Planning Ahead for Comfort and Warmth at Home
While we enjoy the nice weather of late summer and fall, it’s a good time to prepare your home for cold winter days! By insulating your home and regularly maintaining your fireplace and heating system, you can heat your house safely and efficiently while keeping the heat inside. Before the coldest days of the year, take some time to review these safety tips and prepare your home for the winter months.
1. Get your wood-burning fireplace or stove ready to burn
Before you start burning wood, it’s important to get ready to safely operate your fireplace or stove by removing any potential hazards. Inspect and clean your chimney to rid it of any unwanted buildup. Clear the area around the fireplace or stove of flammable objects like hanging decorations or a Christmas tree. Double-check that you have a working fire extinguisher nearby, and train members of your household how to use it in an emergency. Lastly, test your carbon monoxide detector to make sure that it’s working and will alert you to dangerous levels of the odourless gas.
2. Inspect your electric fireplace
Electric fireplaces are an increasingly popular alternative to traditional fireplaces, as they give the cozy feeling of a fireplace without the risk of sparks or fumes and don’t need a chimney. If you have an electric fireplace, check the cord and outlet for damage before you plug it in. Although the glass on the fireplace won’t get hot enough to burn people or pets, it’s still best practice to keep anything combustible at least three feet away from the fireplace. Check that the fresh air intake and hot air discharge vents are not blocked. Additionally, never operate an electric fireplace in a room where it could be exposed to water, such as a laundry room or bathroom, as water can damage the unit.
3. Insulate your home to get rid of drafts
Keeping heat inside your home will save energy and keep you warm all winter. Before cold weather sets in, inspect your home for any drafty areas that you can better insulate. Attics are commonly under-insulated — if your attic doesn’t have enough insulation, roll sheets of unbacked insulation between the floor joists. This will not only keep in heat but will also help reduce the risk of ice dams forming on your roof. If you have a drafty window, consider getting heavier insulated curtains or sealing off the window with plastic film. Door insulation can be improved by adding foam weatherstripping to the inside of your door and by replacing the screen in your storm door with a glass pane for the season.
4. Perform regular maintenance on your furnace
Properly maintained HVAC systems will run more efficiently and heat your home better. Replace your HVAC system air filters every 90 days or as recommended by the manufacturer. In the fall, conduct furnace maintenance while the weather is still mild so you have time to complete any necessary repairs before winter. Take time to inspect your ducts for any leaks that will make the system work harder than it needs to. You should also have a professional inspect your HVAC system regularly — a yearly inspection is likely fine for a newer system, but an older system should be inspected twice a year in the fall and spring to make sure it’s ready to handle extreme weather.
Speak to your insurance broker if you have questions about coverage related to damage caused by a fireplace or HVAC system.
The following sites were used as resources for this article: Cozy by the Fire – Electric Fireplace Safety Tips; DIY Network – Tips for an Insulated Home During a Cold Spell; and Moving – The Homeowners Guide to HVAC Maintenance.