With the annual AccuWeather winter forecast and the release of the Farmers’ Almanac taking place at around the same time, homeowners across North America are now able to get a good idea about what to expect once fall temperatures start to get lower. Once the days grow shorter, you will still have a few weeks to go before the heating system in your home starts working more than a few hours a day. This should give you time to get ready for indoor climate control, which is arguably one of the most important aspects of life during the winter season.
Getting ready for winter is similar to starting a compound interest savings plan: The earlier you get this done, the better it will work out in the long run. At Delaware Heating and Air, some of our clients will schedule service calls for their heating system when the weather is still nice enough to enjoy a weekend down at Bethany Beach; these are smart clients who know we are more likely to get very busy when the climate turns colder and families suddenly realize that their heating system does not work properly.
What the Farmers’ Almanac tells us for the winter starting in 2021 is that we will go through weeks and months of shivering temperatures. This is all part of climate change; it is important for us to understand that global warming does not mean the seasons will be warmer all through the year. Climate change means more extreme weather effects. Colder and longer winters will become more common along with stifling summers and greater storm activity coming from the Atlantic.
The Accuweather winter forecast coincides with the Farmers’ Almanac in terms of categorizing a cold winter with plenty of snowfall for the northern regions of New Castle County. In Kent, Sussex, and the southern portions of New Castle County, the outlook for precipitation is pretty low for 2021 and 2022, which means that these areas of Delaware will have even lower temperatures. Cold and dry conditions increase the chill unless clear skies give you a full blast of winter sunshine. When the sky turns gray and the humidity is low, homeowners across Delaware will reach for the thermostat in an effort to stay warm. As for the northwestern areas of Delaware, the Farmers’ Almanac calls for very low temperatures all the way to Philadelphia and other communities within the Delaware Valley.
With all the above in mind, here are five important reasons you should get your heating system checked out now instead of later:
- Ensuring that your system will be in good working shape throughout the winter.
- Checking indoor air quality in order to keep carbon monoxide levels to a minimum.
- Avoiding the hassle and additional cost of emergency repairs.
- Figuring out how to maximize energy efficiency for the purpose of keeping your heating bills within reasonable ranges.
- Looking out for the comfort of your family.
Preparing your home for the upcoming winter can be accomplished with the steps that we will discuss below. The key is to complete all the steps ahead of time.
Weather Stripping and Insulation
The trick to keeping living spaces warm during the winter is not so much pumping warm air inside; it is more effective to prevent cold air from creeping indoors and doing everything to keep warmth from escaping. In terms of thermodynamics, warm air will always leave an enclosed space faster than cold air, and it will prefer to rise as it escapes; for this reason, checking for proper insulation in the space between the ceiling and the roof is crucial. Also found within this space are the ducts, which are prone to tearing and leaking, and which can be repaired with relative ease.
A home with a chimney will always be more prone to warm air leaks. When the chimney is your primary heating system, you will need to inspect it and clean it before temperatures turn cooler; what you should look for are obstructions and fire hazards. Finally, the weather stripping around windows, doors, and skylights should be adequate to withstand the winter. Nearly 40% of energy efficiency as it relates to heating is directly tied to proper insulation and weather stripping.
This is a pretty easy step that can be completed in less than a day. If you did not replace the filters used last winter, the time to do so would be before your heating system is turned on for the first time this season. All air conditioning and heating systems perform better when they are equipped with clean filters. The general recommendation is to change out filters every three months or twice per winter if the heating system is turned on a few days a week.
Preventive Maintenance and Repairs
As previously mentioned, smart homeowners in Delaware will schedule a heating maintenance call before Halloween just to be on the safe side. Depending on whether you have a boiler, furnace, or heat pump, there will always be a need for maintenance and repairs. In many cases, an early call will determine if a component in your heating system needs to be replaced ahead of time, thus reducing the likelihood of an emergency call in the middle of a snowstorm.
Depending on the mechanism of your heating system, an early service call will consist of the following:
- Checking the overall functionality of the system.
- Evaluating all seals, rings, and gaskets.
- Lubrication of all parts that either move or are subject to friction.
- Filter replacement; although in some cases this will only require cleaning.
- Evaluating safety mechanisms and regulating devices.
- Checking indoor air quality for elevated carbon monoxide levels.
- Upgrading the thermostat if needed.
In the case of heating systems equipped with humidifiers, it is generally better to change the evaporator element before winter sets in.
Taking Advantage of Smart Thermostats
If you want a nice 20% reduction in your monthly heating bill this winter, a modern thermostat can make it happen. Your heating system does not have to be on the cutting edge of technology to be controlled by a smart thermostat; there are quite a few adapters and connectors to this effect. Even if your house is not equipped with a smart home automation system, a modern thermostat can still be installed.
Some modern thermostats feature smart firmware that will regulate the functionality of the heating system based on sensor readings and real-time weather forecasts received over an internet connection. These are the kind of thermostats that enable remote access to the control panel via smartphone apps or a web portal.
Setting Up Backup Heating Systems for Emergency Situations
For the ultimate peace of mind this and every winter season, you may want to think about installing a backup heating source that can keep you warm during emergency situations such as blizzards. Many homes in Delaware have chimneys that are not used; instead, homeowners rely on heat pumps, but we all know that local utilities sometimes struggle to keep the power on during winter storms. In this case, it makes perfect sense to provide maintenance to the chimney, test its functionality, and keep a load of dry firewood handy for emergencies.
Heat pumps can also be backed up by means of fuel-operated generators, which can be pricey and have certain limitations. Wood stoves and gas stoves can also serve as emergency heating systems; they generally require some ventilation adapters to turn them into heaters. Some homeowners will opt to have dual gas and oil-burning furnaces, which are a good idea if you think that the gas supply may become compromised for some reason. Finally, there are portable space heaters that can burn oil or be powered with electricity, but these devices are not the safest.