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Tips for preparing your home for cold weather

Soon, more homes across Tennessee will start turning on their heating systems. Technicians said there are some things homeowners should pay attention to.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It’s about that time of the year when many people start turning on the heating systems at home and technicians said there are some things to pay attention to as you turn on the heat.

The first piece of advice from experts is the sooner you turn on the heat, the better.

“I would try the heat early on. Don’t wait until it’s really cold. When it’s really cold, everybody is busy,” said Jerry Bone, owner of Westside Electric and Air.

Bone said technicians receive a lot of calls about heating systems when temperatures are low and people turn their systems on for the first time.

When you turn the heat on, experts said to expect a strange smell for a short period of time. That happens because the dust in the heating system from not being used is being burned off.

Bone said when they get a call for service, there are some things in the unit outside they check to make sure your heating system is working properly.

“We check the draft above the motor to make sure that it’s taking out the smoke. They tend to rust the summer months,” said Bone. “I look at the color of the flame, make sure it’s not rolling out of the unit, and make sure the heat exchange is good. This is on gas.”

Bone said with gas heating units, they check for airflow and carbon monoxide detectors while on service calls.

“With gas, it’s required in Tennessee to have a carbon monoxide detector on each floor. It’s very important,” said Bone.

He said for homeowners with electric heating systems, it’s good to check to make sure the system also has freon.

“If you’re low on freon in the winter, you’re going to get a high electric bill. That’s important and it gets overlooked,” said Bone. “If the freon’s real low, you’re not getting any of the efficient heat. If you got a heat pump and you set the thermostat to 72 or 73, if this is not running (condenser fan), you got a problem. Basically, it’s low on freon or you got a bad capacitor. If this is not running in the heat pump mode, it means the backup in the house is running and it’s costing you more money.”

Bone said homeowners should pay attention to their electric bills. It could be a sign of issues with a heating system.

“If it’s getting expensive, you know something is wrong,” said Bone. “If you got a heating problem, maybe the freon level or your ductwork has holes in it. That’s another sore spot. A lot of animals get around the ductwork.”

Bone also warns about using space heaters. He said electric blankets are better alternatives. Bone said homeowners can have one space heater per circuit in the home.

“The only circuit in the house that’s really equipped for a space heater will be like a kitchen circuit, a kitchen outlet or the washing machine plugs,” said Bone. “All the other outlets, the outlets in the bedroom, are for general illumination lamps and charging calculators. They are not for space heaters and they can only be loaded up for up to 50% of the capacity, so 50% of a 15-amp circuit is like 7-and-a-half amps and most space heaters draw nine and 10 amps, so people do get in trouble with space heaters.”

This story was originally reported by WSMV in Nashville.