Furnaces: Get The Chill Out
Trying to keep your home comfy while preventing your utility bill from going through the roof can be quite a balancing act – especially as energy prices soar to new heights.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a whopping 44 percent of the average American utility bill goes for heating and cooling. Clearing, this figure is less for more energy efficient homes and more for drafty homes with gas-guzzling furnaces. The notion that you can enjoy comfort and a low utility bill without taking additional steps to ensure these conditions is wishful thinking.
No matter what kind of heating system you have in your house, you can save money and increase comfort by properly maintaining and upgrading your equipment. But remember, an energy-efficient furnace alone will not have as great an impact on your energy bills as using the “whole-house” approach. You may have a top-of-the-line, energy-efficient furnace, but if the ducts leak and are not insulated, and your walls, attic, windows, and doors are not insulated, your energy bills will remain high.
Thus, by combining proper equipment maintenance and upgrades with appropriate insulation, weatherization, and thermostat settings, you can cut your energy bills and greatly improve comfort – both in your home and pocketbook!
First things first. Regardless of the type of heating system you have, keeping it in tip-top operating shape is job one. Replacing a dirty filter is one of the simplest and most obvious maintenance tasks. Clean or replace the filter monthly during the heating season. Depending upon the filter style, a new filter can cost from one to five bucks, but can reduce your heating bill between 1 and 4 percent. Moreover, a clogged filter can reduce airflow and thus the efficiency of the furnace.
On older furnaces, a loose fan belt that drives the blower is a common energy waster. A furnace that makes a screeching sound when it kicks on is a sure sign or a loose or deteriorated fan belt. To inspect, adjust or replace the fan belt, simply remove the furnace front panel to expose the belt. Depress it with your finger; it should give no more than an inch – ½ to ¾ inch is normal. Use a wrench to loosen the fan motor adjustment bolt(s) and move the motor away to tighten the belt, closer to loosen it. These steps can also be used to replace a worn or damaged belt.
Are you heating your attic or crawl space? Crushed, deteriorating or damaged ducts are a tremendous source of wasted heat. Annually inspect the condition of the ducts – especially where sections are joined. Have a furnace repair contractor similar to the ones that handle Furnace Repair Services Minster OH residents trust to fix or replace damaged sections and ensure that all joints are airtight using a metal duct tape. This metal reinforced tape is stronger than the traditional fabric duct tape.
Are some rooms too hot or too cold? Try adjusting the dampers at the registers (adjusting them closed in rooms that are too hot and opening them in rooms that are too cold). If your system has them, you can control the amount of air going through a warm-air duct by adjusting the dampers located within the ducts.
Perhaps your furnace needs a boost – a booster fan, that is. Booster fans can be used at either the register, within a duct, or at both locations. A register booster fan, found at most hardware stores for $25 to $50, is installed in place of the standard register cover. The fan is designed to kick in when it detects a small amount of warm air coming from the furnace.
If that doesn’t do the trick and you need more horsepower, consider installing a low-wattage in-duct booster fan. As the name implies, this booster fan is installed in the duct and is usually wired to the main furnace blower fan to kick on at the same time. It can also be wired to a separate thermostat or to a manual switch when more air is needed in a particular room. An in-duct booster fan will set you back a bit more that the register-mount model. Expect to pay between $200 and $500 for professional heating installation.
Before running off to the hardware store or calling in a contractor, you might be able to take the chill off by simply moving a piece of furniture. Often, the return air duct (the duct that draws air into the furnace) and/or the register (the return air supply through which heat is delivered) are obstructed by a piece of furniture or heavy drapes prohibiting each from doing an efficient job. Making sure there is ample clearance in front of each of these registers can solve this. Plastic air deflectors can also be installed at locations where drapes or other window treatment impair the performance of supply registers.
There are a host of other steps that you can take to improve comfort and energy efficiency.
- Cut down on drafts by caulking and/or weather-stripping around windows and doors.
- Check the condition of your insulation. Do you have enough and is it in good condition? Compressed insulation looses its value. Many utility companies offer a free energy audit that uses infrared technology to identify heat loss.
- Installing a setback thermostat will give you heat when you most need it and shut the system off when no one is at home.
- Turn down the thermostat. Turning the temperature down just one degree can reduce your heating bill by 2 to 3 percent. Thus, turning the thermostat down from 72 to 68 can reduce your heating bill by up to 12 percent. Set the thermostat for 62 degrees at night or if you’re at work all day.
- Close the fireplace damper when the fireplace is not in use.
- Vacuum vents, registers and have the furnace and ducts professionally cleaned.
- Install decorative ceiling paddle fans and run them in the reverse direction to circulate hot air trapped at ceilings.
- Open window coverings to allow sunshine in and to create natural air currents. Be sure to close them at night.
Finally, don’t forget that one of the best ways to take the chill off is by throwing on a sweater. And chances are good that it won’t cost you one red cent.
For more home improvement tips and information search our website or call our listener line any time at 1-800-737-2474! All you need to do is leave your name, telephone number and your question.