Frost warnings and falling leaves signal the need to winterize your home and vehicles to save energy and prepare for cold weather emergencies.
“Cold winter nights, ice and snow are coming, and it makes sense to take measures now to save energy and prepare for emergencies on the road or at home,” said Michelle L. Corey, Better Business Bureau President and CEO. “At least once a year, you should check your furnace, put ice scrapers in your car and make sure your home is winterized.”
Snow and ice can add to your commute or cause damage to your home. Be prepared for blizzards, blackouts and other winter storm-related problems by keeping important supplies in one place. A home emergency kit should contain bottled water, a first aid kit, a battery-operated radio, fresh batteries, candles, matches and non-perishable food. BBB recommends assembling a similar kit for the car, complete with blankets, extra gloves, a shovel and salt or snow-melting chemicals.
Other items on the cold weather checklist:
• Furnace checkup and cleaning: Clean or replace your furnace’s air filters. Have a professional check the furnace and ensure the thermostat and other parts are working properly. A typical home furnace reaches the end of its useful life after 15 years and may need repair or replacement. A computerized thermostat can save energy and money by reducing the temperature at night or when you’re away from home.
• Consider insulating heating ducts: The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that a centrally-heated home can lose as much as 60 percent of warmed air before it reaches vents if the ductwork is poorly connected, not insulated, or if it travels through unheated spaces. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust and dirt from vents.
• Get a chimney checkup: Before lighting the first fire of the season, your chimney should be checked for animals, nests, leaves and other debris, as well as for any necessary repairs.
• Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Homeowners should routinely test these devices to make sure they work and install fresh batteries as needed. Detector units should be replaced every 10 years.
• Clean gutters and ridge vents: Clean gutters to prevent or remove any debris that could cause rainwater to clog, freeze and damage gutters. Ridge vents should be cleared to allow the house to “breathe” properly to eliminate stagnant inside air. Close any attic vents or windows that would allow heated air to escape and cold air to seep in.
• Plug holes: The average American home has many small air leaks. Though they may not be large, they have a cumulative effect on home heating costs. Make sure windows close tightly. Check for leaks around them, and use caulking to plug the leaks. Inspect all weather stripping for cracks and peeling. In addition, consider applying insulating film to drafty windows, and install a tight-fitting fireplace door or cover to stop a day-long loss of heat through the chimney.
• Final preparations: Test your snow blower to find out whether there is a problem now rather than waiting until a storm hits. Prepare your snow-clearing equipment, such as shovels, salt or other ice-melting products. Finally, don’t forget to drain outside faucets and remove hoses to prevent the pipes from freezing.
• Car checkup: Make sure you have ice scrapers, blankets and other cold-weather gear in your car. Have a mechanic check fluid levels, including the coolant, to be sure reservoirs are full and able to withstand freezing temperatures. Do windshield wipers need to be replaced? Are defrosters and heaters working? Is there enough tread left on the tires for safe driving? Are they inflated properly?
Some utility companies are offering incentives to install energy-saving appliances. The incentives can reduce the price of equipment that could save you money in the long run by reducing energy use.