It’s that time of year…
…The Thanksgiving through New Year’s holiday marathon.
As a homeowner facing yet another round of holidays this year, it’s essential that you prepare your home – including your HVAC system – for family get-togethers or even just the occasional holiday guest.
Remember, the holiday season is meant to be enjoyed relaxing and visiting with family and friends.
To help alleviate some of your most pressing holiday concerns, here are a few tips to follow. Obviously, as a provider of HVAC, plumbing, and electrical services, we’re going to make suggestions to improve these amenities. However, we’re also going to provide some suggestions from other experts in home decor regarding how to make your holidays a bit more comfy and secure.
First, here are some general HVAC guidelines for making your holiday more comfortable.
Make adjustments to your thermostat. Keep this one in mind if you’re hosting Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. More people in your home, plus a working oven, can really bring on the heat. This suggests that you can get away with lowering the thermostat a degree or two without sacrificing comfort.
Replace the furnace filter.Your furnace filter is going to be your best defense against allergens, dirt, debris, and other unpleasant air particles, no-nos for holiday guests.
Malfunctioning water heaters. Although it’s hiding quietly in the basement, your water heater works even harder over the holidays. It’s an essential element of your home’s plumbing system, so it mustn’t be besieged during holiday festivities. Consider turning up the heater to raise its capacity. Be sure, however, not to exceed 120 degrees F., and remember to turn the water heater back down after the holidays to avoid wasting energy.
Furthermore, if you’re hosting houseguests over the holidays, try to space out showers. This will allow time for your water heater to recover and be better able to provide hot water for everyone.
Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. House fires and carbon monoxide leaks increase dramatically during the winter months. Take a few moments to make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning and replace the batteries if necessary. Remember, carbon monoxide isn’t detectable by sight or smell.
DIY drafts and leaks inspection. A quick way to save on your energy bill and make sure your home remains warm throughout the holiday season is to do a quick draft/leak inspection. Common areas where air leaks occur are vents, baseboards, exterior corners, where your chimney meets the siding and, of course, all door and window frames.
Fun Fact: About 46 million turkeys are cooked for Thanksgiving. On Christmas, 22 million families host an encore with yet another Turkey.
Let’s now make a bit more sense of this by going from room to room.
Prepping your kitchen for the holidays
The holiday season is supposed to be jolly, but hosting a major holiday with an unprepared kitchen can put a serious drag on your merriment.
Instead of getting stressed, get organized. Your kitchen is at the heart of your holiday festivities. It’s where family members mix with neighbors and new friends, and where you’ll be cooking everything from the ham and sweet potatoes to the cookies and pumpkin pies. That’s why it’s important to clean every nook and cranny.
Make sure your kitchen is ready to take on guests and more food to prevent damage and significant cleanup later.
This would include cleaning the clutter from countertops, cleaning the microwave, prepping your oven, and cleaning out the refrigerator.
Watch out for clogged sinks, garbage disposals and toilets. Avoid draining oils and grease down the kitchen sink. When prepping a large meal for guests, it’s tempting to save time and pour the excess grease down your drain and forget about it. This can be a huge mistake as once that grease gets into your pipes and it cools, it will start to solidify and clog your drain.
Remember, too, those disposals can only handle a certain amount of food all at once. Cut large items into smaller pieces before putting them in the disposal. Avoid placing items like meat, eggshells, coffee grounds, rice, carrots, celery, fruit peels, and animal bones down the disposal.
Don’t forget to run cool water before, during and after grinding to flush the disposal. Additionally, be sure to turn the disposal on before putting food scraps in it. Just as oil and grease can clog a sink drain, they can also cause a blockage in the disposal.
Check out the dishwasher. Make sure your dishwasher will run efficiently with a large number of dishes in it. Check the drain and clean off any residue and make sure there’s no broken glass or lost utensils at the bottom.
Although not in your kitchen, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that our toilets are another place that can clog up, especially during the holidays when guests are aplenty. The most common cause of toilet clogs isn’t from overeating at the dinner table, but from flushing items that weren’t designed to be flushed through your plumbing system. Such things might include paper towels, cotton balls and swabs, feminine products, and so-called “flushable” wipes. The best way to keep these items from clogging the toilet over the holidays is to keep a wastebasket close by in the bathroom.
Cleaning out the fridge. Between stocking up on ingredients, defrosting the turkey, stashing your appetizer platters, and arranging for an approaching buildup of leftovers, you’re going to need every existing centimeter of refrigerator space. Now is the time to clear as much as possible, so take the opportunity to dig through and throw out what’s not essential. Dump that nearly empty sour cream tub, leftover Chinese platter, and rubbery celery you swore you’d eat sooner or later.
