling, so why pay for what no one uses?
For every degree you lower the thermostat during the heating season, you'll save between 1 and 3 percent of your heating bill. Make it easier with a programmable thermostat. They are widely available for as little as $50, and the average family will save $180 a year with one.
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