2009-11-20 / Community

Pheffer's Advice On Winterizing Your Home

The arrival of autumn brings with it a drop in temperatures and leads us into winter, with its freezing temperatures, ice and snow. As a result, people turn up their heat, resulting in higher energy costs. However, there are ways you can winterize that will not only save you money but also increase your personal safety.

You should have your heating system checked by a professional to en - sure that it is working efficiently and safely. In addition, replace your filter( s) according to the schedule found in your owner's manual. Install a programmable thermostat; this will allow you to regulate the temperature of your home so that the heat is not constantly running when you are out. If your home uses radiators, make sure all the valves are working properly, open the shutoff valves, and place heat resistant radiator reflectors between the radiators and the exterior wall. Do not block radiators or heating vents. Shut off the vents and close the doors to rooms not in use. If you use a fireplace or woodstove, have them and the chimney flue checked and cleaned regularly by a professional. Be sure to keep an ample supply of wood and a working fire extinguisher on hand. If you utilize portable electric space heaters, only use them in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

On the outside of your home, keep the gutters clean, as leaves and other debris will hamper water drainage. Repair roof leaks and cut away any tree branches that could fall on your house. Have a contractor check the stability of your roof to be sure that it can handle a large accumulation of snow.

To keep pipes from freezing, do not let the temperature in your house go below the mid-50s so that if your heating system fails, there is time to address the situation. You may also want to wrap the pipes in insulation or old newspapers; you should then cover them with plastic to keep out moisture. If your heat is not working, let your faucets drip a little until you get the heat working (however, letting your faucets drip for an extended period of time could substantially increase your water bill). Finally, you should know where your water valves are and how to drain the water and shut off the valves to minimize any damage to your home if the pipes freeze.

You will also want to be prepared in case of an emergency, such as a storm or a power outage. Make sure you can easily access snow removal equipment such as rock salt and snow shovels. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Keep batteries, flashlights, a battery-operated radio, medicines, non-perishable foods, extra blankets, and a home first aid kit readily accessible. Discuss with the other members of your household what to do, where to go, and who to contact during an emergency.

Several winterization measures will not only keep you warm in the winter but could save energy year-round. These include adding insulation, caulking and weather-stripping to doors and windows, covering windows with plastic, and installing storm windows and doors. You should also repair or replace any broken windows or doors and make sure that they close properly. Taking these steps will help keep cold air out in the winter and warm air out during the warmer months, reducing your need for both heat and air conditioning.

Several government programs are available to provide financial assistance for winterizing and greening your home. Under the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal assists incomeeligible families and individuals by reducing their heating and cooling costs and improving the safety of their homes through energy efficiency measures. The New York State Office for the Aging offers a Weatherization Referral and Packaging Program (WRAP), which provides weatherization assistance and comprehensive, long-term energy solutions to eligible seniors. Finally, the federal government, through its Energy Star program, offers tax credits to those who take steps to make their homes more energy efficient.

For more information on these programs, contact the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal at 1-866-ASK-DHCR or http://www.nysdhcr.gov, the New York State Office for the Aging at 1-800-342- 9871 or http://www.aging.ny.gov, and the U.S. government's Energy Star Pro gram at 1-888-STAR-YES or http://www.energystar.gov/.

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