10 TEN MUST DO’S TO PREPARE YOUR HOME FOR WINTER Preparing yourself ready for winter is a snap. Gloves? Check! Scarf? Check. But readying your home for a long, cold season is another story. So, until someone invents something you can put around your house when it gets cold, there’s some organizing to do. We’ve got the tips to help you.
1. Re-commission and prepare your heating equipment
If you de-commissioned your fireplace or heating equipment during the warmer months then now is the time to open everything up and perform some basic checks. It is best to refer to your user manual if you need advice. Most of these are online now.
2. Start to purchase and store wood so you can burn right
It is important to burn dry, seasoned wood. Wet wood is a problem for your health, your pocketbook, your fireplace and your family’s safety. Wet wood creates a lot of smoke and burns inefficiently, meaning the heat literally goes up in smoke. Wet wood and the “wet” smoke create creosote which can quickly build up in your flue. Creosote is flammable and can lead to a flue fire. Buy an inexpensive moisture meter (we have these in stock) to test the wetness of your wood before burning. Wood should only be used if the moisture content is 20 percent or less. We recommend that you start preparing to purchase, split, stack and cover wood so that it is properly dried to burn. Not all wood is the same. Softwoods need six months to dry and hardwoods need at least 12 months. Garbage, plastic, treated lumber, and driftwood should never be burned. They emit toxic fumes and particles.
3. Conduct a safety check on your fireplace like this….
- Check latches, hinges, gaskets and fire rope. Don’t use your fire if any of these are loose or damaged. Request a service or inspection.
- Check internal components for damage and wear. Vermiculate and fire bricks should be checked for cracks and wear. Check for moisture damage (especially if you haven’t used your fireplace for a while). Without these in good order you can overheat and damage your wood stove.
- Remove the baffles. — Clear any debris that may have accumulated.
- Check the flue is clear of any blockages (birds nests, creosote etc.)
- If there is obvious build up of soot, ash or debris above the flue baffle(s) (these can be found in the upper part of the firebox). Use a torch if necessary. Arrange for the chimney to be swept, preparing correctly for Winter use.
- To refresh painted finishes a touch up spray is available. Graphite paste or even spray and cook is good for treating cast iron.
4. Book a fireplace service and chimney sweep with a professional
A clean chimney provides good draft for your wood-burning appliance and reduces the risk of a chimney fire. Before you burn your first log, make sure your fireplace (or any heating appliance burning gas, oil, wood or coal), chimney and vents are clean and in good repair. That will prevent chimney fires and prevent carbon monoxide from creeping into your home. Also important is to check your user manual for warranty requirements. Most heating appliances, much like your car, have strict servicing requirements to maintain warranties. Email us to book your service today.
5. Check safety distances to combustibles
During summer months you may have moved furniture, hung new curtains or used your fireplace to store things. Check the area around your wood stove and clear it of any obvious combustible materials. Also check your wood stove ash tray (a number of clients have accidentally burned their fire gloves which have been stored here in summer).
6. Use “upside down” fires to start your fireplace
A successful fire initially requires plenty of kindling to establish a hot firebox and warm the chimney to aid flue performance. The best way to achieve this is to build an “upside down” fire. This means putting 3 – 6 larger logs as a base, a further 3-6 split logs on top of these at right angles and then finally a bunch of kindling. The kindling burns quickly, heats up your flue pipe and causes a pressure differential. This means your fire starts to draw properly, smoke will escape up the chimney rather than into your home. This also means your wood stove will warm up correctly and so not suffer thermal shock.
7. Check fire extinguishers
Keep a Class A fire extinguisher on hand. Make sure everyone knows where it is and most importantly check it is full, in good working order and that your whole family knows how to use it.
8. Install safety equipment
If you have an open fireplace then consider installing a smoke alarm. For gas fires ensure you have carbon monoxide detectors installed in the proper locations in your home, and test them regularly. Preparing for emergencies is one thing but preventing them is better wouldn’t you agree?
9. Check all vents and fresh air vents
If you have sealed off vents in summer to prevent moisture build up then open these up and check they are clear and clean. Consider vacuuming these out. Open and check your fresh air vent if you have one of these. It would have been installed to ensure correct pressure differentials are created in your home for proper heat distribution.
10. Reverse Your Ceiling Fans
If your ceiling fan has a reverse switch, use it to run the fan’s blades in a clockwise direction after you turn on your heat. The fan will produce an updraft and push warmer air down into the room (remember, hot air rises). This is especially helpful in rooms with high ceilings — and it might even allow you to turn down your thermostat by a degree or two for greater energy savings.