Preparing the Home for Winter

Relaxing OutsideWith Labor Day behind us, it’s time to begin getting our home ready for winter. We probably should have done most of these things earlier, but it’s so hard to focus on preparing for the cold months when we just want to enjoy the sun.

First up is the annual furnace maintenance. Just about every heating system should be serviced each year to make sure it is operating safely and efficiently. Oil and gas systems have an actual flame involved, so it seems to me there is some extra incentive there. Even if you’re not all that concerned about the furnace, potential buyers will be when you eventually want to sell your home. They love to see a consistent maintenance history, and hear their home inspector say that “the furnace looks great.” We have a gas furnace of unknown age and are probably going to have to do a little more than just clean it up. The technician will be here tomorrow, and will hopefully have good news to report.

We also have our chimney swept on an annual basis. Since our furnace is gas, its chimney flue does not need to be cleaned every year (though it should be inspected periodically). However, we also have a wood burning fireplace insert that we use to keep the living room nice and toasty warm on the coldest evenings. The insert is basically a wood stove that is mounted in the fireplace. Its front protrudes about 8 inches, giving a little bit more surface area to throw off heat. Like oil, burning wood produces a dirty exhaust that can coat the inside of the chimney. These chimneys should be cleaned every year to reduce the risk of chimney fires. This is actually something we should have done in the spring when we shut the fireplace down for the summer – the chimney sweeps offer a discount for scheduling early.

Next on our checklist is ordering firewood. We always try to get hardwood, which burns cleaner and hotter when properly split and dried, though it is not always available. Last winter there was a bit of a firewood shortage. Higher oil and gas prices forced more people to look for alternative heating options, which drove up demand. At the same time, decreased construction reduced the number of trees cut down in the area, reducing supply. We haven’t heard of any issues so far this year, but the season is still early. Since we had quite a bit of wood left over from the previous winter, we did not buy any more last year. This year we’re almost out and have ordered one cord.

It may seem a bit early to think about the cold weather, but you want to be fully prepared for that first night you think it might be nice to turn on the heat. All of these service providers are entering their busy season, meaning any appointment you schedule will be a few weeks out. Take a couple minutes to give your preferred service providers a call. If you would like recommendations just send us a quick email – we’re happy to help.