it or not...
sure your house is ready.
(In light of the
fact that natural gas prices could rise up to 44 percent this winter,
in Part I we told you where to check for leaks around your home. here,
we’ll tell you how to fix them.)
Heating water, as
we said last week, is a big energy consumer no matter the season. In
the winter your water heater is just as susceptible to the cold as you
are, so do for it what you do for yourself.
Mike Frentz says water heaters can be wrapped in a fiberglass
blanket that can actually double the R factor (R is the value of
resistance to heat flow, or escaping). "The heater already has a
built in R value, usually around 6, and this blanket has an R value of
6.7. So you can more than double the efficiency (decrease the number
of times the pilot ignites the burner) with this," he says.
Just as important
to him from a comfort level is a foam pipe strip, which is 6 feet long
and made to curl around a pipe as an insulator. Mike says this may not
keep a lot of heat from escaping from the pipes, but it will give you
hotter water, faster, on the second floor and other places where you
typically have to run the water for a while, especially in cold
weather, before it gets warm.
Simply put, the
insulation keeps the pipe, and the water in it, from getting as cold
as it normally would.
Doors, windows and cracks in the mortar were three other things we
identified last week as potential problem areas for heat loss. You
might have found a problem by looking for a crack where the brick
meets the frame of a door or window.
If that crack is
less than a quarter-inch wide, Mike recommends filling it with Acrylic
Latex Caulk. If the crack is larger, you should use caulk
It’s a flexible rope-like substance that you push into the crack and
then caulk over it. That way, you don’t end up pouring a lot of
caulk into what could be a deep crack. Caulk backer comes in sizes
from three-eighths of an inch wide to an inch and a quarter.
That should take
care of most cracks caused by doors or windows contracting and
pulling away from the mortar. If it doesn’t, though, then you’ve
got a larger problem, such as the kind you can encounter beneath a
window sill that has rotted out. This is the time to consider foam insulation.
sure you wear disposable gloves, or gloves you don’t want any
more," Mike says. "The last time I used it I got some on my
hand. It didn’t hurt, but there is no chemical on this earth that
will remove it. It took about a month to wear off."
The stuff he’s
talking about is Great Stuff® Foam Insulation, which comes in an aerosol can in
three strengths –– there's one that will expand slightly for
around doors and windows where you don't want the the frame to
warp. One that expands twice its original size, or one that will expand to three times its original size.
twice the size, which is usually more than adequate. I’d use the triple
expansion if I had just a flat out large hole to fill, like a brick
missing in a wall," he adds. Foam Insulation dries to a smooth,
hard, golden-yellow Styrofoam-like finish.
Inside the house, the furnace is probably your largest concern. If you
have one of the newer furnaces, then you might have one of the new
high tech filters such as General, Space-Gard, Honeywell or Trion Air
Bear –– that remove almost 100 percent of contaminants from air.
These filters are similar to the HEPA brand used in hospitals.
There easy to spot because most are 4" to 5" thick.
Most of these
furnaces are found in new home construction. In your home, if you have
a regular furnace, you can buy a similar product made by 3M (called
Filtrete) or by Dirt Demon. These filters last a long time (three
months) and remove up to 92% of airborne dust, pollen, and mold. Traps
other airborne particles that can cause allergy flare-ups, including
pet dander and smoke.
Mike’s main concern about furnaces centers on the humidifiers that
are attached to them, which often are not properly cleaned. A furnace
humidifier basically is a pad (called the media pad) about the size of
a paperback book, sitting in a pool of water and releasing that
moisture into the air when the furnace heats up. Mike recommends
starting the season with a fresh new media pad –– the most popular
brands are Lobb,
Skuttle, AutoFlow and April
Aire. "Even with a
new media pad (foam drum type), I still recommend a monthly cleaning of the pad and
water reservoir using a mild detergent and thoroughly rinsing,"
Mike says. This is not recommended for the wash down humidifier
pads used on a lot of the new furnaces today. i.e. April Aire.
humidifier in peak working order is important in that the higher
humidity in your home will raise your comfort level. You will feel
warm and comfortable at a lower thermostat setting than in dry air.
Mike says, "don’t overdo it when it’s really cold outside.
The colder it gets outside, the setting on the humidifier’s
humidistat should be set lower."
temperature outside falls below 30 degrees, follow these guidelines:
You don’t want
the moisture condensing on the cold walls of your rooms. This
sometimes happens during long cold spells during the winter months.
Following the guidelines above will likely prevent this.
Finally, there’s the thermostat. Manual thermostats (the kind you
adjust yourself) are fine but not 100 percent accurate. That lack of
accuracy could, and probably does, cause your furnace to run when
it’s not necessary. "That’s just a buck or two here and
there, but it can add up over real quickly over a cold winter,"
Mike recommends a
digital type that they use in the store, and
he uses at home. "You set it at a specific time of day for a
particular temperature, such as a 5 to 10° set back when you leave for work,
and the same at night. "Most of the digital thermostats are so accurate
there’s no fluctuation at all in the set
"As a matter
of fact, some of these units have what is called a Smart Response. It
automatically analyzes weather conditions to meet the temperatures
you’ve asked for," Mike says. For example: If you’ve set the
thermostat to have the house at 70 degrees when you awaken, say 7:00
thermostat probably will turn the furnace on at 6:30 a.m. But if it
was an especially cold evening, the thermostat is set to sense that,
and will activate the furnace earlier, say at 6 a.m., to hit the
70-degree, 7:00 a.m. target.
Frentz and Sons
also carries many parts for furnaces, including humidifiers parts, that are
hard to find because of the age of some units.