Keeping your radiators and heating vents clean

The arrival of winter often means higher energy bills, since you'll rely on a heating system to keep your home comfortable and avoid frozen pipes. Naturally, you'll want to heat your home as efficiently as possible to minimize this expense.

Programming a thermostat, lowering the temperature, and other strategies will all keep your heating costs from getting out of control. Another easy way to improve the heating system's efficiency is to clean off your radiators or heating vents.

Dirt and dust will accumulate on your home surfaces over time, and the radiators and vents are no exception. The home efficiency resource Modernize says this buildup will act as an insulator on radiators, inhibiting the heat exchange and between the hot water or steam in the radiator and the air in the room.

The presence of dust or dirt in the heating system can also decrease the air quality in your home. The magazine Real Simple says these contaminants can be thrown into the air by the flow of hot air, causing you to suffer from sneezing bouts, itchy eyes, and other ailments.

You can clean your radiators and vents as often as you like, but frequent cleanings will do a more efficient job of keeping the heating system efficient. Modernize recommends cleaning every week. Real Simple suggests that you might be able to get by with two cleanings a year.

Before you work on a radiator or baseboard heater, make sure it is not too hot. You may want to turn off the individual radiator or turn down the thermostat before doing the work.

When cleaning radiators, take steps to protect the nearby surfaces. Lamprey Energy, a company in North Hampton, New Hampshire, says you can put down newspaper underneath the radiator and along the wall behind it.

A strong air flow may be sufficient to remove most of the dust or dirt. A can of compressed air or even a hair dryer can do the trick.

Once you have dislodged this material, you can simply vacuum it up. A thin nozzle or brush attachment can also be used on the radiators, as well as the fins of a baseboard heater.

While a vacuum may be able to clean some of a baseboard or ceiling vent, you may need to use a tool with a longer reach. Real Simple says a crevice tool or duster will let you swab out the duct leading to the vent, keeping the dust from entering the room.

You can also give the heating elements a quick wash with soap and water. After you remove the vent covers to clean the ducts, you can scrub them off. Modernize says wiping down a radiator with water is often sufficient for removing any lingering dust.

Be careful about the materials you use. Lamprey Energy says abrasive cleaners can damage the material used for the radiator's finish.

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