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Is your home ready for winter?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

As cold weather approaches so do higher heating bills and holiday costs. There are several small steps that can be taken when cold weather hits to help with those rising utilities.

When it comes to heating homes, it is very important to have the heating unit inspected each year. By having the unit inspected, it ensures your heater is both safe and functional.

Professionals recommend having the thermostat inspected. The local hardware store should carry programable thermostats which will cut heating costs and keep the temperature of your home more stable.

It is also advised to change or clean the filters to the heating unit regularly. Clean filters improve the air flow and efficiency as well as lower utility bills.

One thing homeowners may not think of as helping with cold weather is ceiling fans. Many people only use their ceiling fans during warm weather but with one easy switch of direction the ceiling fans can move the hot air around that rises to the ceiling and gets trapped. The switch is generally located on the base of the fan.

Most importantly, when it comes to the heating system consider investing in at least one high-quality carbon monoxide detector. Also, check smoke alarms and replace batteries. Experts say that if the detector is more than 10 years old it may not be activated by smoke just because it sounds off when the test button is pressed.

Wood burning fireplaces require the chimney flue to be inspected. Chimney flues can become lined with creosote and become hazardous.

Cherokee Village Fire Chief Mike Taylor also said when emptying the ashes from the fireplace, make sure they are put in a safe place. Taylor said, although the ashes appear to be cool they can remain a fire hazard for several days after they are removed.

Studies show that half of a home's heat loss is through the roof. The best way to prevent heat loss is to make sure the attic has insulation with an R-value of at least 45. If a home is newer this probably is not an issue but if it is not, consider putting extra insulation in the attic.

Another way to help ensure heat doesn't escape is to weather strip doors and windows. If a home still has single pane windows, placing a layer of plastic outside of the window can help tremendously.

E-How.com recommends rearranging furniture to keep heating vents open. They also say move furniture away from exterior walls because they are colder than interior walls.

Every degree that the home's thermostat is turned down can take one percent off of heating costs.

To help prepare for winter when it comes to outdoors, the first thing recommended is to clean gutters of debris. By doing so, it can prevent ice build-up that can back up under the roof line.

Also to save time and money, make sure to close the interior shut-off valve on any exterior water faucets and drain the remaining water from the faucet. Disconnect any hoses and insulate exterior faucets and pipes to prevent freezing.

To prepare for sudden ice and snow, keep snow shovels and rock salt on hand. Ice can be dangerous and sometimes unnoticeable in cold weather. A thin layer of salt will help prevent ice on walkways and driveways.

Don't forget about the local fire departments; some are willing to come out and do an informal inspection of chimneys and detectors.

The Cherokee Village Fire Department will come to residents' homes free of charge to help install new detectors and check the old ones as well as a chimney flue inspection.

Cherokee Village Fire Department has also started a new program with weather radios. The fire department will sell the weather radios at a discounted price and come to the home to help hook it up.

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