Getting Ready for Winter in Pennsylvania

winter heatingSince winter will always come in a year, you have to put in some time to get ready for it. For those living in Pennsylvania, there is more reason to be considering the fact that the cold season can be very ruthless. Getting your home winterized is important to make sure the level of warmth and comfort inside is still there, thereby protecting you and your family from the harsh and even deadly cold.

So here are some valuable tips in getting ready for winter:

1 – Cleaning the Gutters

As soon as the leaves start falling in autumn, you need to remove them and other debris especially when they thrive in the gutters. This is quite a necessity considering that rain and melting snow don’t have any other way to go down than in the gutters. Keep in mind that clogged gutters are never a good sign because they lead to the formation of ice dams and eventually result to leaking. Also, don’t forget about misaligned pipes and leaks.

2 – Block the Leaks

Winterizing your home means blocking tangible leaks all around the house. Leaks can be found both inside and out. You may think small leaks do no harm. But when you actually measure and combine them, they can account for about a nine-square-foot hole. Now that’s a big leak! Obviously, you need to find them first.

3 – Give the Furnace Some Attention

Furnace cleaning and maintenance is a vital part of getting ready for the winter. You first have to turn the furnace one. Try to see if it is working. Be reminded that if you smell an odd and strong but short-lasting odor, it is a natural occurrence when firing up the furnace. To dissipate the smell, you can open the windows. However, if in case the smell seems to last a little longer or if it stays there, what you need to do is shut down the furnace and immediately call a heating system expert.

Additionally, it is highly recommended that you clean and tune your furnace annually, and it has to be done right before the winter season arrives. Doing so will mostly cost you around $100 but it sure is worth it considering the fact that you’re going to have a more efficient heating system.

4 – Ducts

The U.S. Department of Energy Revealed that for homes that use central heating, there is a chance that they lose about 50% of heated air even before it reaches the vents. This happens when the ducts aren’t ideally connected and insulated. So if you can’t get your ducts in a row, you’re actually wasting a lot of money spent on energy bills.

Although ducts aren’t easy to access and see, you can still see them in the basement, crawlspaces, and the attic. Look for areas where pipes and pinched and do the necessary repairs. Likewise, air ducts have to be vacuumed, but it has to be done once in two years or more. The purpose is to get rid of the collection of debris including dust, hair, dirt, and others.

5 – Insulation

Insulation won’t cost you that much but it is a crucial component of getting ready for the winter. What has to be done is add more insulation to your existing one in the attic. The standard requirement is about twelve inches of insulation in the attic.

6 – Windows

If you have window screens at home, you need to take them down in time for winter. Instead, place storm windows, which by the way are designed to put an extra layer of protection against winter storms. Also, storm windows trap in heat so it gets you warm.

7 – Consider the Chimney

Most homeowners believe that chimney maintenance is ideally done during spring. This is because during the fall, the chimney sweeps are quite busier. But it’s really up to the homeowner. The most important thing though is to clean it right before winter comes by.

8 – Reverse the Fan

Yes it may be a minor tip, but most people don’t know about it. The process of reversing the direction of the fan from its usual operation will push the warm air downward, which then forces it to re-circulate. As a result, you will get warm air for added comfort from your ceiling farm.

All Home Heating Oil is Not the Same

gas oilPeople in this country rely on different sources of energy to heat their homes and keep themselves warm during the winter season. Although LPG, electricity, and other renewable sources are familiar, there is one that stands out: home heating oil. The most distinctive characteristic of heating oil is the fact that it is delivered by oil delivery companies and it is stored in a tank that is commonly placed or situated beneath the home.

But contrary to what most homeowners who use heating oil believe in, not all home heating oil is the same. Even if they all look alike and serve the same function, heating oil is actually distinguished into different types and grades. In this article, we look at those differences and compare each one.

