There Are No Endless Summers In The Rim Country, So Winterize Now

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Temperatures are still in the mid-90s, but once the cold edges its way back into the Rim country, there will be a rush on ways to keep it toasty inside.

An expected cost increase for natural gas this year, and a proposed electricity rate hike next year, may make turning up the thermostat the last resort.

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Jim Gier shows the tempered glass doors available for fireplaces at the Ace Hardware & Nursery Hearth Shoppe. Some experts recommend using the tempered glass to reduce heat loss.

The solution to the problem of dealing with the cold is to get ready for winter this summer -- winterize.

Jim Gier, at the Payson Ace Hardware's Hearth Store, said people have their chimney cleaning service booked through the middle of October, so winterizing efforts are well under way.

Getting the chimney cleaned is one of the most critical things to do to heat a home efficiently and safely with wood. In fact, it is so critical, until your chimney is cleaned, Gier recommends, "Don't burn in it. This is especially true with (wood-burning stove) inserts. You need to do it once a year, unless it is only used a couple of times a year."

He said pellet stoves need the same maintenance as wood-burning stoves.

With a cleaned chimney, Gier said the fuel of choice is alligator juniper, followed by pine.

"This needs to be split, stacked and dried for a year first, though. I don't know how the bark beetle wood is, I haven't burned any, but I have heard it is very dry, so it might work (even though it has just been cut this year)," Gier said.

He said oak is a good wood to burn, if it is burned right.

"It needs a hot fire or you are going to have it just smolder and fill the chimney with creosote. Start it about 30 to 45 minutes before going to bed with the damper open wide. About 15 minutes later, when it is going good, dampen it down slowly," Gier said.

He also said people should try to keep their wood covered.

Winterizing involves a number of things. Arizona Public Service Company offers the following tips to winterize your home:

  • Weatherstrip doors to unheated areas of your home, such as the garage, crawlspace and attic.
  • Seal leaks around electric switches and outlets located on outside walls.
  • Keep windows and doors shut when the heat is on. Check caulking around doors and windows.
  • Tightly caulk around windows, door frames, sill plates and wherever else air might leak through exterior walls, floors or ceilings. If you have central heating, wrap the heating ducts with insulation and seal the seams withastic. This can save up to 10-percent of your heating costs.

Cracks and crevices from the outside spigot to the electrical outlet on the wall are a freeway to bring the coming season's chill inside. Before winter gets a chance to find those openings, take time to look for them and find them first. Then, armed with a caulking gun and weather stripping, seal the cracks to save heat and cut energy bills. But sealing cracks with caulk and weather stripping is just one step homeowners should take to winterize their homes.

At the top of the list is a heating system inspection and maintenance by a professional since the furnace likely will be put to the test before winter yields to spring.

  • Have your heating unit serviced annually. Check the thermostat for accuracy and have it adjusted or replaced if necessary.

A programmable thermostat, which automatically lowers the heat when you're in bed and raises it prior to time to rise in the morning, aids in your comfort and convenience and is worth the investment in energy savings, according to experts.

• Install tempered glass fireplace doors to reduce heat loss.

  • Consider automatic door closers for entry and sliding glass doors.
  • Put your water heater under wraps with a water heater insulation jacket.This can reduce your water heater's energy use by 10- to 12-percent.
  • Insulate hot water pipes.

There are several more things the homeowner can do to prepare for winter: replace or clean the filters and check heat vents or registers to be sure they are free of dust and not obstructed. Anything blocking or restricting these can cut air flow and reduce efficiency.

With the system in full operation, filters should be replaced or cleaned about once a month. A clogged air filter causes undue wear on the blower motor.

Keeping Warm

  • Set the heating thermostat at 68 degrees or lower.
  • Keep your furnace's filter clean.
  • Use the best insulation of all -- warm clothing. A 68-degree room will feel like 72 if you wear layers of lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Never use the range oven or surface units to heat your home.
  • Open draperies in the daytime for free solar heat. Close them at night to help keep the cold out and heat in.
  • Never use a portable electric heater to do full-time heating jobs.
  • If your home has a fireplace, keep the damper closed tightly when there is no fire burning.
  • Use an extra blanket to keep warm while you're sleeping.
  • Keep outside doorsnd windows closed when the heat is on.
  • Set the heating thermostat at 60 degrees or lower while you're on vacation.

Hands-on winterizing

One of the leading causes of home energy loss is air infiltration around windows and doors. The remedy calls for a twin project, caulking and weather stripping.

To properly seal windows and doors, first caulk between the frame and the siding and then, if necessary, replace weather stripping to give the windows and doors a snug fit.

To check for drafts:

  • Close the window or door on a dollar bill and if you can slide it out easily, you're losing energy dollars through the cracks;
  • Another method is to let a helper shine a flashlight around the frame and see if light comes through;
  • Move a moist hand around the door or window to see if you detect a draft; or
  • Move a lighted match or candle around the window to see if air movement blows the flame, but be extra careful where there are curtains, being certain they are out of the way.

While doors and windows are chief culprits in the heat loss category, not to be ignored are cracks around the chimney, outdoor spigots, outdoor lights or simply cracks in the wall.

Inside the house there are a number of locations where winter's chill can slip into the house such as along baseboards and around electrical boxes.

Foam insulation inserts are available to fit under the face plates of electrical outlets and molding can be removed and the cracks caulked to prevent drafts where floor, wall and ceiling surfaces meet. Around the exterior, caulk any cracks to keep cold air out.

Most people never think of cracks on interior walls as a problem, but unless the walls are insulated, and most interior walls are not, air can find its way from under the house to the cracks in the walls.

A quality caulking material can effectively shut out the draft in most instances and reduce the energy cash loss. Choosing the right caulk for the job is essential for it to be effective and long-lasting. The local hardware stores can recommend the best caulks for the type of job being done.

It takes storm windows or some type of double-layered thermal glass or sheet plastic to reduce conduction, cold transmitted through the glass. Condensation on the window is a sure sign of conduction and if there are storm windows or double glass, check the seal to be sure cold air isn't slipping into the dead-air space between the glass.

One alternative to storm windows is to cover the window with clear, weatherproofing plastic, available at most hardware stores.

Insulation is a major factor in heating (and cooling) efficiency. Most homes have at least some overhead insulation, but may or may not have insulation in exterior walls and under the floor. One way to check for insulation in the wall is to remove a switch plate on an exterior wall and shine a flashlight into the wall to see if insulation is present.

If there is crawlspace under the house, there should be vents. Pipes under the house should be wrapped with insulation. There are vent units available that have thermostats which cause the vents to close when temperatures drop and open when they are above freezing.

Taking steps to increase a home's energy efficiency can pay dividends in the long run, reducing the cost of both heating and cooling.

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