Chimney Sweep

Find out how to hold your own home heat this winter

Brrr, it’s cold out there. However, inside at home it is warm and cozy. At least that’s how it should be.

When the icy winter air hits, turning up the stove is only half the battle when it comes to having a cozy home. You also need to run your heating efficiently and track down hidden weak spots in your home that let the cold in.

If you only follow the first four steps on this checklist, not only will you make your living room more comfortable – you will likely save your energy bills too.

Check your oven

More information can be found in the CNET magazine.

Mark Mann / CNET

Whether your home is heated by a gas stove or an electric heat pump, make sure your system is in good shape before winter hits you hard. While a full hardware inspection is best left to the professionals (at least once a year), you can at least get basic maintenance and a quick test run.

Here’s what you can do by yourself. First, turn off the power to your oven completely. Next, remove the service panel from the side of the device and carefully vacuum any visible dust or dirt particles from the cavities of the fan and burner. Do the same for any dirt you see outside and around the oven.

Set your thermostat to heating mode and increase the target indoor temperature a few degrees above the current value. After a few moments you should hear the stove go into action.

If you don’t feel warm air puffing out of your vents anytime soon, call for professional help. You pay for the service, of course, but an early check saves you a cold store if your heating fails on a bank holiday weekend.

Change your HVAC filters regularly to ensure good airflow.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Use a fresh air filter

For a fully heated house, the warm air from your stove needs to flow freely. However, over time, your heater’s air filter can become clogged with dust, dirt, and other particles. Avoid this dilemma by regularly inspecting it for ash-colored dirt.

Most HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems use a single, non-recyclable, disposable filter made from paper or fiberglass. You should replace a disposable filter at least every six months (preferably at the beginning of winter and summer). But every home is different: pet owners, for example, have to change their filters more often. When buying a replacement, you’re not reaching for just one. Instead, buy multiple filters so you always have an extra one on hand when you need it. Disposable filter prices vary widely, but expect between $ 5 and $ 15 per pop.

Make a note of the size of your HVAC filter so that you can get the correct replacement.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Permanent filters made of metal and synthetic fibers last about 10 years. What’s the catch? You will need to wash the filter monthly and make sure it dries thoroughly to prevent mold and bacteria growth. These filters are also more expensive, costing $ 30 to $ 50 each.

Isolate, isolate, isolate

Drafty window and door seals are the enemy of a warm home. Prevent warm air from escaping and cold air from entering by making sure your doors and windows are properly insulated. Take a stroll around your home inside and out and look for signs of visible drafts on the door and window frames. Often times, it’s a torn or fading weather seal, not an open void, that is to blame. Apply fresh sealant or sealant to any gaps.

Another option is to contact your utility company. Many utilities offer a free personal assessment of your home’s thermal efficiency. Since it is in your best interest to contain wasteful energy consumption, you should be happy to make a home visit. The technician will typically provide homeowners with a report of problem areas and a plan of action to resolve these issues.

A properly cared for fireplace is a great way to keep rooms warm.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Don’t forget your fireplace

If you have a working fireplace but have never used it, don’t try to light it yourself. Instead, talk to a chimney sweep or other professional first. Any open flame is dangerous, especially if it burns in a sooty chimney.

When it comes to home repairs, chimney maintenance doesn’t come cheap. Allow $ 100 to $ 350 for a qualified assessment. You should also clean your chimney once a year. But once the green light has officially been given, it is priceless to sit by the crackling fire when the temperature is below zero. (Just avoid using a wood stove if there is an air quality alarm in your area.) When you’re not using your fireplace, keep the smoke outlet and other vents closed.

Add a smart thermostat to improve your HVAC brain.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Install a smart thermostat

A great way to add intelligence to your home and keep it warm would be to upgrade to a smart thermostat. The Nest Learning Thermostat ($ 285 on Amazon) and Ecobee4, both $ 249, are our favorite devices of their kind so far. Amazingly sophisticated, they intelligently control your oven using motion sensors to detect your presence and change the heating accordingly. You can also adjust the temperature remotely via mobile apps, and over time they learn to predict your schedule and even include local weather forecasts in the equation.

Smart thermostats like this Nest E require a “C” or “Common” cable connection.

Chris Monroe / CNET

According to the US Department of Energy, you can also save up to 10 percent per year on heating and cooling costs with smart thermostats. Installing a smart thermostat shouldn’t be too difficult as long as your oven has a “C” or common wire. If you don’t have the right setup or the installation process looks too daunting, consult a professional instead.

This story appears in the Winter 2017 issue of CNET Magazine. Click here for more magazine reports.

CNET smart home: We turned a real house into a test lab for the hottest category of tech.

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