Types of Heating Oil

Generally speaking, there are two types of heating oil intended for domestic or home heating. They are:

Gas Oil – This is also referred to as red diesel or the 35 second oil. It is distinguished by the fact that it is heavier and is primarily used in older generation of boilers, more specifically those once used in commercial and agricultural use.

Kerosene – Kerosene on the other hand is the second type. It is known as the typical heating oil and also called 28 second oil. Its main advantage is the fact that it is lighter and cleaner.

If you recently moved into a new house or property, the kind of oil you will be using primarily depends on the type of heating system that is already in place. In most instances, there is a clear label on the boiler or the tank, giving you the right instructions on what type of heating oil was used previously. If there is no indication, you have to ask a heating oil expert to be sure.

Heating Oil Costs

Furthermore, another manifestation that all home heating oil is not the same is the costs. Kerosene, for one, is considered as the more efficient compared to gas oil. But then again, there is also great emphasis placed on the area where you live and the availability of the type of heating oil in your state or city.

Heating Oil Grades

But aside from the two types, heating oil is also differentiated on grades. Traditionally speaking, there are three different grades along with three intermediary grades. Likewise, each has its own distinctive quality and characteristics. But just a preview of the quality of each grade, the common scenario is that when you choose a higher grade, it also means you will have to spend more on it. Although higher grade heating oil is more expensive, it also burns cleaner, more efficiently, and has lesser impact on the environment.

But just like the types we’ve mentioned earlier, you have to first understand your heating system and your furnace to be able to use the right oil required to keep your home warm during the winter. And for your information, heating oil, as of today, is the second most widely consumed petroleum product, obviously behind only to gasoline.

1 – Heating Oil (Grade) 1 and 2

heating oilNumber 1 and 2 heating oil is considered as the two most common type used for residential heating. 1 is less expensive compared to 2. Actually, 2 has the same classification as diesel fuel in the United States so most people think they’re one in the same. However, they are not because number 2 is formed during the refining process by heating and then condensing raw crude oil. The best attribute of number 2 is that it is more efficient than other fuel sources for home heating like natural gas, propane, kerosene, or even electricity.

2 – Intermediary

Intermediary grade heating oil on the other hand is mostly blended mixtures of higher grades and lower grades. They are mostly used for industrial and commercial burners with better efficiency. However, they are expected to be more expensive.

3 – Number 6

The last grade is called heating oil number 6. This one is the least expensive of the three standard heating oil grades. However, as the price implies, it is also the dirtiest. Using this type of home heating oil will most likely correspond to more frequent maintenance and cleaning of your furnace and heating system. Because of the high concentration of pollutants and sulfur, it is gradually being phased out.

Heating System Duct Cleaning: Fact or Fiction

duct cleaningHeating system duct cleaning has been a subject of constant debate. Some people consider it as nonsense since there is no way it can help prevent health problems. Others on the other hand just feel like the ducts just needed to be cleaned for the sake of the idea that dirty ducts contribute to bad air quality. In this article, we will look into the practice of heating system duct cleaning and the different views that constitute those who believe it as fact and those who consider it as senseless and more like fiction.

Yes, it may be true that duct cleaning hasn’t really shown to actually prevent the likelihood of health problems. Likewise, studies that have been conducted do not really provide a decent conclusion stating that particle levels like dust and dirt in homes will increase because the heating system ducts are dirty. The truth is the dirt will mostly adhere to the surfaces of the duct and will least likely enter the room or the living space.

A homeowner has to understand that dirty ducts are only one of the several sources of air particles that thrive inside the home. Majority are contributed by pollutants, both coming from the outside and inside. And yes, there are in fact a lot indoor activities that will contribute to “polluting” the air inside and this includes smoking, cleaning, and cooking. So while there is proof of the existence of dirt particles in your heating system ducts, there is no direct evidence that those same particles will put your health at risk.

