Now is the time to tuck in, stock up and assess your house for its readiness for winter.
• Have it inspected by a professional chimney inspector every year.
• Have it cleaned every year or two, or more if you have a lot of fires or tend to burn softer woods.
• A chimney cap with a rain hood and screen will minimize rain damage and keep critters out.
• Stock up on clean, dry firewood. A fireplace store can recommend someone to deliver and stack it for you. Store it away from your house to keep mice and other vermin at a distance.
• Close the damper when the fireplace is not in use. When you’re using it, turn down the thermostat and open a window near the fireplace to prevent warm air from being pulled from other parts of the house.
• Install glass doors on the fireplace to keep warm air from being drawn up the chimney.
• If you use the fireplace often, a fireplace insert improves efficiency by blowing heat into the room and limiting heat loss up the chimney.
Keep cold out and warmth in
• Reducing air leaks and properly insulating walls, crawl spaces and floors can cut energy bills by up to 10 percent. Seal leaky ducts with metal-backed tape or aerosol sealant. Consider having your insulation updated to save money and improve comfort.
• Check doors, windows and gutters. If any weatherstripping is loose, repair or replace it.
• Set your thermostat between 65 and 70 degrees when you’re home; lower it when you’re sleeping or away from home for more than a few hours. Use a programmable thermostat to make the switches automatic.
• On sunny days, open curtains and blinds to let the sun’s heat in. Close them at night to trap the warmth inside.
• Close or install storm windows, which reduce drafts and frost formation and can cut heat loss through the window by 25 to 50 percent. For a cheaper alternative, cover windows with plastic.
• Run your ceiling fan at low speed in reverse direction (clockwise) so the blades drive warm air down into the room. Using ceiling fans can trim heating costs by 10 percent, according to Casablanca Fan Co.
Ceiling fans with new DC motors (instead of the traditional AC motors) enable homeowners to use less electricity, said Phil Sherer, vice president of sales at Masterpiece Lighting. Some motors are virtually silent, and since the motors are smaller, the fans are lighter, he said.
• Replace air filters and clean your heating system, or have it professionally cleaned and inspected. Dirt and neglect are the main causes of system failure, according to the EPA.
• Get acquainted with your house’s ductwork. Most homes are equipped with dampers, allowing you to change the volume of heat delivered upstairs, downstairs and all rooms in between.
• Repair any exterior damage that might invite pests.
• Clear your garage of mice magnets, especially if you have an attached garage. This isn’t the place to stash woodpiles and unsealed birdseed.
• Thoroughly clean gutters, check or install leaf guards, and make sure the drainage spouts are tightly attached to the bottom of the gutter to direct melting snow away from the house.
• Locate your snow shovel. Inspect it for wear to make sure it won’t break in the first snowstorm of the season. Don’t be the person racing to the hardware store only to find the shovels are sold out.
• Check batteries. Make sure your flashlights are working and that you have extra batteries on hand in case of a power outage.
Contributing: Star Tribune (Minneapolis), Washington Post, Atlanta Journal-Constitution