Remember, besides taking up precious real estate in the fridge, mold can transfer to the other foods. Get rid of the spoiled food and make a clean break!
Back to basics. A great holiday-ready kitchen is a well-stocked one. Make a list so that you don’t have to make multiple trips to the store. The last thing you want to do is run to the store and stand in line for one more thing as your guests wait.
Out with the old, in with the new. Why not take the opportunity to sort through everything in terms of what you really need. If you have appliances you rarely use, why not donate them? This way, you can keep your clean, minimalist kitchen even after the holidays.
Childproof your place. If there are young children in the family, then a holiday-ready kitchen also includes taking precautions.
Make sure matches, lighters, sharp utensils, household cleaners, etc. are inaccessible. Store them in upper cabinets or use child-safety latches. You might also consider setting aside a special area outside the kitchen for children to hang out. Also, make sure that kitchen plugs (as well as all other plugs) are covered.
Don’t clean your oven. Okay, this needs a bit of clarification. While “clean” is the most favorable condition for an oven to be in, we don’t recommend using your oven’s self-cleaning feature too close to the day of your big meal.The scorching hot temperatures necessary for an oven’s self-cleaning mode require the heating elements to work incredibly hard. Since the meal your hosting will probably involve using the oven for the entire day, the excessive stress could cause problems with the oven at the worst time.
Fun Fact: In 1953, due to a clerical error in ordering, Swanson had so much extra turkey (260 tons) that a salesman told them they should package it onto aluminum trays with other sides such as sweet potatoes and sell them – and the first TV dinner was born!
Transforming your living room for the holidays
Again, during the holiday season, our living rooms become heavily used and heavily trafficked with family and friends, food and drinks, pets, and presents.
Follow the furniture rules of thumb. Ever been in a living room and felt like everyone had room to walk around without bumping into things? They were probably adhering to the basic rules of thumb for furniture. For example, you’ll want to leave about 36 inches of space for walkways, giving two people enough room to pass one another. Another rule of thumb: Coffee tables should be no higher than the seat of the sofa and should be about 18 inches from the surrounding objects. End tables can sit right next to your seating.
Set up a cocoa bar. Half the fun of the holidays is enjoying sweets and treats without guilt. Setting out a hot cocoa bar to enjoy is a fun tradition that everyone can enjoy. Whip up a batch of hot cocoa and place it in a large pitcher. Then let the family and guests dress up the cocoa however they like. Place out marshmallows and maybe even some peppermint schnapps for the adults.
Fun Fact: Sarah Josepha Hale, who wrote the classic song “Mary Had a Little Lamb” convinced President Lincoln in 1863 to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, after writing letters for 17 years campaigning for this.
Prepping the dining room for entertainment
Whether you’re entertaining for the holidays or just hosting a holiday brunch with friends, your dining room is at the center of it all. With all the work that goes into planning a meal for multiple persons, the last thing you need is to stress about your décor.
Have extra and comfy seating. Comfortable chairs can make long dinners a bit more enjoyable. If you have room to spare, extra chairs are always great to have on hand should unexpected or last-minute guests arrive. Short on space? Dining chairs are versatile, so place some extra chairs in your entryway or home office. You can easily pull them into the dining space in a pinch.
Prepare a serving station. Half the challenge of entertaining is being present with your guests. Setting up a sideboard or a buffet where you can create a bar and serving station for food, appetizers, and dessert means you won’t have to dash back and forth from the kitchen.
Provide good lighting. Beyond candlelight, make sure your dining room is well-lit – overhead, along the walls, or perhaps you can strategically place a table lamp or two on a buffet or small table.
A final consideration
Picture this nightmarish scenario: You’re hosting this year for the holidays. Your house is brimming with family and friends. Everyone’s having a great time, and, suddenly, you hear a “clunk” noise in the basement. You discover that the furnace just went out.
While that’s an extreme example, it has happened to families here in western Pennsylvania before. The results will definitely put a damper on the holiday celebration. True, the season is a busy one, but if you haven’t had a routine HVAC inspection recently, it’s worth squeezing it into your schedule so that you can enjoy a cozy and comfortable holiday.
Don’t get caught off-guard without the heat on during the upcoming holidays.
That’s why we invite you to give the HVAC professionals at J&A South Park a call to make an appointment for a full system inspection. A trained HVAC professional will clean and lubricate your furnace, boiler, or heat pump. They will replace dirty filters and worn belts, bolts and seals. They will check and tighten any loose bolts and screws to reduce vibrations and noise. And they will check the ignition system and the connections. The technician will also run your HVAC system for at least 15 minutes to make sure it’s operating correctly.