Prepare home for cold winter months

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

STILLWATER — Although Oklahoma is still enjoying the warm weather of early fall, it will not be long until Jack Frost makes an appearance.

In order to keep your home comfortable in the winter without spending a fortune on heating costs, now is the time to get your home ready for the winter season, said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

“Home energy costs can consume a large portion of your budget. There are steps homeowners should take now in an effort to cut costs while still keeping your home warm and cozy,” Peek said. “You sure don’t want to be outside fixing gaps in the chimney or caulking around windows and doors when the wind is blowing 40 miles per hour and the temperature is below freezing. Take advantage of this early fall weather to make any needed repairs.”

The first thing homeowners should do is schedule a service for their home heating system. It is not a good idea to wait until the temperature drops. In the event there are any problems with the system, getting them fixed now will help ensure a warm home environment when it is time to turn on the heater.

One of the easiest things to do to help cut your winter heating bill is to simply adjust the temperature on your heating system. When you are home, set the thermostat at least to 68 degrees, as recommended by the Department of Energy. When you are asleep or out of the house for longer periods, turn the thermostat back. The more you turn back, the more you save. This will help homeowners save on utility bills.

“Using a programmable thermostat can make it easier to adjust the temperature in your home when you’re not there,” Peek said.

Seal air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes, gaps around the chimney and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. Add caulking or weather stripping around leaky doors and windows.

Peek also suggests taking advantage of passive heat, which is using the sun’s energy for heating your living space.

“The advantages of passive heat are two-fold,” she said. “First, it’s environmentally friendly. And second, it’s cost effective and can help reduce the cost of your winter energy bills.”

Keep drapes and curtains open during the day, especially on windows facing south and west. Avoid placing light-blocking objects in front of the windows, which in turn blocks the sun.

While a nice fire in the fireplace can be warm and inviting on a cold winter’s night, keep the damper closed when it is not in use. An open damper is like keeping a window open in the winter. Cold air comes in and warm air escapes.

One way to maximize the heat from your fireplace is to install a heat-air exchange system that blows warm air back into the room. However, if you don’t use your fireplace at all, consider plugging and sealing the chimney flue.

“It’s understandable if you want to spend these last few weeks enjoying the warm weather, but by taking care of these issues now, you’ll save yourself time and money, as well as avoid frustration in the future,” Peek said.