Keep your home warm and energy efficient during the cold months with proper maintenance. Winter maintenance is mostly inspecting air seals around the house and the appliances that provide heat. Here is a quick list of what we will cover:
- Attic Insulation and Gutters
- Furnace System
- Deicing Driveways
The general goal of winter home maintenance is making sure your home is air tight. Air has a certain capacity to hold energy and maintain the temperature of a house. This number depends a lot on the humidity of the air and increases dramatically around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The important thing to keep in mind is whenever air leaks from the house it carries that energy with it. Keeping the house sealed and keeping doors and windows closed as much as possible can help save money on utility bills.
Check the weatherstripping around all doors and make sure there are no drafts. Hold your hand up to the seam of the door to feel for drafts. If you do feel one, the weatherstripping is either damaged or there is not enough weatherstripping. Weatherstripping is cheap so don’t be afraid to add more, if needed.
Attic Insulation and Gutters
Why attics and gutter in the same paragraph? Ice dams. These hazards occur when ice and snow melt and travel down the roof or gutter until they are blocked by more ice or snow. The pooling water can creep under shingles and lead to mold problems.
How do you prevent ice damming? First, make sure the gutters stay clean. They should have already been cleaned during the fall but it is important to make sure they remain free of debris. Second, make sure your attic is properly insulated. Warm air transferring heat to the roof through the attic can melt snow. If there happens to be a warm day during the winter it might be best to clear the snow from the roof. Not an easy task.
Keep the heating system operating at optimal efficiency by completing a furnace maintenance checklist. Once a year the blower should be cleaned and the motor lubricated. Check the manual that came with your unit. Also inspect the flue for cracks, the burner for soot, and the combustion exhaust gases. You will need a special meter to optimize the air to gas ratio based on the exhaust gases. Get a professional to help you if you feel uncomfortable performing the task by yourself.
Once the unit is cleaned try to keep it that way. Inspect the air filters once a month and replace them if they are too dirty. When replacing the filters be sure it is installed the correct direction. There are little arrows on the side to indicate the direction of the flow of air. Also, be sure to use the correct filter for your unit. Depending on the optimal flow capacity of the furnace fiber glass or pleated filters can be used.
Fireplace and Chimney
Fireplaces can help save energy and provide a great ambiance for any room. Wood burning fireplaces obviously require no utility charges, but they do need more maintenance. At least once a year a professional should perform a chimney sweep and inspection for wood burning units. In between these cleanings you should take a couple minutes each month to inspect the fireplace (gas or wood).
Look for smoke marks around the mantle which could indicate poor ventilation. Look up the inside of the chimney for any blockage (e.g. bird’s nest). Inspect the brick and mortar for any cracking. Call a professional to help fix the issue if any of these inspections fail. One last note, if you have a glass guard on your fireplace, clean it with vinegar and water. It is a cheap way to keep the glass clean.
Deicing the Driveway
Salt is very good at removing ice by effectively lowering the melting temperature. Deicers, which all contain salt, are cheap and easy ways to keep ice off. However, the side effects of these products needs to weighed.
The chemicals in deicers can make your pets sick, eat away at concrete and brick, and harm the soil your plants depend on. Despite labels that state the product is “Pet Safe” or “All Natural” there is no product that can guarantee these claims. So it is important you weigh the side effects before using a deicer. The best method is to clear snow immediately so it doesn’t have a chance to become packed down and turn into ice.