How to protect your family and save money when heating your home this winter

How to protect your family and save money when heating your home this winter
iStock / JaniceRichard

We may not be experiencing super cold temperatures right now, but officials say now is the time to start preparing your furnace. The more you get done now, the fewer problems you might deal with this winter. The problem with that is if you wait too long and you have problems, it could be a long wait to get it fixed. That’s why heating experts say now is the time to do that routine maintenance.

We spoke to Madison Gas and Electric to see what you should be doing ahead of time. The biggest thing is your furnace. Officials say you should be scheduling regular check-ups and making any repairs as soon as a problem is discovered. Make sure that you hire an experienced professional to install or work on your furnace. It’s also important to have carbon monoxide alarms.

“You want to get your furnace checked at least every other year, certainly helpful to get it checked every year and get your heating contractor in there and they’ll make sure it’s running efficiently and running properly and they’ll do a safety check on it as well which is certainly important,” said Steve Schultz with MG&E.

By making sure you do that routine maintenance, you can help avoid tragedy. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, heating is the second leading cause of house fires. Fire officials say around 900 people die in house fires every winter.

Along with checking the furnace, they say you should also be careful when using space heaters or the fireplace. There are around 25-thousand chimney fires every year. Fire officials encourage you to have annual inspections and chimney sweeps.

Those heating bills we know can get pretty steep depending on how much of a space you’re looking to keep warm. There are some pretty easy things you can do around the house to save a bit of cash. First, heating experts encourage you to look into a programmable thermostat. That way you can stop heating an empty or sleeping home. You can also use blinds or curtains for strategic window insulation. Dryness makes the air feel colder, so you can also raise the humidity in your home.

“When you’re not at home or at night, set your thermostat back and what we found is for every degree you set it back it’s about a one percent savings in energy cost for that 8 hour period for example,” added Schultz.

If you want to save money, experts say it’s also crucial you eliminate those drafts around doors, windows or any other small entrances into your home, like the chimney. Surprisingly, experts tell News 3 you can also use a space heater in rooms you’re in the most.

Schultz says don’t neglect furnace maintenance, and replace the filter on a monthly basis. It could turn deadly, especially when it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning. The CDC says an estimated 430 people die every year from it. Gas and oil-burning furnaces produce carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, poison gas. You should also install battery-operated or battery back-up c-o detectors near every sleeping area in your home. Then be sure to check them on regular basis to make sure they are functioning properly.

“You don’t want any leaks or anything like that so you have that heating contractor come in and do that inspection and they’ll find that and make any repairs that are needed, which is really important,” said Schultz.

At high levels, carbon monoxide can cause death within minutes. Doctors say symptoms of overexposure to carbon monoxide include headaches, fatigue, and dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, and confusion.

Get your weather forecast from people who actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.