In our modern, high-tech society, we don't think much about some of the electronic gadgets in our homes. Take, for example, the ever-present thermostat—a staple of American households for decades. It usually takes the shape of an unassuming box on the wall, but that modest device controls the comfort of your family on the coldest day in January and the hottest day in July.
Before you subject your home’s heating systems to the demands made on the home by dipping temps and cold, Canada winds, take a weekend (or two) to ensure that the furnace, fireplace and any other heating element is up to the task.
Follow these steps to keep your furnace in working order:
1. Replace the filter. Just how often will depend on the manufacturer’s recommendations. Advice ranges from once a month to once a year, but it’s best to follow the instructions that came with the system. If possible, use a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. Watch how to replace the filter.
2. Clean the vents. Using a screwdriver, unscrew the vent covers to gain access to the ducts. An extension on a vacuum will reach a good amount of built up dust and other particulates. Learn more about cleaning ducts and vents.
3. Keep furnace clear. Move any boxes, junk or debris from around the furnace.
4. Bleed the valves. This will only apply if you have hot water radiators in the home. Open the valves just a bit and close them as soon as you start seeing water.
5. Inspect the exhaust. Make sure the furnace exhaust flue (found outside) isn’t covered by branches, leaves or nests of any kind.
6. Consider a professional. It’ll cost you, but a professional technician can see to most — if not all — of the above, ensuring a worry-free heating season.
Follow these steps to prepare your fireplace or stove for the winter months:
1. Inspect the firebox. Make sure that both the firebox and flue are clear of creosote and soot. Check for cracks of any kind, as these could pose a fire hazard.
2. Clean the chimney. It may be best to hire a professional for this task. The chimney — like the firebox — must be cleaned of creosote and soot.
3. Check the damper. It should open and close without any issues. If there’s a draft when the damper is in the closed position, you may have a warped or worn damper.
4. Inspect the chimney exterior. The brick and mortar of the chimney should be crack-free. You’ll also want to check the chimney top for animal nests or signs of rodents. If you don’t already have one, consider installing a chimney cap or screen to prevent pests from getting into the chimney.
5. Keep fireplace/stove clear of flammable objects. This is a best practice as you move into the winter and the fireplace/stove starts to get use. Do not store the kindling, newspaper or other flammables near the fireplace or stove.
And here’s some HVAC miscellany to check off while you’re at it:
1. Remove window air conditioners. This really should be done before the heat ever has a chance to kick in.
2. Reverse fan direction. This will keep the warm air (which rises) circulating down into the room.
3. Flush the hot water heater tank. This removes sediment. You’ll want to check the pressure relief valve and make sure it’s working properly.
5. Check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Late fall is a great time to replace the batteries in both alarms throughout the house. There should be at least one of each on every level of the house and one in or near every bedroom.