This weekends weather will not match the polar vortex we experienced two years ago and pictured here. But it might feel that way after the mild winter we have been experiencing. (Photo by Shelley M. Shockley)
This winter has been rather mild, but over the next several days unseasonable highs will quickly transform into typical northeast Ohio January lows.
As you plan for the days ahead we thought this would be a good time to share some basic safety principles and energy saving tips.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) offers the following tips to keep you safe as you begin bringing out heaters:
- Keep all furniture, draperies, and other household objects, at least, three feet from the in-wall fan heaters and 12 inches from baseboard heaters. Keep portable space heaters, at least, three feet way from all flammable materials.
- Plug portable space heaters directly into the outlet; do not use an extension cord.
- If an in-wall or baseboard heater is shut off at the circuit breaker, be sure to lock or tag the circuit breaker to prevent someone from inadvertently turning it back on.
Fireplaces can be romantic and cozy yet they can be extremely hazardous if you do not exercise proper caution. The most important step is to be certain that your fireplace was constructed for actual use, not just for decoration. If installing a factory-made fireplace, make sure that you have adequate heat barriers and you aren’t putting it near anything combustible.
If you plan on using your fireplace regularly, you should have your chimney cleaned annually, and ensure that it is clear of leaves, pine needles and any other debris. You should never use flammable liquids to ignite a fire, nor burn any cardboard, trash or debris in your fireplace. Always use a screen around the fireplace to keep sparks from flying out. Never leave your fire unattended, and be certain the flames are completely out before retiring for the night or whenever leaving the house. Always keep a fire extinguisher on hand, and place smoke alarms on every level of your home. By following these handy tips you should be able to enjoy a warm cozy winter in front of your fireplace, and save on your heating bill.
Energy Saving Tips:
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HEAT FROM THE SUN
Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
COVER DRAFTY WINDOWS
Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.
Install tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing. Find out about other window treatments and coverings that can improve energy efficiency.
ADJUST THE TEMPERATURE
When you are home and awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable. When you are asleep or out of the house, turn your thermostat back 10° to 15° for eight hours and save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills. A programmable thermostat can make it easy to set back your temperature. Find out how to operate your thermostat for maximum energy savings.
FIND AND SEAL LEAKS
Seal the air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes (“plumbing penetrations”), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.
Find out how to detect air leaks. Learn more about air sealing new and existing homes. Add caulk or weatherstripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows. Find out how to select and apply the appropriate caulk. Learn how to select and apply weatherstripping.
MAINTAIN YOUR HEATING SYSTEMS
Schedule service for your heating system.
Find out what maintenance is required to keep your heating system operating efficiently.
Furnaces: Replace your furnace filter once a month or as needed. Find out more about maintaining your furnace or boiler.
Wood- and Pellet-Burning Heaters: Clean the flue vent regularly and clean the inside of the appliance with a wire brush periodically to ensure that your home is heated efficiently.
Find other maintenance recommendations for wood- and pellet-burning appliances.
FOR THE FIREPLACE
- Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney.
- When you use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or open the nearest window slightly–approximately 1 inch–and close doors leading into the room. Lower the thermostat setting to between 50° and 55°F.
- If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.
- If you do use the fireplace, install tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room.
- Check the seal on the fireplace flue damper and make it as snug as possible.
- Purchase grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the room.
- Add caulking around the fireplace hearth.