Preparing Your Home for Cold Weather

Five Steps for Winterizing Your Heating & Water Systems

As the person who receives homeowners’ winter distress calls at Ajax Mechanical Services, Janice Sebald is keenly aware of what can go wrong—and how to avoid it.

Ajax Mechanical serves hundreds of customers in Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle Counties, caring for home and commercial HVAC, plumbing and water treatment systems, as well as humidification and snow-melt equipment. Among Ajax’s customer are a number of commercial home management companies. Property Manager Matt Vogel says that Ajax has become his “go-to mechanical company” because of their “honesty, professionalism, immediate call backs, cleanliness and the ability to get the job done right the first time and in a proper timeline.”

The proper time to prepare your home for winter, advises Sebald, is now—late September to early October. And professional help is essential. Most local readers will remember the tragic accident that occurred in Aspen in 2008 when a furnace leaked carbon monoxide (CO) and killed a visiting Denver family. Sebold cautions, “If you have a gas-fired room heater, you really need to have an inspection and have maintenance done by a pro.”

“HVAC systems contain components that, if ignored, can result in damage or poor functionality,” she adds. “The worst thing is when CO gasses are present because they are odorless. Heating equipment requires checkpoints such as filters, cleaning, a carbon check, a thermostat check, glycol (if applicable) and ventilation and all aspects of the heating system. Every year, without fail, you also should test your smoke and carbon monoxide monitors, inspect fire extinguishers, review fire escape plans and clear out old newspapers and other fire hazards. And never, ever store stuff in your mechanical room. It should never be used as a storage area.”

Five Steps to Winterizing Your Home

Here, courtesy of Ajax Mechanical, are five steps you can take to make sure your home is safe, secure and set for stormy weather.

#1 Shut Down Outdoor Faucets and Sprinklers.

“Insulating is key to maintaining the plumbing within your walls,” says Sebald. “Outside, you should remove all garden hoses and blow out the sprinkler systems. We can install a device that automatically shuts down the main water line if it detects a leak, and most insurance companies will provide a discount for installing this device. Heat tape around exposed pipes is another way to provide freeze protection.”

#2 Get a Physical for Your Furnace.

In addition to cleaning or replacing dirty furnace filters, it’s important to have a professional inspect your heating system. “We don’t recommend customers working on their own equipment simply because manufacturers have specific requirements that must be followed for the warranty to remain in place,” says Sebald. “OEM parts are generally preferred and may not be available to the general public. Sometimes a customer will look online for parts. We don’t recommend this, and we wouldn’t install those parts because our company would be responsible for the equipment. A refurbished or defective part would be unsafe and would also void the warranty.”

#3 Call a Professional

“Before hiring someone, a homeowner should always check online at the Colorado Department of Revenue,” advises Sebald. “You can see there if a business is current in its filing with the state. It’s also important to request proof of liability insurance. That covers any damages that can occur during a repair or replacement.”

“A licensed electrician is a must,” she adds. “At Ajax Mechanical, we do minor electrical repairs that are within our plumbing/HVAC parameters. Our technicians are NATE certified, EPA certified and have Master plumbing licenses as well as ACCA certifications.”

#4 Install and Check CO Sensors

Ajax Mechanical strongly recommends installing carbon monoxide sensors, and Sebald notes that CO detectors are available with different levels of sensitivity. “Again, having the system serviced regularly is key,” she adds.

#5 – Upgrade Water Systems for Comfort and Savings.

Homeowners who have a professional onsite to help with winterization may want to consider adding some new features to upgrade the home’s water system. To soften the Roaring Fork Valley’s hard water, Ajax provides a system called Ultima that is often installed in Las Vegas hotels and in Arizona homes and businesses, where the water has an even-higher mineral content than ours. To cut costs and shorten the wait time for hot water, Ajax recommends tankless water heaters. “They’re highly efficient because they only heat the water ‘on demand’,” explains Sebald. “That saves energy because the electric or gas heat doesn’t need to run continuously.”