We’re into our first week of the winter season in Texas! While we probably won’t be shoveling snow from our driveways or breaking out the salt for the sidewalk, it’s important to remember a few things. This week on the Wire, here are some tips for a Texas winter.

Check Your Fireplace Or Furnace

Fireplaces, chimneys and other heating systems are major causes of home fires, injuries and deaths each year. So, it makes sense to have them checked periodically to make sure everything is working the way it should.

In general, woodburning fireplaces/stoves and chimneys should be checked and/or serviced once a year to prevent dangerous chimney fires or problems with smoke and carbon monoxide. Chimneys can also be the source of house-damaging water leaks as heat gradually weakens bricks, mortar and flashing around roof lines.

If you have a gas furnaces and fireplaces, you’ll want to check it once a year, too. Although cleaner burning and more efficient than their wood-burning counterparts, loose or worn parts can lead to dangerous gas leaks and high levels of carbon monoxide in your home.

Maintain Your Gutters

Gutters are an important part in protecting your home. They channel rainfall on your roof away from the sides of your house, foundation and nearby landscaping. You’ll want to make sure they’re clean of leaves and other debris so they’re free to do their job. In winter, clogged gutters can freeze and cause overflow, which means water is likely to trickle down the sides of your home. If you’ve got a wood frame house, this water can make its way into the side paneling of your exterior walls, which can lead to rot and other damage. Icy gutters can also lead to damage to your roof, and the added weight of the ice can even tear your gutters away from the roof line; who really wants to rehang Christmas lights the week of?

Protect Your Plumbing

Texas is one of the few places in the USA that doesn’t see regular snowfall. One thing we are pretty experienced with is freezing rain and sleet that turns to ice during a hard overnight freeze. And when temperatures drop below freezing, our plumbing, if it’s unprotected, is at risk.

That’s because pipes, made of metal or plastic, tend to contract when they get cold. But the water in those pipes likes to expand when it turns to ice—by as much as 9%. And that can spell disaster. The most at-risk pipes are usually uninsulated, located near outside walls, attics, crawl spaces, garages and even under sinks.

Here are a few ways to protect your plumbing when the cold drops below freezing:

  • Cover exposed pipes with foam insulation or heat tape—you can find this at any hardware store.
  • During a hard freeze, let hot and cold water trickle out of a faucet in your kitchen or a bathroom. The movement and warmer temperature of the water will help prevent it from turning into ice.
  • Don’t let your home get too cold inside—experts recommend not letting it drop below 55 degrees. This will prevent pipes in other lower-risk areas from freezing up.
  • Disconnect water hoses outside and shut off any valves or spigots that supply them. And they’ll need to be drained, too.
  • Shut off main water valve when leaving your home for extended periods and drain the system by running a faucet. This will keep large volumes of standing water that can turn into ice out of your pipes while you’re gone. Your utility company can help you find this valve if you don’t know where it is.

And as an added measure of protection, did you know you can sign up for a plumbing protection plan at Veteran Energy? It’s a great way to stay prepared for the unexpected.

Weatherproof Your Windows

Windows can be a major source of inefficiency, especially if they’re an older design. In the average U.S. home, about 30% of the energy used for heating and cooling is lost through windows. Installing new ones can get expensive, but there are some things you can do if you’ve got inefficient windows and need a solution to help save energy.

Sealing Leaks

Air leaks on and around windows are common, and this is one of the first things you should check. You can do this by purchasing a handheld thermal sensor from your local hardware store or trying the smoke test. For the smoke test, you’ll want to seal your house—shut all doors, windows, dampers and vents. Then turn on any exhaust fans you have in your kitchen and bathrooms. And finally, walk near windows with a stick of burning incense to locate air rushing in from the outside.

Once you’ve located an air leak, seal it up. Use caulking to stop air leaks on the window and frame, or replace old weather stripping that may be too worn. Larger leaks, where the window frame meets the wall, can be filled with expanding foam. You may have to remove and then later reinstall pieces of window trim for this.

Insulated Curtains

Insulated curtains are another option that can help save energy near windows. They’re usually made of several layers of different material, including a heat reflective lining, a moisture barrier and insulating foam. They’re great at helping keep heat (or cold in the summer) inside your home, and they even help reduce noise from outside.

Temporary Storm Window Inserts

Storm window inserts help block the cold outside while trapping the warm air that’s inside. They create an extra insulating layer, much like a double-pane window does. And there are lots of options to choose from on the market these days—you can even try making your own. And they’re sure to keep your home more comfortable while also helping you save energy.

You’re already enjoying low prices with 4Change Energy, so keep it up during winter by following the tips above. What are some ways you protect your home and save on energy during the winter season? Let us know and submit a comment below!

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