But then again, it doesn’t mean you just have to let go of the idea of cleaning your heating system ducts. There are several scenarios that you will eventually resort to cleaning them. Here are some of them:

1 – If you happen to see visible mold growth inside the hard surface of the duct like the sheet metal variety. Now when it pertains to mold detection in your heating system, there are various important points to look into. For instance, there are sections or areas that may not be possible for access, hence, you can’t go in there and do the inspection yourself. Therefore, you may have to call in the heating system professional to do it for you.

heating ducts2 – Likewise, you need to perform some serious cleaning in your air ducts the moment they become infested with vermin or something like insects, rodents, or dead animals, in simple terms!

3 – Of course, you clean it up when the time comes that the amount of dust, dirt, and other debris in them are too much to tolerate and ignore. In fact, the ducts are full of them that some are already released from your supply registers to the interior or living space.

So the moment any of those things exists, it implies one or a couple underlying causes. Right before you do any cleaning or even think of replacing your ducts, any cause or causes should be corrected. If not, you’re simply going to experience the same problem all over again.

The Concept of Air Duct Cleaning

Indoor air pollution has become a growing concern nowadays. There is increased awareness among homeowners mainly because the health risks and the eventual consequences of ignoring it have affected a lot of people. Because of this, there are many companies today that are making and marketing products as well as services in order to improve the quality of indoor air. If you have a heating and cooling system at home, you are most likely receiving coupons in the mail, approached by companies and contractors, or you may have seen an advertisement about cleaning your air ducts so as to improve the indoor air quality.

Air duct cleaning can cost you about $500 to $1000 per system. The difference in the price is mainly due to the varying services offered, as well as the size of the system to be cleaned. Other factors include system accessibility and level of contamination, if there is any.

There are a couple of studies made that recommend the cleaning of the various heating system components including the ducts. The main purpose according to the research is to improve the efficiency of the system. So while it may not be true that duct cleaning can prevent the health risks associated with dirty air particles coming from them, it is true that clean air ducts substantially contribute to better performance and efficiency of the system. It also means that the same will have a longer operating life and will allow you to save on energy costs and expenses later on.

air duct cleaningSo you are likely to consider having your heating system ducts cleaned and maintained for the simple thought that the act is logical, especially considering the fact that they will eventually get dirty overtime. Now let us assume you are able to do the cleaning properly, there no proof that suggests doing so will be detrimental to the function or operation of your heating system. However, it has to be noted that EPA does not also recommend cleaning the duct in a routine or mundane manner. Instead, it should only be done when needed.

Accordingly, EPA also recommends that if you are using a fuel burning furnace or a fireplace, they have to be inspected and examined if they are properly functioning. Furthermore, they should be serviced each heating season in order to prevent other health risks because of leaks in them. For instance, the lack of inspection or services will correspond to carbon monoxide poisoning due to leaks.

Now provided you made up your mind on having your ducts cleaned, you have to at least take the same consumer precautions you usually would when it comes to evaluating a service contractor’s reliability and qualifications. For one, some air duct cleaning companies will tell you that they have to apply chemical biocide to the ducts in order to kill things like bacteria, germs, and fungi and likewise to prevent further growth. There are times when they also recommend that use of a sealant in order to prevent dust and dirt from being released into the indoor air. The same sealant will also be used for sealing air leaks. The thing is you do have to do your own research and understand the repercussions or risks involved in using both biocides and sealants.

So there you go –heating system duct cleaning is something that you have to do, eventually. It’s not like the same kind of maintenance and cleaning you routinely do with other components of your heating system, but it is still a necessity. And yes, much of the idea is fact instead of fiction. There are a lot of things that can happen to the air ducts when they are not cleaned. Even though there is no direct proof that it can contribute to polluting the air, the thing with dirty air ducts is that they can significantly alter or decrease the level of efficiency of the entire heating system.

10 Quick Ways to Stay Warm and Save Money on Heating this Winter

staying warmAs soon as the winter months are about to come in, homeowners start to think of the cold season with all the burden of bad temperature and even worse heating and energy bills to deal with. If you live in places where temperatures in winter can get horribly cold, you are forced to think of a lot of ways in order to make sure you stay warm, but at the same time save money on heating. But the question is how can you possibly do that?

