Etowah Senior

Mary Caldwell is shown here with some of her original creations she made for the recent Etowah Area Senior Citizens Center craft show.

I would like to thank all the seniors, vendors and other volunteers who helped make our Countdown ‘til Christmas Craft & Gift Show a huge success. We are already thinking of ways to make it even better next year.

We still have some of our arts and crafts left. We have moved them into our gift store. We would love for you to come shop and see what unique items you could purchase for your Christmas gifts. Our gift shop is open the same hours as our center.

I am a little under the weather this week, so I am republishing an article from last year. It contains some very useful information about how to prepare your home for the upcoming winter months.

It is officially autumn. We have already had some very cool days. All homeowners need to take this time also to think about planning for the upcoming winter. Seniors and those with disabilities should especially think about how to make the winter months safe and comfortable. If you have a family member who is unable to perform any of these suggestions, without a doubt they would appreciate help with this. If you are a caregiver, you should also assist in helping with this.

What is your priority during the winter months? Staying warm! You need to make sure that your home’s heating system is in good working order before the cold temperatures hit. You may have already been using the heat, but if you haven’t, now is a good time to turn it on to be sure it is producing efficient heat. It is a good decision to make an appointment with a reputable HVAC technician for an annual system inspection and cleaning to ensure your heat is running efficiently and safely on that first really cold day. If your system is unmaintained, it will use more power, which will increase your heating bill.

Another important thing to remember about your heating unit is to regularly change the filter. The U.S. Department of Energy says that replacing a dirty filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5 to 10 percent. A dirty filter will restrict your air flow, causing your system to work harder. This will cause wear and can create issues that require repairs. Also, continuous wear on your system will lower the lifespan of your unit. Anytime you can see an accumulation of dirt on the filter, it is good to change it. Just don’t wait until it is completely filthy because that means your heating and cooling system is not running at its full potential. If you or anyone else has allergies, you will want to change your filter more often.

Another thing to consider is if you have pets. Dogs and cats shed and their hair gets everywhere. That includes your filters. If you have multiple pets in your home, you will have to change your filter even more often. Another thing that will determine how often you change your filter is the type of filter you purchase. You may think that by buying a cheap one, you are saving money. But having a cheap one means you will have to change it more often. In the long run, the cost will probably be the same as buying a better quality filter. Fireplaces and chimneys are the cause of 42 percent of the home-heating fires. If you use a wood burning fireplace, the National Fire Protection Agency says that it needs to be cleaned at least once a year by a professional chimney sweeper to remove soot and debris. A dirty chimney can catch on fire and destroy your entire house. Have them check to be sure the top of the chimney has a cap with wire mesh sides to keep out birds, squirrels and leaves. Sometimes birds will build nests in a chimney that will catch on fire. Check the damper to make sure it is working correctly.

If your fireplace allows smoke in the house, then have it checked. The smoke is supposed to go out the chimney, not into the house. Also, be sure you always have a fire extinguisher close by. Keep the damper closed when not in use to prevent your heat from going out the chimney. It is best not to be used over five hours at a time. And lastly, make sure you have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

Another way to make sure you are prepared for winter is to check your windows and doors. Check the weather stripping and caulk around your windows and doors. Inspect wooden window frames, checking for rot and decay and check the panes of your windows for cracks or gaps. If you find any problems in these areas, replace or repair them to make sure they are sealed tight against the cold air. Also, keep your curtains and drapes open in the daylight to let in the warm sun and closed at night to help prevent heat loss. Also, turn your ceiling fan switch to the position that will blow the air from the ceiling down, keeping the heat that rises closer to you. There are some things that need to be done outside to get ready for winter. Winter is when seniors are most likely to fall and break a hip. To reduce fall risk in winter weather, invest in non-skid shoes or boots. Make arrangements to have the snow removed from sidewalks and driveways, if possible. Shoveling snow or even walking through heavy snow can put a strain on your heart and cause a heart attack. The best advice is to stay inside and stay warm when it snows.

In case you have to stay inside because of snow or a power outage, be sure your pantry is stocked with shelf stable supplies that you don’t have to cook. Be sure you have enough medicine for a few days. Make sure you know where the extra blankets and flashlights are. Use candles only as a last option.

Something else that needs to be done outside is making sure that the gutters are free of leaves and dirt. It is probably not a good idea for older adults to climb up on a ladder to check the gutters. Arrange for someone to do this for you. It is important because a clogged gutter can cause water to stand in it and freeze and cause the gutter to break off your house. Just remember if you are unable to do some of these repairs and inspections on your own, have a friend, family member or trusted handyman assist you. With a thorough inspection and a few repairs when necessary, you can prevent damage to your house and ensure that it will keep you warm and dry during the coming winter. We would love to see all your faces at our center.

Sue Walker is the executive director of the Etowah Area Senior Citizens Center. She may be reached by calling 423-781-7632.

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