Are You Ready For Cold?

October is the month in Maryland where we put on and take off clothes all day.  With temperatures cold enough in the morning to wear a light jacket and sweatshirt but too hot to remain bundled in the afternoon, October temperatures have us all flummoxed.  We likely behave in similar ways with our thermostat as well: On? Off? Windows closed? Open? Ac? Heat? Your guess is as good as mine.  

One thing is for certain in October, however, temperatures are getting cool enough to consider heat.  With heating the home on the horizon, it is time to stop and see if your home and habits are cold weather ready.  

By conditioning your home properly for the weather and adopting a few behaviors, you can not only heat your home comfortably and save a few dollars (Did you know that heating your home makes up 40% of the utility bill?), but you can also avoid large maintenance bills due to cracked pipes and leaking roofs and basements.

Follow these 10 tips:

1. Change your air filter.

 A clean air filter allows the hot air to pass through easily and do its job: heat the house. The filter can be found near the air handler (the big tower unit inside your house or apartment) or at the return ducts. Simply undo the screws holding it in place, check the dimensions of the filter, (usually found on the filter itself), and order a new one.  Amazon sells and delivers them, but Ace Hardware and Home Depot do as well.

Are You Ready For Cold?

2. Check your heating system to make sure it works.

Go to the thermostat  and turn on the heat, drop the temperature low enough to make the heat come on, and wait.  You should hear a click and then feel air come up through your vents if the heat is working.  Sometimes a burning smell fills the room because the system hasn’t been run in almost a year.  That smell should pass quickly.  If you don’t hear a click and feel the air come through the vents, it is time to call a specialist. Follow this link to a service Provision likes and trusts. Arctic Air Heating and Cooling LLC

3. After the big leaf drop, clean your gutters of debris.  

If debris is allowed to sit, it will not only provide a place for water to pool (creating potential for roof rot) but it will also give water a new place to overflow and spill down the side of your home (potentially seeping into the basement though the foundation). All you need to clean your gutters is a ladder and a hose.  Place the hose into the gutter and spray the debris loose.  You can also use your hand to remove bigger waste.  Cleaning gutters is that simple.

4. Drain outside faucets.

If the outside faucet sits with water in its line when the temperatures drop below freezing, the pipes can freeze and burst.  Once the temperatures dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit it is time to drain them.  Simply turn off the water valve to the outside spigot, then turn on the outside water spigot and let the water drain out of the line.  Leave the water shut off to the outside.  

5. Prepare the lawn. 

Fall is the perfect time to prepare the lawn for a beautiful Spring.  Aerating, seeding, and fertilizing the lawn once during the Fall will bring you a richer lawn come Spring. Check out our Fall article for lawn care for more specific details Fall Yard Maintenance.

6. Turn down your water heater.  

Usually, the water heater is set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  By setting the heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit you can save 11% on your utility bill.  Find the water heater thermostat.  Measure the temperature of the water from the faucet farthest away from the water heater.  Turn down the thermostat, then remeasure the water temperature and repeat the process until you have reached the appropriate temperature.

Are You Ready For Cold?

7. Set your thermostat between 68-63 degrees Fahrenheit.

Don’t shoot the mailman here.  The truth is Summer is time for t-shirts and shorts, not Fall and Winter.  It is not reasonable or affordable to think you can wear this outfit all year.  Put on some long sleeves, socks, and long pants.  Turning your thermostat down ten degrees can save you 10% on your heating bill.  Add a blanket or two to your bed and one on your couch to snuggle in when you watch tv.  By dressing appropriately, you can be comfortable and save your dollars. 

If turning down the thermostat is still hard to swallow, try turning it down while you are out of the house during the day, and returning it to a reasonable temperature when you are home. 

8. Close up unused rooms and vents.

Closing the vents and doors in unused rooms helps push the heat into the rooms that need it the most. 

9. Let the sunshine in.

Sunlight warms a room, so open the drapes during the day to take advantage of nature’s free heat.  Be sure to close them when the sun goes down so that you don’t lose the heat through the windows. 

10. Turn on the ceiling fan.

This advice might seem crazy: doesn’t a ceiling fan create a wind?  Isn’t that cold?  Actually, no.  There is a switch on most fans that can reverse the direction of the fan blades, thereby pushing the hot air in the ceiling back to you.  Once you reverse the blades, just set the fan on low and bask in the recycled heat.

Though we can’t control the dropping temperatures, these ten tips should make the cooler weather more bearable. With a little preparation, we can ensure that our homes are a comfortable place to take refuge from the cold.  If you find that heating your home is still outside your means, you can apply for Maryland’s Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) to help cover heating and energy costs.  Maryland Energy Assistance Programs Application Page

References:
Farmers Almanac, 12\10\21. 20 of Our Best Life Hacks to Get You Through Winter.  Farmersalmanac.com/winter-tips-2-29953.

Geico Living. Accessed 10/25/22. 11 Hacks to Help You Save On Heating This Winter. Geico.com

Pierce, Justin. 10/11/18. How to Prep Your House for Heat. Washingtonpost.com

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