The good news is that we’re here to help you do exactly that. And yes, it is really possible to stay warm without adding that much on your energy bills. It’s just a matter of knowing those little things and realizing how they can provide significant help. Anyway, here are the ten quick ways to stay warm and save on heating this winter season:

1 – Insulation Check

Make the effort of looking at and inspecting your attic. What do you really see up there? Are there any bare spots missed out by insulation? Try to look at what type of insulation you have and be sure it is up to the level of insulation you need for your locality. The thing is proper insulation is vital in keeping everything inside your home warm without you having to increase the amount of heat inside.

2 – Air Leaks

If you have a home with drafty windows as well as attics and even doors, there is that certainty that air is able to sneak out, which also means that precious heat is being released unwontedly. If you want to save money in your heating expenses this winter, make sure the heat you’re producing inside is not released outside! Therefore, put a priority on sealing the air leaks in order to keep and effectively circulate inside. Be reminded that if heat finds its way outside, you will need more of it, which means you’re likely going to burn more fuel or oil or use more electricity to produce it. Begin by checking the weather stripping found around your doors and windows. If you see some signs of wear, you have to replace them. Also, check for leaks where hot air can seep out into the attic space. Also, the cuts created due to the installation of lighting fixtures and ceiling fans will provide exits for air and heat too. Hence, be sure you caulk them up and seal them. By making sure all air leaks are addressed, you are in a way reducing energy consumption for heating by about thirty percent.

3 – Thick Socks Matter

It may not be that significant, but investing in thick socks is indeed a quick way to stay warm without really spending that much. When you stay at home during the winter, you will realize that the cold weather easily penetrates your body through the feet. But with warm thick socks, your feet are kept warm, in the process not allowing the cold to get up to the rest of your body. Hence, your body won’t feel the need of more warmth as of the moment.

4 – Thermostat Check

One quick way to effectively save money on heating for the winter season is to check on the lower levels of thermostat you have at home. Turning it down about two degrees will make a huge difference especially if you look at it at the annual energy expenses perspective.

5 – Hot Water Bottle

You can also use a somewhat simple but perfect resistance against the cold nights, without even turning the heating system up. Instead, you a microwaveable hot water bottle and fill it up with a gel-like substance. Do a quick heating in the microwave right before you go to bed. As a result, you get warm and cozy for a long night sleep.

6 – Window Blinds

Opening the blinds on the portion that gets the most sun can also help trapping the heat that comes from the outside. Of course, you will want to close the windows and blinds on the other side so that the same heat will not go there and make an exit. It is very practical to open all blinds and curtains on the east side because it is here where the sun will shine and provide warmth. As a matter of fact, the heating benefits go a long way especially with the idea of maximizing the benefits of direct sunlight without really using more energy than expected.

7 – Using the Oven

No one stays outside during winter time enjoying fine dining! Part of saving money on winter is not just about staying warm and hot inside. It also means you can cook at home using your oven. In the process, you’re actually not just saving money for food you also should know that using the oven in the winter allows for more energy efficiency. Is that so? Yes, the oven will in fact work with warming of the house instead of being against it during the summer where you want to cool down the house.

8 – Consume Warm Fluids

Although most people already know this, but you have to know once again that winter is filled with the rich and hot flavor of hot chocolate, coffee, or tea. Warm fluids will allow your body to feel warmer inside. The warm effect inside will differ from one person to another but the fact remains that it will definitely provide substantial amount of time to keep oneself from getting cold during the night. When you warm up a bit by way of warm fluids, you may lessen the amount of energy spent on heating.

keeping warm9 – Fireplace

The fireplace seems to put an extra taste of elegance inside the house. But aside from the aesthetic improvement it offers, it serves the main purpose of providing heat and warmth in a room or area the fastest way possible. You actually get the warm temperature you deserve in a matter of minutes.

