Falling mercury means time to check furnace

Every year, as other people go home to celebrate the holidays with their families, heating contractors are working late.

For whatever reason, furnaces tend to break down on the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.

"I really don't look forward to Christmas Eve personally," Masterworks Mechanical owner Dave DeRose said.

But by checking furnaces early, homeowners could give heating contractors such as DeRose a good Christmas.

It snowed most of the day Friday. Although the snow didn't accumulate at low elevations, it brought a reminder to winterize homes and check furnaces before the temperatures get very low.

DeRose recommends checking furnaces in June. Those who are running a little late should be sure to check their furnace before the mercury drops to O degrees Fahrenheit.

Do-it-yourselfers can check to make sure furnaces are firing correctly, the fan motors are clean, and can change the furnaces' filters. The last item DeRose called a "big issue."

Most heat contractors and plumbers will check these things for a fee, he said.

For those planning to go on vacation during the winter, it's all the more important to make sure the furnace isn't going to break down. Although the air isn't cold enough to freeze water pipes now, the case will be different in January. And nothing ruins a vacation like returning home to find all the pipes broken and 6 inches of water in the basement, DeRose said.

He encouraged anyone going on vacation to have a friend or neighbor check their house at least every other day while they're away. Provide the friend or neighbor with telephone numbers to call if the furnace does quit.

It's important for homeowners to check their insulation. If insulation gets wet, that's bad. The same is true for cracks around windows and doors.

The attic is one of the coldest places in most houses. It's worth the trouble to poke one's head into the attic to make sure there are no holes in the Sheetrock and the insulation is still in good condition, DeRose said.

"Common sense things are really your best investment," he said.

Covering windows with plastic is effective, but it's not as good as a quality storm window.

Homeowners are also reminded to winterize their water meters. Homeowners are financially responsible for their water meters and the water line from the main or curb stop to their homes and any damage done to these components.

It could cost a homeowner $155 to $350 to replace a residential water meter. Larger water meters could cost up to $2,500 to replace.

Representatives from the City of Craig say the best method for winterizing water meters is to use heat tape. Wrap the heat tape around both the meter and pipes in the meter pit and fill the pit with home insulation.

Another method is to pack the pit with insulation up to the lid. When the forecast is for extreme freezing temperatures, let a small stream of water run from an inside water faucet.

Most important, be sure a meter pit is sealed from all cold air. Water lines under a trailer must be given extra protection.

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