Now that the fall season has officially begun, here are some important items to consider as you prepare your home for colder weather:
Have your heating system professionally serviced. Regularly cleaning and servicing your heating system could reduce your fuel costs by 10 percent or more during the heating season. Getting your system professionally serviced now also reduces the likelihood of a heating system failure during cold weather.
When servicing natural gas fired equipment, the service technician should:
- Make sure the pilot light (if one is present) and thermostat are working correctly.
- Check the fuel line and heat exchanger for cracks or leaks.
- Test the efficiency of your heating system (how effectively your furnace or boiler converts fuel to heat).
Having your heating system checked is also a safety issue, since improperly-functioning systems can produce carbon monoxide. UGI recommends that you check your heating system as soon as possible if you have not already done so to ensure it is operating properly.
Clean or replace the filter. One of the simplest and most important ways to keep your heating system running efficiently is to clean or replace the filters as recommended. Filters that fit properly and are cleaned or replaced regularly can have a significant impact on your energy costs and the quality of air in your home.
Filters should be replaced or cleaned, depending on your type of filter, about every three months. By properly maintaining heating system filters, you will not only have your home better prepared for winter, but you may benefit if you experience fall allergies.
Ensure the exhaust flue or chimney is clear of obstructions and in good condition. Check for holes in the exhaust flue, particularly where the pipe meets the furnace. Small holes can be patched with foil tape, but corroded flues or those with large holes must be replaced.
Have your chimney inspected for any damage that may have occurred during summer storms. Cracked liners and other structural damage to chimneys can cause carbon monoxide to enter your home or creosote/soot to accumulate outside the liner, which can lead to a chimney fire.
Make sure your appliances have proper air flow. If your furnace and the water heater are in an enclosed room or closet, make sure they get plenty of air. Furnace rooms or closets should have door louvers or a duct directly to the outside to provide sufficient combustion air.
If you renovated your home this year and enclosed your furnace or water heater in a small room or closet, you should inspect the work carefully to ensure your appliances have proper air flow. Lack of air flow will cause your system to function improperly and could create a dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide in your home.
Seal air leaks. Small air leaks around windows, doors, pipes, recessed lighting, and electrical outlets can add up over time to a significant loss of heat. Sealing air leaks can reduce your heating bills by 10-20 percent and possibly more depending on specific conditions in your home.
Seal door leaks with weather-stripping or a door sweep. Window leaks can be sealed with caulking. Pay particular attention to the attic hatch or pull-down stairs and to any interior-wall top plates in the attic, as these areas are more prone to leak cold air into the home.
Ensure that return air vents in the house allow air to flow. Your home’s return air vents make sure that the air inside your home can be circulated properly. If return air vents are obstructed, your heating system will work harder to heat your home, leading to higher energy bills. Check return air vents to ensure that air can pass through. Remove clothes, toys and furniture from return air vents to ensure they work properly.
“Seal tight and ventilate right” should be the guiding principle when it comes to sealing air leaks and keeping return air vents unobstructed. The trick: making sure your home doesn’t lose valuable heat but provides enough fresh air to maintain good indoor air quality.
Clean and unblock heat registers. Dirt, dust, and pet fur reduce the effectiveness of ducts and registers that distribute heat. Make sure furniture, curtains and blankets are not near or resting on your heat registers. Clean these ducts and registers regularly and make sure furniture and drapes don’t inhibit the air flow.
Remove all flammable objects from around your furnace and water heater. Move combustibles, such as paper, books, blankets, decorations, etc., that may have piled up over the summer, away from heat sources. These materials should be at least 36 inches away from your furnace or water heater.
Check to ensure all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your home are working properly. Make sure detectors have fresh batteries. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be located on every floor of your home and near bedroom areas. Replace old or damaged detectors with new equipment. A small dollar investment can save a life.
Do not overload extension cords. As you start to use electric blankets, decorations and room lights with earlier nightfall and cooler temperatures, do not overload extension cords. Cords that are overloaded or coiled when in use can overheat and cause a fire. Inspect cords for damage (cracked/frayed/bare wires, loose connections, etc.) before plugging them in and never use a cord that feels hot to the touch. Do not nail or staple a cord to the wall or floor. In addition, do not pinch cords in windows, doors or under heavy furniture, or through walls or ceilings. Make sure the cord is rated for your intended use and meets the needs of the appliance or device being used.
Consider a new heating system. If your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old, consider replacing it with a new ENERGY STAR-qualified heating system. These models use six to 15 percent less fuel than non-ENERGY STAR systems. Check UGI’s website (www.ugi.com) to see if you qualify for the Company’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation (EE&C) program, which could save you money on new equipment.
UGI Utilities is a natural gas and electric utility with headquarters in Reading, Pennsylvania. UGI serves 690,000 customers in 45 Pennsylvania counties and one county in Maryland. Customers and community members are invited to visit the UGI website at www.ugi.com; our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ugiutilities; or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ugi_utilities.