By Barbara Pierce
What will the rest of our winter be like? According to Almanac.com, our winter will be colder than usual, with the coldest temperatures in late-January to mid-February. The snowiest period will be the first half of January.
Other experts say it will be colder than normal, predicting we’ll have a rough winter.
That means it will be a tough season for health. Even an ordinary cold season poses threats to our health. Cold temperatures come with an increased risk of cardiac issues, like heart attack and stroke, as blood pressure tends to stay higher throughout the cold season.
Cold weather can have harsh effects on the respiratory system and worsen respiratory diseases. Breathing in cold air can irritate the airway and trigger symptoms like trouble breathing, coughing and mucus production.
Viruses like the flu and COVID-19 are spread more easily in the winter when we spend more time inside. Some evidence suggests that these viruses remain active longer in the winter.
In the U.S., heating our homes requires four times more energy than cooling them; warm air costs four times more than cool air! The surging costs of natural gas means that many of us will struggle to afford to heat our homes. According the businessinsider.com, we can expect a 30% increase in the cost of natural gas this winter.
Jack Spaeth, economic development specialist at HeatSmart Utica offers these tips to stay warm without running up your heating bill.
HeatSmart Utica, a campaign directed by the city of Utica, is designed to encourage home energy efficiency.
• Program your thermostat so you don’t have too big of a fluctuation.
For example, Spaeth said, “In my house, we keep the thermostat at 62 degrees at night, 68 degrees during the day. Some might prefer a higher temperature during the day, like 70 or 72.”
“In general, keep the temperature range within 6 degrees,” he continued. “Don’t go from 62 at night to 72 during the day; that’s too big of a fluctuation. At the lower temperature, everything in the house cools down, including the walls, the furniture, etc. They all cool down and they all have to heat up. If you’re heating everything up by 10 degrees, that puts a too big a burden on your furnace. Keep the range within six degrees.”
• Check for gaps around windows and door.
Gaps let warm air escape and cold air come in. You can have leakage out or in; it’s a two-way street, said Spaeth.
Once you’ve detected the air leaks in your home, use weatherstripping to seal the leaks of the moveable parts. For stationary parts, caulk is the appropriate material for filling gaps.
• Good insulation is important, stressed Spaeth.
Evaluate your home, from the top down. When your walls are insulated, the heat loss goes up to the ceiling and the roof is often where greatest heat loss happens.
• Make sure to maintain your furnace, Spaeth recommended. An HVAC Repair professional can help you repair your furnace in your home in Lakeway, TX. Learn more about what is a furnace tune-up here or better check this out.
Filters trap dust as air is drawn through the filter and into the furnace; change your filter regularly. The fresher the filter, the more efficiently your furnace runs, resulting in a lower energy bill. The general rule is to change a furnace filter at least every 90 days.
Some furnaces exhaust directly into a chimney. Make sure the chimney and the pipe that leads into it are clean.
If you’re financially able and have the yard for it, install a Geothermal heat pump that uses the relatively constant temperature of the earth as the exchange medium instead of the outside air temperature. It pulls heat from the ground, below the frost line, three to four feet down, explained Spaeth.
The temperature here stays at 50-55 degrees, around the world. When your furnace pulls air from outside, if that air is zero degrees, your furnace has to convert it to air that is 68 or 70. If it pulls it from the ground, it only has to convert 50 degrees to 68, using considerably less energy.
These systems are costly, around $25,000. However, the value of your property will go up and you’ll save on heating bills, even cutting them in half, said Spaeth.
Tips on surviving with your thermostat at a lower temperature in your house:
• Dress in layers; add mittens and warm socks, maybe a hat.
• Warm your bed with an electric blanket or a hot water bottle.
• Leave the oven open after you use it.
• Sip hot beverages or soup throughout the day.
• Keep active — clean out closets, garages, run up the stairs, etc., anything to keep active. You’ll boost your overall health and stay warm at the same time. Try to move around for five to 10 minutes every hour.
• Spend time upstairs. As heat rises, your second floor tends to retain more heat throughout the day. Setting up a home office or entertainment room upstairs may keep you more comfortable.