Temperatures continue to drop around Indiana, with homeowners beginning to look at their home’s heating systems. Thoughts of warm nights by the fireplace roasting marshmallows may seem great, but take care to operate all heat sources safely as well as economically in the months ahead.
For existing furnace systems, take time to review basic steps to maximize your system’s ability to heat your home. Filters should be changed regularly to improve your furnace’s heating efficiency, with most systems needing to be replaced on a monthly schedule. Install programmable thermostats that lower temperatures when your family is at work or school, but raise temperatures when people are expected to return.
For older homes, consider ways to prevent heat loss and unnecessary heating bills. Quick fixes include caulking around windows and doorframes (inside and out) to prevent leaks, and weather stripping around windows and doors to further “tighten” your home. Consider expandable insulating foam around pipes and electrical conduits to plug larger holes, and use foam gaskets around switch and outlet plates. Storm doors and windows should also be checked before being used on older homes to insure an air-tight fit.
Where home insulation is missing or has settled, consider blowing in additional material to increase your home’s “R” value and reduce costs. Many local utility companies have energy audit programs to help homeowners identify areas of heat loss and reduce electric bills with often low costs changes or additions.
Homes with fireplaces should carefully examine chimneys and flues for problems before starting the season’s first fire. Insure that all equipment is functional, and have chimneys cleaned annually to prevent chimney fires during use. If your fireplace is not being used, tightly close all flues and use glass doors or other barriers to keep heat from escaping up the chimney.
Finally, when temporary portable heaters are used, take extreme care to reduce the chance for accidental fires. Maintain at least a three foot cleared area around your heater to lower the chance of fire, and make sure all electric cords and heater elements are in good working order. Turn off heaters when leaving the home.
Kenneth J. Eck
Extension Educator, Agricultural & Natural Resources