How to Winterize Your Home- Part 1: Heat your home without blowing your budget

Winterize Home Heating Systems

Cold weather predictions

It’s time for winter already? It seems our ‘change of seasons’ is always shorter here in Texas, but this year even more so. Given the latest forecasts for a colder, wetter winter in North Texas, our chances for a mild fall are fading quickly and Mother Nature is ready to launch us into full-scale winter conditions.

 

In preparation for the upcoming onslaught of chilling winds, rain, and plummeting temperatures, we put together a series of helpful information to help you prepare your home without blowing your budget. In part 1 below, we’ll cover heating systems and tips to stay warm and save money. Part 2 will cover how to prepare your doors and windows to keep the cold out, and Part 3 covers how to winterize your exterior home, pool, and landscaping.

 

Let the heating begin…winterize your home now to prepare for the colder months

There are several things you can do to prepare your home’s heating systems for the cold temperatures. Getting a jump on these maintenance items now could save you expensive emergency repair bills and help reduce your overall energy consumption.

 

How to winterize your heating system: furnaces & heat pumps

What type of heating system do you have? There are several options for whole-house heating in Texas, including forced-air furnaces, heat pumps & ductless systems. Furnaces are very popular in Frisco and Plano, Texas and can be gas or electric. Gas furnaces typically have a lower cost of operation for our region.  Heat pumps, a combined heating & cooling system, use electricity but are more economical to run than electric furnaces. And finally, a ductless system is a heat pump that uses air handlers mounted on walls rather than ductwork in the ceilings.

 

Whichever type of system your home uses, these tips will help you prepare for the cold winter months:

 

Get a tune-up
Regular maintenance on your HVAC is always smart, but it can also keep you from being unpleasantly surprised when you flip the switch and find there’s no warm air. A professional HVAC service company can perform a tune-up on your system to help get it ready — and uncover any issues that may arise down the road.

 

Many local companies are running tune-up specials now that typically include an inspection of the heating system, air flow, valves, leaks, and a change of filters. If you would like the name of a professional in your area, give us a call at 469-634-0932 and we’ll give you a list of our dependable favorites.

 

Change filters
Experts agree that changing the filters on your HVAC and furnace regularly is critical to the performance and longevity of the system. Some experts suggest changing filters every month and others suggest every three months. This will depend on your home’s system and conditions.

Did you know?
If you like to burn candles, you should know that regular scented candles can be harmful to your filters, HVAC systems, and air quality. Many candles are made from paraffin wax which produces toxic chemicals when burned and produce soot that can stick to air filters, walls, carpet, and furniture.

If you notice your air filters are black instead of gray, that’s a sign your candles may be the problem. Over time, this soot build-up on filters can damage the system and can cause expensive repair bills.  As a remedy for those who just can’t live without candles (including my family), try changing your filters more often and switch to soy or beeswax candles which burn cleaner.

Check for leaks
If you have a gas furnace, check the unit to make sure there are no signs of a gas leak which can be very dangerous. Often, it’s best to have a professional HVAC technician perform a thorough exam of the unit to ensure there are no hidden issues.

Tip: Having carbon monoxide and radon detectors are important to keep your family safe as leaks can go undetected. You can purchase these detectors at Walmart, Lowes and Home Depot.

Check thermostat
Check your thermostat to ensure it is working properly and do a routine cleaning according to your manufacturer’s instructions. If you are using a manual or analog thermostat, you might consider switching to a programmable thermostat which can help you save up to 15-20% off your heating and air conditioning bill. For those tech-loving homeowners, a smart thermostat such as Nest or Ecobee can provide additional usage reports to help you save even more. Read this for more information on energy savings for thermostats.

 

Clean ducts if necessary
If you notice excessive dust or poor air quality in your home, it might be time to have your air ducts professionally cleaned. This is especially true if anyone in your family suffers from allergies or has a compromised immune system.

 

Flush and insulate the water heater
While not technically part of your air heating system, a properly maintained water heater is an important winterization task. Flush your water heater to remove any sediment from the bottom. Slush and sediment can cause the water heater to work overtime and lead to premature failure. Then, check valves and fittings to ensure there are no leaks. And finally, wrap your water heater in an insulation blanket to minimize the workload and keep the heat from escaping.

 

Other safety steps
Move items that may be stored next to your heating equipment away from the unit to prevent sparks and reduce blocked air flow. Now is also a great time to change all smoke, carbon monoxide, and radon detector batteries.

Tip: If you are concerned about your smoke detectors or potential gas leaks, the Frisco Fire Station will conduct a free inspection and even change your batteries for you.

How to winterize fireplaces

Whether you have a gas or wood-burning fireplace, now’s a good time to inspect it to make sure it will be ready when you need it.

 

Clean fireplace
For wood-burning fireplaces, first spread coffee grounds on the ashes to reduce any toxic dust before you open the flue. Then lay down a tarp and begin scooping the ashes into a pail. Wearing a face mask or respirator is a good idea to prevent accidental inhaling of dust which can cause respiratory problems.

 

After the majority of ashes are scooped out, use a hand-held vacuum to get to any remaining ashes. For stained brick or stone, clean with water and vinegar or use a soot cleaner as needed.

For gas fireplaces, make sure your pilot light is on before you try to start your fireplace. If your pilot light isn’t on, you may need to refer to your fireplace manufacturer’s instructions to locate and turn on.

 

Inspect chimney
Check for obstructions in the chimney and for creosote build-up. If you notice more than a ¼” of creosote build-up, hiring a professional chimney sweep could be a good option.

 

How to winterize ceiling fans

Ever consider your ceiling fans a part of your heating system? Not many people do, but ceiling fans can actually help keep rooms warmer– and help save energy.

 

Experts say using a ceiling fan in the winter helps distribute the warm air from the ceiling throughout the room. This recirculation of heated air reduces the burden on the heater and helps maximize energy savings. To recirculate the warm air from the ceiling, turn the fan’s switch to reverse which is clockwise. In the summer, fans should run counterclockwise.


 

Now that you have your heating systems ready to go, let’s move onto making sure that cozy warm air doesn’t escape. Keep reading Part 2: Preparing your doors and windows for winter.

 

Need help from a professional for any of the items above? We’d be glad to provide names of our favorite HVAC and chimney cleaning companies we know and trust, or with any of your home buying or selling needs. Just give us a call at 469-634-0932 any time!


About the Judi Wright Team

Judi Wright/The Judi Wright Team is a real estate group specializing in the suburbs of Frisco, Plano, and surrounding areas. Named the “Best Realtor in Dallas,” by D Magazine twelve times and a Five Star Realtor with Texas Monthly. Judi is also a Company-Wide Top performer with Ebby Halliday and the #2 Top Group for Ebby Halliday Frisco.

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