(Family Features) Americans should brace for a potentially cold and wet winter, according to NOAA and this year’s Farmer’s Almanac Winter Outlook. That means now is a perfect opportunity to think about preparing your family and home for the colder months ahead.
From heating homes with a high-performing furnace or fireplace to keeping children warm and comfortable on school buses, propane can help keep families cozy this winter.
Relying on a diverse energy mix – including propane, solar and wind – can help ensure you’re prepared for whatever winter brings and reduce the strain on the fragile electric grid. Plus, propane is a stable energy source that is stored on-site and can keep homes operating during severe weather or utility power interruptions. Using propane also produces 43% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than an equivalent amount of electricity generated from the grid.
Get winter-ready with these tips from the experts at the Propane Education & Research Council:
Have Your Furnace Serviced. Proactively think about ways you can reduce the demand on your heating system. In addition to scheduling routine maintenance by a trained professional, there are a few things homeowners can do. First, open all air vents and make sure they are uncovered as blocked airflow forces the furnace to work harder.
Check the thermostat to ensure it’s working properly by increasing the temperature by 5 F and waiting to hear the furnace turn on. Consider setting the thermostat a couple degrees cooler than what might feel comfortable as doing so not only saves money but lessens the load from your furnace. Keep thermostats at 65 F during the day and 55 F at night, closing off rooms that don’t need to be heated.
Using a programmable thermostat can save homeowners as much as 10% per year on heating costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. It’s also a good idea to replace air filters every 1-3 months to help keep your furnace working efficiently and effectively.
Upgrade Your Furnace. If it’s time to upgrade your home’s climate control system, it’s a smart idea to do your homework and explore your options. There are several state and federal incentive programs to help homeowners upgrade their current systems to a clean energy option like propane. Propane is an affordable, comfortable, reliable and efficient energy source. It’s also a clean, low-carbon option. What’s more, propane-powered furnaces last 50% longer than electric heat pumps, which means a lower lifetime investment. Propane furnaces also provide warmer air than other heat sources (115-125 F), are less impacted by outdoor temperatures and produce 50% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than electric furnaces and 12% less than fuel oil furnaces.
Rethink Your Boiler System. For a home that runs on a boiler system, you can make upgrades that improve performance while providing space savings and the versatility to provide heating, hot water and even snow melt. High-efficiency propane boilers can last up to 30 years and have significantly lower emissions than those fueled by heating oil.
Take Advantage of Your Fireplace. The warm glow of a fire isn’t only comforting; it can be a practical and effective way to increase the heat inside your home. Not only do propane fireplaces offer 5-6 times the heating capacity of electric fireplaces, they’re also more energy efficient, environmentally friendly, convenient to use and easier to install than woodburning models. They also emit less soot and other emissions.
Be Efficient with Water Heating. Water heating can be a large expense, accounting for 14-18% of home utility bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Set your water heater no higher than 120 F and install low-flow shower heads or temperature-sensitive shower valves to reduce energy consumption. High-performance propane tankless water heaters can reduce a home’s energy consumption because it only heats the water when you need it, ultimately saving you money.
Find more tips to prepare your home for winter weather at Propane.com.
Before, during and after a storm, consider these key factors to help keep your family and home as safe as possible.
Have an Adequate Propane Supply
Discuss the possibility of scheduling regular winter visits with your propane supplier so you always have an adequate supply of propane in your tank. This can reduce your chances of running empty in times of heavy snowfall when roads may be inaccessible for delivery.
Create an Emergency Plan
Work with your family to create a plan in the event of a winter storm. Gather contact information for emergency services and utility companies, including your local propane supplier, along with instructions for turning off your propane, electricity and water. If you turn off your propane, contact a service technician to inspect your system before turning it back on.
Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Because carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is highly poisonous, the International Association of Fire Chiefs recommends installing a carbon monoxide detector listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) on every level of your home, including the basement. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding installation, location and maintenance.
Plan for Communications
Keep a battery-powered radio handy, so you always have a way to receive updates on weather conditions. As storms approach, it’s also smart to charge your smartphone to use as an additional tool for communication through a power outage. Purchasing a propane generator is another option to ensure you always have reliable power, even during blackouts.
Inspect Damage Cautiously
If a storm causes harm to your property, be careful when assessing damage. Downed power lines, damaged gas lines and dislodged propane tanks can lead to dangerous situations. In the dark, use a flashlight instead of candles to avoid combustion if there is a leak.
Call the Experts in Dangerous SituationsYour utility company, fire department and propane supplier have expert training to handle your home’s systems in potentially dangerous situations. Additionally, if a storm damages your property, it’s a good idea to have a qualified service technician perform a complete inspection of your propane system to look for damage.