Residents should prepare now for a bad winter

By: Janine B. Rywak - Contributing columnist

We keep hearing that we are going to have a bad winter. With the temperatures up and down, who knows what is in store for us. However, the predictors said that it would be a bad hurricane season, and it was.

Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its winter outlook, which calls for a cooler and wetter than usual winter for the northern United States. As winter moves closer by the day, now is the time to prepare your home for potential bitter cold this season. Take extra steps to protect yourself and your family from the hazards that come with cold weather. You can start by cleaning and inspecting your heating equipment. Servicing your furnace regularly helps you catch problems before expensive breakdowns, prolong the furnace’s life and keep it running more efficiently.

Newer furnaces need professional servicing every two years. Older units require annual servicing. Check your furnace’s manual to see which specific steps are recommended. Ask friends and colleagues for names of good technicians. Find one or two you trust and stick with them.

Insulate walls, attics and water pipes, and caulk and weather stripp doors and windows. Seal a drafty door by installing foam or felt weather stripping inside the door frame. Ask at your hardware store for the correct products and installation instructions.

Find and seal gaps that could be allowing as much as 30 percent of your heated air to leak outdoors. These leaks can add up to $300 a year to heating costs. Use a door sweep to stop drafts from entering your home under an exterior door. A sweep is a flexible piece of rubber or plastic that’s held to the door’s lower edge by a strip of aluminum.

Install storm windows or cover your windows with plastic. Better yet, use your window coverings to keep that warm air in. It is surprising how much insulation curtains, drapes, shades and even mini blinds can provide. Draw window coverings at night and when you are away to conserve heat. Clear rain gutters. Remove fallen leaves that can retain rain water and freeze. Repair roof leaks and remove tree branches that could get weighed down with ice or snow and fall on your house — or your neighbor’s.

Wrap water pipes in your basement or crawl spaces with insulation sleeves to slow heat transfer. Exposed pipes waste heat by cooling the water as it runs through them. Finally, set ceiling fan blades to move clockwise and run fans slowly. The idea is to lift cool air to the ceiling and push heated air down where you can enjoy it. Now, set the thermostat a notch lower and enjoy the warmth.

Janine B. Rywak is director of the Anson County Cooperative Extension office. Reach her at 704-694-2915.

Janine B. Rywak

Contributing columnist