10 – Area Rugs

Area rugs seem to be intended for design purposes only. They are purchased and placed in living spaces to add color and style. However, they can also serve or provide a whole different function during the cold season. For instance, the use of rugs allows you to add another layer of insulation to the floor, in the process trapping the cool air underneath it. And since a rug is inherently warm, it will provide a very nice heating alternative to the feet.

In the end, as a homeowner you need to understand that the best means of keeping warm and save on heating is heating the home efficiently and then combining it with keeping the cold out. There is no point in using all the heating tools or devices you have when the cold temperature is willingly entering your premises. Hence, just make sure you keep the hot air flowing while moderating the temperature.

Get Ready for Winter with a Heater Cleaning

As a homeowner, you don’t want to get entangled in a bigger mess by simply being unable to push through and perform heater cleaning when it is time to. You also don’t want to have a dysfunctional heating system in the middle of t he freezing winter, right? That’s why it is every homeowner’s prerogative to clean and get the heating system prepared for the incoming winter and cold season.

So one of the best and most practical things to do in order to get ready for winter is preparing your heating system, making sure it is on optimum performance. Even though the exact maintenance routines you need for your system primarily depends on the brand or manufacturer, there are still general and simple tips you ought to follow in terms of cleaning the same. Here are some of them:

cleaning the furnace1 – Furnace Must Be Checked and Inspected Every Other Year

You will have to do the heater cleaning yourself from time to time. While that will ensure you’ve got the right maintenance in place, you will still have to call in a professional in order to conduct a thorough inspection on your heating system. This has to be done every other year in order to find out if the same can still perform during the winter. Keep this in mind – the best way to guarantee that the system is still working efficiently is having a professional look at it, to see if there is a need for it to be replaced or repaired. While you can see dirt and other things and address it, more serious problems about your heater can only be solved by heating experts. With people who know what they should be looking for, you also get to ensure that your heating system is not prone to be causing fires inside your home.

2 – Replace the Filter When Needed

Part of heater cleaning is replacing the filters. This has to be done every two or three months, and depending mainly on the season as well as the type of system you have at home. If there is no need to change the filter, it is still your job to clean it and make sure it is free from dust and debris, obviously for the reason of getting everything ready for winter. Now if you also have a central cooling and heating system at home, the filters have to be checked and replaced as well, especially during summer. But be reminded that if your filter is situated within the furnace, you have to shut down the power before attempting to replace or even just inspecting it.

3 – Mind the Chimney

heater cleaningDo have a look at the chimney as well. Although it doesn’t require that much attention, there are times when your heating becomes inefficient simply because of obstructions like debris and nests made by birds that are seeking warm shelter. Also, it is important that the chimney is free from soot buildup to get ready for winter. Bear in mind that the buildup of soot inside will increase the possibility of igniting a fire. For chimneys that haven’t been cleaned and inspected for as very long time, it is much better to call in the experts to clean the ducts and check everything.

4 – Heaters and Burners Must Be Free Of Dust and Debris

Getting ready for winter also means you need to make sure all heaters and burners are free from dust and other forms of debris. There is a great deal of dust accumulation during the summer season, so you can’t just ignore your heating system at this time. Check for signs of any rust, deterioration, or misalignment right before the cold season begins.

5 – Oil the Furnace Blower

Heater cleaning also means making sure that all the components of the entire heating system is clean and is working flawlessly together. The furnace blower for instance has a big responsibility in the operation of the system. Therefore, make sure it is oiled at least once a year so that it would function the way it is supposed to and will not make any loud or unwanted noise.

thermostat6 – Thermostat Checking

Finally, heating cleaning is not just about clearing up dust and debris; it also means you need to see if the thermostat you’re using is working properly. Keep in mind that a thermostat which is not working properly will correspond to a heating system that won’t work efficiently as well. To inspect and check, turn on your thermostat and then monitor the way it responds. A good working thermostat will start up instantly without issues. Also, it is much better these days to use a programmable thermostat since it can save energy compared to old and manual varieties.