Even though most of us have only just started to enjoy the changing colors of the leaves and the cooler weather, now is the time to start thinking about making your home warm and cozy for your friends and family. These seven easy steps will keep you and those you care about safe and snug all winter.
- Service your furnace. Generally, you should service your furnace once a year before the weather gets cold enough you really need. Unless you or someone you know is especially handy, you’ll probably want to call in a professional. (Expect to pay $100-150.) Your job will be to change the furnace filter all winter. Plan to change the filter once a month.
- Sweep your chimney. Again, you’ll probably want to sweep your chimney once a year. Soot, debris, and even animals can block your chimney and cause a major safety hazard. Again, you’ll probably want to call in a professional. (Expect to pay $75-$125.) Many chimney sweeps will also clean out your dryer vents, an important annual tradition to prevent dryer lint fires.
- Get your ducts in order. Every few years, hire a professional to clean and inspect your central air and heat vents. Not only will you feel better once all the hair, dust, and other allergins are gone, you may also save money on your winter heating bill. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates some homeowners waste as much as 60% of their heat each winter through poorly-maintained ducts.
- Turn the fan around. Many homeowners forget that ceiling fans spin in two directions, controlled by a switch somewhere on the body of the fan. Setting the fan to “winter mode” makes the fan force rising warm air back down into a cooler room. A fan set on winter mode should be spinning clockwise.
- Check your alarms. As fires and gas furnaces start roaring for the winter, it is important to keep your family safe with working smoke and carbon-monoxide alarms. Change the batteries in each smoke alarm and test with actual smoke to see that it’s working. Replace alarms that are more than ten years old.
- Add some winter spice. When you shut the windows and stay indoors, a house can start to smell a little stale. Liven things up with a cinnamon broom or cinnamon pinecones. You can often buy these at local grocery, craft, or florist shops–or make them yourself.
- Provide warmth for everybody. Cozy-up your living room with enough blankets to keep everyone in the room warm on a cold, winter evening. Again, you can buy these or make easy, no-sew felt blankets on your own: Take two blanket-sized pieces of fleece from a local craft or fabric store. Pin them together and cut the edges into a two-inch fringe. Tie individual fringes from each piece together. Voila!
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