Released by the Better Business Bureau of East Texas
Cooler temperatures signal the need to winterize your home and vehicles to save energy and prepare for cold weather emergencies. BBB reminds consumers of a few items that should really be taken care of before the weather gets too cold and brutal to keep your family warm and safe this winter.
“Getting your heating system in tip-top shape can prevent breakdowns and save money in the long run. You may need to service cars or assemble a cold weather kit”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “At least once a year, it makes sense to check your furnace, put ice scrapers in your car and make sure your home is winterized.”
An emergency kit should contain bottled water, a first aid kit, battery-operated radio, fresh batteries, candles, matches and non-perishable food. BBB also recommends assembling a similar kit for the car, complete with blankets, extra gloves, a shovel and salt or snow-melting chemicals.
Other items on the cold weather checklist:
- Heater checkup and cleaning: Have a professional check the heater and ensure the thermostat and other parts are working properly. A computerized thermostat can save energy and money by reducing the temperature at night or when you’re away from home.
- Consider insulating heating ducts: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that a centrally-heated home can lose as much as 60 percent of warmed air before it reaches vents if the ductwork is poorly connected, not insulated, or if it travels through unheated spaces. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust and dirt from vents.
- Get a chimney checkup: Before lighting the first fire of the season, your chimney should be checked for animals, nests, leaves and other debris, as well as for any necessary repairs.
- Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Homeowners should routinely test these devices to make sure they work and install fresh batteries as needed. Detector units should be replaced every 10 years.
- Clear gutters and ridge vents: Clean gutters to prevent or remove any debris that could cause rainwater to clog, freeze and damage gutters. Ridge vents should be cleared to allow the house to “breathe” properly to eliminate stagnant inside air. Close any attic vents or windows that would allow heated air to escape and cold air to seep in.
- Plug holes: Small air leaks have a cumulative effect on home heating costs. Make sure windows close tightly. Check for leaks around them, and use caulking to plug the leaks. Inspect all weather stripping for cracks and peeling. Consider applying insulating film to drafty windows, and install a tight-fitting fireplace door or cover to stop a day-long loss of heat through the chimney.
- Car checkup: Make sure you have ice scrapers, blankets and other cold-weather gear in your car. Have a mechanic check fluid levels, including the coolant, to be sure reservoirs are full and able to withstand freezing temperatures. Do windshield wipers need to be replaced? Are defrosters and heaters working? Is there enough tread left on the tires for safe driving? Are they inflated properly?
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to www.bbb.org. To report a fraud or scam, call the BBB Hotline: (903) 581-8373.