Stop Believing These Winter Maintenance Myths

Don't believe everything you hear. Understanding these seven maintenance misconceptions will help you be better prepared for winter this year.

Natural Gas Furnace Gettyimages 172806812actual_size/Getty Images

Modern Furnaces Are Maintenance-Free

This myth stems from modern furnaces requiring less maintenance than their predecessors. But “less” doesn’t mean “none.” Annual inspections by a licensed furnace technician are still essential for reliable heating performance and long furnace life.

Even if you have a newer furnace, you need to change your furnace filters as often as the manufacturer recommends.

Painting A Ceilingeyecrave/Getty Images

Paint Only at Room Temperature

This used to be true, but today’s best latex paints can be applied in temperatures as low as a few degrees above freezing. If in doubt about a particular type of latex paint, read the label. Today’s top 100 percent acrylic latex paints are usually quite cold-tolerant.

Father and son pouring motor oilJon Feingersh Photography Inc/Getty Images

One Viscosity of Motor Oil Is Fine Year-Round

This may or may not be true, depending on where you live and on the technical specifications for your vehicle. If you dig deep into your owner’s manual, you’ll often find that the ideal viscosity of motor oil differs from season to season.

While you can use one type of multi-grade motor oil all year in any vehicle, investigate changing grades if your region has more than a 100 degree spread from winter lows to summer highs.

Car RustproofingJae Young Ju/Getty Images

Modern Cars Don’t Need Rustproofing

This myth is true only if you intend to sell your new vehicle after a few years, and don’t care about the environmental costs of a vehicle that needs to be junked sooner than necessary.

Modern vehicles, in areas with harsh winters and salted roads, will develop rust. But an annual spray of rustproofing oil can make body and frame rust a non-issue. I live in the Rust Belt and my 1990 Ford F-150 remains rust-free because I spray it every year.

White fan heater on a wooden floorVera Aksionava/Getty Images

Plug-In Electric Heaters Are Efficient

Less-than-honest electric heater manufacturers promote this myth based on information presented out of context.

All forms of electric resistance heaters are usually the most expensive heat sources, so don’t be fooled by pleasant sounding nonsense like “costs only 25 cents an hour to operate!” That sounds cheap, yes. But over a month that one unit could add $100 to $180 to your utility bill while only heating one room at best.

thermostatSaklakova/Getty Images

There’s No Point in Turning Down the Thermostat

We get the logic here: When you lower the temperature in your home a few degrees overnight, your home heating system works hard in the morning to bring it back up. The thing is, you still save heating energy if you turn down your thermostat when you can.

Why? The price you pay for energy and how much energy your home loses determines the cost of heating your home. Because heat loss is proportional to the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures, the cooler your home, the less the temperature difference, and the less energy lost. That, in turn, lowers your heating bill.

Bottom line: The lower you keep your house temperature, and the longer you can keep it down, the more energy you’ll save.

Homeowner repairing furnacesestovic/Getty Images

My Old Furnace Works Fine

Just because that 20- or 25 year-old fossil still heats your home doesn’t mean it’s working fine. The main issue is efficiency. A new furnace can often pay for itself long before it’s old because modern options use so much less energy than old furnaces.

Then there’s reliability. The older a furnace, the more likely it is to suffer catastrophic failure, like a cracked heat exchanger. Better to replace a furnace when you have time to choose wisely, rather than rushing to accept whatever the furnace company offers because you need heat now.

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