Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Column: Protecting your home from the cold winter weather

Preventative maintenance is crucial for keeping home heating systems healthy

Lucy Wyndham

For the Morning Star

Seven-hundred-thousand natural-gas customers on Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, and in northern B.C. may experience a shortage over winter.

After a recent explosion at the Enbridge gas pipeline near Prince George, only a limited amount of fuel is being allowed through and British Columbians are therefore advised to conserve gas. Fortis is asking customers to wash clothes in cold water and keep thermostats between 18 C and 20 C and under 17 when out or sleeping. Whether you’re a natural-gas customer or not, it’s important you take steps to ensure your home runs efficiently during the upcoming freezing temperatures and harsh weather.

Regular furnace maintenance saves money

Preventative maintenance is crucial for keeping home heating systems healthy over winter. After a tune-up, furnaces and boilers experience a 20 per cent increase in energy efficiency: this can save homeowners roughly $395.44 each year. An HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) contractor can check your furnace or boiler is running safely and efficiently and replace the filter. You then need to pull out the filter once a month and replace it if it’s brown or black. Pleated filters are better at trapping dirt and debris than flat ones.

Outside the home

Gutters can get clogged with leaves and debris which can then turn into a frozen mass and cause damage to the roof. It’s important to unclog gutters by hand and install a gutter guard to prevent debris from building up and allow water to flow safely away from your home. If you’re uncomfortable climbing a ladder, call in a handyman. You can also have your drainage system and roof professionally checked for damage or missing pieces to make sure there’s no risk of leakage.

Are your pipes freeze-proof?

Exposed pipes can be potentially hazardous in the winter. Pipes in places like the basement or attic are often prone to freezing. They can burst if temperatures drop below 32 F. To prevent this disaster, pipes can be fitted with foam rubber or fibreglass insulation. Insulation reduces heat loss and also increases the water temperature by 2-4 degrees compared to uninsulated pipes — which allows you to lower your water temperature setting. If your water thermostat heater is set at 140 F, lowering it to 120 F can save roughly $500 annually.

While Vernon and B.C. may be looking forward to a fairly mild and dry winter, as some forecasters suggest, it remains just as important to prepare your home. Maintenance will protect your property over winter and pay off financially, too. You’ll be saved from expensive repairs in the long run.

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