Fall is in full swing and now is the time to head off any potential problems by scheduling maintenance and safety checks for your home’s heating and electrical devices.
Where to start
Furnace: A qualified HVAC tech should do a twice-a-year check of your system: once in the fall for heating and again in the spring for air conditioning.
Before it turns really cold and you need to turn on the heat, test it to make sure yours is in good working condition. The technician can spot problems before your system is damaged.
Thermostats: A programmable thermostat could be a good investment to save on heating and cooling bills.
Programmable thermostats automatically turn the heat up or down, depending on the times of day when your family is home or away.
Ground-fault circuit interrupters: A licensed electrician can install GFCIs in your bathroom, kitchen and laundry room, and around hot tubs, pools and under windows.
All of those areas have the potential to get wet. A GFCI will safely shut off the electricity to an appliance that gets wet. In addition, it can interrupt a circuit if it’s overcharged.
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors: If you don’t have them near all bedrooms in your home, it’s time to install them. Be sure to check them twice a year to make sure they’re still working and have fresh batteries.
Overloaded outlets: You can overload an electrical circuit by plugging an appliance that uses a heavy amount of electricity—like a range, a dishwasher, a refrigerator or even some entertainment systems and exercise equipment—into a circuit that is designed for a smaller load.
You can also overload a circuit by using a power strip to plug too many appliances into a single outlet. Ask a licensed electrician to inspect your home for potential circuit overloads which could cause a fire.
There are lots of ways to reduce energy use this fall. The following are just a few tips to save money.
Use energy-saving light bulbs that are made to last up to 10 times longer than traditional light bulbs and use 80 percent less energy.
Use cold water to wash clothes as 90 percent of the energy a washing machine uses goes toward heating the water. A cooler wash could save over a third of the energy used compared to washing in hot water.
When replacing appliances, look for those that are energy efficient.
Use smart power strips, also known as advanced power strips, which will eliminate the problem of phantom loads by shutting off the power to electronics when they are not in use.
Smart power strips can be set to turn off at an assigned time during a period of inactivity, through remote switches or based on the status of a “master” device.
Look for places in the home that could use some weatherizing and add insulation.
For more energy-saving tips or to schedule a virtual or in-person home-energy evaluation, visit www.energyright.com.
Fire safety checklist
Fire Prevention Week is this week, and the American Red Cross urges everyone to test their smoke alarms before the threat of home fires increases with cold weather.
The Red Cross responds to 27 percent more home fires in November-March than in warmer weather.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, home fires are most common in cooler months when people spend more time inside. Cooking and heating equipment are the leading causes of fires at families’ residences.
• Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Test alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year, if your model requires it.
• Check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they likely need to be replaced because components such as batteries can become less reliable. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions.
• Include at least two ways to exit every room in your home in your escape plan.
• Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or a landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet.
• Tailor your escape plan to everyone’s needs in your household. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, install strobe lights and bed-shaker alarms to help alert you to a fire. When practicing your plan, include any devices or people that can help you to get out safely.
“Home fires upend lives every day, causing heartbreak and destroying everything that makes four walls into a home,” said Jennifer Pipa, vice president of Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services. “As the threat gets worse with the onset of colder temperatures, help keep your family safe by testing your smoke alarms and practicing a two-minute fire drill.”