Blowing Hot and Cold: Heating and Cooling Systems

Learn how to properly care for your heating and cooling system with these tips.

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Fire it up!
Who can resist the lure of a crackling fire? Know how to use fires safely for warm good nights by following these tips:

Practice safe burning. In an open fire, improper burning practices can encourage formation of creosote-a highly combustible coating that is deposited inside chimneys during fireplace use. Creosote build-up creates a risk of chimney fires. Guard against this by burning only dry, seasoned wood, allowing adequate air circulation, and sticking to small, hot fires. It is also a good idea to have chimneys professionally inspected and cleaned at least once a year.

Maintain woodstoves. Woodstoves can be freestanding or designed as inserts to existing fireplaces. They increase energy efficiency when burning wood as a heat source. Be sure that household woodstoves are installed properly, and use them according to instructions. You'll need to know how to properly load wood, empty ash pits, and clean a household woodstove unit; the product manual, manufacturer, or stove installer should provide instructions for safe and efficient use.

Dispose of ashes safely. Ashes generated by woodstoves or fireplaces may appear to be cool — but many a house fire has been started by improper disposal of fireplace ashes. Ashes retain their ability to kindle fire for several days, so use great care when disposing of them. When cleaning a fireplace, place the ashes in a metal container, moisten them, and cover with a metal lid. Never use a paper bag to store or dispose of fireplace ashes. Use only a whisk broom to collect ashes from the fireplace — never use the vacuum cleaner around ashes. Keep the discarded ashes in the can, tightly covered, for at least four days.

When selecting a disposal site, avoid wooded areas. If disposing of ashes in a yard or flower bed, be sure to remove all leaves or dry vegetation from the disposal area, and be sure it is located well away from wood fences or furniture. Tilling ashes into the top layer of soil will decrease the danger and increase the benefit to garden plants.

Reduce home heating costs
Baby, it's cold outside — but home heating makes up the lion's share of household energy use. Beat winter's chill and lower bills with these tips:

Get with the program. Programable thermostats are front-line fighters in the war against wasted energy. Set them to lower temperatures at night and while the family is away from home for best energy savings.

Let breezes blow. Furnace filters reduce dust, but left to molder, they can strangle free flow of air to the heating unit. Each month, clean filters-or replace disposable ones-to keep air circulating efficiently.

Cover up to stay cozy. Stop heat loss through windows by closing drapes, shades, or blinds when possible. A rolled towel, or custom-made "draft dodger" blocks cold air from beneath doors when snuggled up against the door jamb

Tune in to tune-ups. Regular maintenance is a must for cost-effective home heating. Seasonal visits from maintenance technicians will keep furnaces tuned — and spot any costly problems early, while they're easy to repair.

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Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited

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