There’s nothing quite as inviting as a warm cozy home on a cold winter’s day – until you get the utility bill. Then your heater will give you chills. As expected, the natural gas bill is much higher in the winter than it was in the fall.
For people in the northeast and midwest, heating is an absolute necessity in the winter. Without it homes would be damaged, and people’s lives could even be endangered. Since you can’t forgo the heater, the next best option is using your heater more efficiently.
Here are five ways you can stay warm while keeping your heating costs under control.
Efficient Heating Tip #1 – Have the Furnace Equipment Serviced Annually
If you only do one thing to improve the efficiency of your heating system it should be annual furnace maintenance from a professional. A heating technician can identify if components aren’t working properly and making the system less efficient. This is equally important for energy efficiency and the longevity of your equipment. Plus, professional servicing can catch an issue before it becomes a much more expensive fix.
The technician will clean up the furnace and get it in perfect working condition. Once the furnace is tuned up and running smoothly you can expect to see a 5-20% reduction in energy use. Other benefits include improved air quality, less risk of an emergency repair and peace of mind knowing there isn’t a carbon monoxide leak.
Efficient Heating Tip #2 – Keep the Filters Clean
You may recall our advice about keeping HVAC air filters clean to reduce cooling costs. The same is true for the heater. Over time HVAC and furnace filters become clogged up with the contaminants that are captured as the air passes through. When that happens the energy efficiency of your heater is going to go down.
Another thing to watch out for is furnace filters that restrict airflow. Air filters have different MERV ratings that indicate the size of particles that are trapped. The higher the MERV rating is the more the filter will capture and the more it will restrict airflow. When airflow is restricted your furnace has to work harder to circulate heated air around the house. And when the furnace works harder it has to use more energy.
When you are using the right type of air filters and cleaning or replacing them every 1-2 months in the winter you can reduce energy use by as much as 15%.
Efficient Heating Tip #3 – Check the Ductwork
If you have a two-story home, have you noticed that the upstairs feels warmer than the downstairs in the winter? Warm air naturally rises while cold air sinks, but when you feel the difference a few of the most common causes are related to the ductwork. It could be leaks that need to be sealed or imbalanced ductwork that isn’t appropriately sized. Fixing ductwork issues like these can reduce the energy needed for heating by as much as 30%.
During the annual furnace servicing the technician should check for ductwork issues. If a problem is found, usually the correction isn’t too complex. Small air leaks can be sealed with a special foil tape that’s made for ducts. If the ductwork isn’t the right size or there are holes the damaged or ill-fitting portion will need to be replaced.
Efficient Heating Tip #4 – Create a Winter Thermostat Program
Even if you’ve set up a program, it’s a good idea to give the thermostat some attention when you switch from the AC to the heater. Using a programmable thermostat is guaranteed to reduce energy use so long as it’s set up for the season. If the thermostat is still on the schedule for summer you could actually be heating your home when no one is around to feel it.
The ideal winter schedule for energy efficient heating is 68 degrees or cooler for 8+ hours a day. That will reduce heating energy use by about 10%. If you can layer on clothes and blankets to keep it cooler inside for longer that’s even better.
Efficient Heating Tip #5 – Invest in Smart Heating Equipment
You could program your thermostat to adjust the temperature for optimal energy efficiency – or your thermostat could do it for you. One of the many advantages of a smart thermostat is that it does basically all of the work for you. Programs can be set like other thermostats, but a smart thermostat can also generate a program based on your daily life or gauge when no one is around to raise or drop the temperature as needed.
Today a smart thermostat is just the start. There are also smart radiator valves that can be used to adjust the heat in a single room. The valve has temperature sensors that can measure the room temp and send more hot water to the radiator if it needs to be warmer. Just keep in mind if multiple radiators are in a room they’ll each need a smart valve to keep the temperature balanced.
Stay toasty all winter long with Verde Energy! Our green energy plans will make you feel even better knowing that your heat comes from renewable resources. Use your zip code to find fixed rate Verde Energy plans in your area.