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HUNKERING DOWN: Do’s and Don’ts for Winter ~ By Bob Hardina

Do’s & Don’t for Winter – For many years we would get together for the last visit of the summer to my grandparent’s home in Wallingford, Vermont. As that final weekend drew to a close we would begin the annual ritual of “Hunkering Down.”  We would close down the second floor of the house, bank the perimeter of the house with hay and plastic and get the last load of wood into the basement.  The storm windows would be hung and the parlor would be closed off for the winter. Doors would be closed and the space under the doors sealed with draft dodgers, those fabric strips filled with sand.  For the winter, grandma and grandpa would occupy their bedroom and bathroom, the dining room and the kitchen.  If we returned for Christmas the second floor of the house would be opened again for kids to sleep, dormitory style under piles of blankets and quilts.  By this time we hope that you have performed your own “hunkering down” ritual. If not, we suggest the following.

Perform a windy day “walk around” to check around baseboards and windows for air leaks.  Seal them up.

Ignore the public service announcement to leave a faucet dripping on cold nights.  Dripping faucets may keep water lines from freezing but you run the risk of freezing the drain line.  To keep water lines from freezing eliminate any drafts that may blow on them.  Keep kitchen cabinet doors open to allow air to circulate.  Don’t put a light bulb under the kitchen sink.  It’s better to take the fan you use during the summer and direct the air flow to the piping under the kitchen sink or bathroom vanity.   If you prefer to burn wood, resist the temptation on the coldest of days.  Wood stoves and fireplaces will prevent your boiler from running leading to potential freeze ups.  On those bone chilling days, let your heating system do what it should and run.

Air leaks where vertical walls meet the floor are common in older houses.  If you finally get tired of winter and opt for a week or two in a warmer climate, turn the heat in your house down slowly, especially if you have a hot water baseboard heating system.  If you pack the car and turn the heat down when you leave, no water will circulate in the baseboard heating units.  The wind will blow and the baseboard piping will develop an ice block.  It only takes a few minutes for the ice to block the flow of water. On a cold windy day, your heat distribution system could be frozen before you get to the end of the turnpike in Kittery.   We’ve seen it happen more than once. There is a lot of excellent information available on the internet.  Search for, “Make your Home Winter Ready.”  You’ll find a wealth of information.

Hunkering down is a great way of experiencing the “Three C’s” of winter: Enhance your comfort, save your cash and avoid a catastrophe.

Winter well friends.

7+ Must Do’s to keep your Heating System Running Efficiently & your Family Safe this Winter

If you would like to keep your heating system running efficiently this winter, make sure to do the following:

1.) If you aren’t already on an automatic maintenance program, call ASAP to schedule an annual cleaning.


2.) Remove flammable items that may have been stored next to the furnace or boiler during the summer months, for example: weed whackers, lawn mowers & gas cans.


3.) Change/clean your air filter regularly, especially during heavy use seasons. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool resulting in a waste of energy.  A clean filter will keep dirt and dust out of your system, will help it to run efficiently and  reduce the need for expensive repairs.


4.) Make sure that your thermostat programming reflects your family’s current schedule. This will help you reduce energy costs. Make sure to adjust the clock on a programmable thermostat after the time change or your program will be off by an hour.thermostat


5.) Check your chimney to make sure there are no cracks or loose bricks.


6.) Remove window AC units, and cover outside AC units to minimize damage from winter weather and debris.


7.) Install a carbon monoxide detector next to your sleeping area.


Some Things to Avoid….



DON’T wait for the first cold night to turn on your heating system for the first time. Test your heater for a few minutes while it’s still warm out (like in early September), to ensure that it will work well on the first cold day.


DON’T try to turn on the heat while the thermostat is still set in AC mode. Just setting the dial above room temperature won’t activate the heat if the system is still in AC mode.


DON’T cover outside AC units with plastic. Plastic traps moisture and can lead to rust and deterioration. Instead, use a cover specifically designed for outdoor AC units.


DON’T assume that because you have a carbon monoxide detector, you don’t need to schedule a furnace inspection. A carbon monoxide detector should be a second line of defense, not a substitute for annual service.


DON’T turn off the heat when it’s cold out, even if you are leaving your house for several days. Set the thermostat to at least 55 degrees so that your house stays warm enough to keep your pipes from freezing.