Home and garden checklist

Published: Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 9CALIFORNIA LIFE

HOME CHECKLIST

With the first chill of winter, folks switch on the furnace for the first time in months – only to discover they may need a new furnace.

Furnace shopping can be a daunting task. But a new energy-efficient model also may help cut down on heating bills.

"When I talk to people that are experiencing higher than expected heating bills, they are always surprised when they think back to how old their furnace actually is," said David Coulson of Napoleon Fireplaces. "For furnaces 10 to 15 years old, you are looking at older, inefficient technology that is sucking the money right from your wallet."

Coulson recommends that anyone looking to replace an old, inefficient furnace first explore all of their options. Consult with a professional manufacturer or installer to find the right fit for their home.

"If you are looking to replace an older one, it's really important to educate yourself before buying," he added. "Choosing the right furnace will save you money in the long run and keep the house at the perfect temperature."

Here are Coulson's tips for furnace shoppers:

• Size matters: Have a professional installer examine the size of your house, then determine the size of the furnace necessary for the space. A furnace that is too large leaves gaps in temperature as it turns on until it overwhelms the thermostat, Coulson said. The house ends up cooling down until the next cycle and creates an inconsistent temperature. A furnace that is the right size for the space will be able to better regulate a constant temperature.

• Fewer emissions: New furnaces are designed to be energy and environmentally conscious as well as costing less to operate. For example, Napoleon's Hybrid 150 uses three different fuel sources – wood, oil and electric – and switches automatically if the furnace runs out of wood to keep the house evenly toasty without losing heat.

• Look beyond price: Always be sure to ask a professional installer, contractor or reputable salesperson about annual operating costs for different models. Paying a little more up front may mean savings for a decade.

• Get the right documentation: Any reputable installer or manufacturer will be sure to not only include the purchase agreement and warranty information but also explain exactly what you are getting, Coulson said. If you feel unsure about anything, don't be afraid to ask.

• Installation and maintenance: This is a job for a trained professional. Incorrect installation can severely affect efficiency and your heating bill as well as create a major safety hazard. Regular maintenance – annually in the fall – will keep the furnace performing like new.

For more tips or information on furnaces, click on www. napoleonheatingandcooling. com.


GARDEN CHECKLIST

Be ready for the big chill before it burns your precious plants.

Colder nighttime temperatures put gardeners on frost alert. Sacramento's average annual first frost date is Nov. 14, which means that killer cold can strike at any time.

Here are some reminders for coping with frosty nights:

• If temperatures below 32 degrees are forecast, water your plants lightly in the late afternoon or early evening before frost hits. Wet soil holds more heat than dry soil and this also raises the humidity level. Well-hydrated plants can cope better with frost "burn," which results from moisture being pulled out of the foliage to protect the main trunk and roots.

• Pull back mulch away from plants so the ground can radiate any stored heat.

• If overnight frost is expected, move potted plants to protected areas indoors or onto a covered patio.

• Cover sensitive plants before sunset; that helps capture any ground heat under the covers. Cloth sheets or blankets work better than clear plastic and can increase the temperature 5 degrees. Allow a little room for air circulation under the cover; that helps keep in warmth. Remember to remove the covers by mid-morning or risk suffocating the plant.

• Use heat caps or row covers to protect tender vegetable transplants.

• Plants in raised beds or on mounds stay warmer than those planted in sunken areas, where cold air collects.

• String old-fashioned Christmas lights – the ones that get hot – on the trunks and limbs of citrus, avocado and other frost-prone trees and bushes. The big lights give out more heat than mini-lights. LEDs offer no heat for plant protection.

Wrap the trunks of tender trees or shrubs with rags, towels, blankets or pipe insulation.

If temperatures are expected to go below 30 degrees, harvest ripe citrus fruit to avoid potential damage.

• If a plant shows frost burn, don't cut off the damaged foliage. It will help protect the plant from further harm. Remove the burned leaves in spring.

– Debbie Arrington

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