Along with chilly winter weather comes increased utility bills. While some of that increase is unavoidable, there are several things that can be done to minimize the overall impact and improve heating costs. Some projects will require the assistance of a contractor, but you can do many yourself for little or no cost.
- Have a heating system tuneup performed. Regular maintenance is necessary to keep your heating system running at its full potential, plus it will help improve heating costs. A trusted contractor will clean the burners, heat exchanger, air intake and blower fan. The pilot light and burner flames should be adjusted for optimum efficiency and an inspection should be done on the vent and duct systems. Safety checks should be done on all systems, including checking the levels of carbon monoxide in the combustion gases. The air filter should be cleaned or replaced during the process, though every month or so you should check the condition of the air filter yourself.
- Seal ducts. Improperly sealed and insulated air ducts can cause more than a 30 percent loss in heating efficiency. Check all the joints in the ducts for air loss and seal them as necessary, using either mastic or metal tape. Inspect flexible ducting for holes, pinching, kinking and sagging. Repair or replace damaged sections and secure the ducts properly so that they don't impede airflow. Insulate all ducts, especially ones that run through unheated areas such as a crawl space or attic. Clean air ducts and registers in each room to facilitate better airflow, improve heating costs and increase indoor air quality.
- Check insulation levels. Your floors should have at least R-30 and the walls should be rated R-19 or above. The most important area is the attic, however, since heat rises. Make sure you have at least R-30 in the attic, or even better, R-40 to R-50. This can be done with a combination of insulations, including spray foam and fiberglass batts. Make sure there's also a good vapor barrier installed to stop any air that could move through weak spots in the insulation. Also add a reflective barrier to the underside of the roof deck to reflect any lost heat back into the attic. Consider having a professional energy audit done to improve heating costs.
- Add weatherstripping and caulk. Any drafty areas around doors and windows should be sealed. Add door sweeps to the bottom of exterior doors and use foam insulation behind the face plates of outlets and light switches. Inspect the siding, roofing and areas around external pipe and wire runs for possible leaks. Repair any siding or roofing damage and seal leaks with caulk, which can significantly improve heating costs.
- Upgrade your windows. Though it can be an expensive project, replacing old, drafty windows with modern insulated versions can help reduce utility bills by up to 70 percent, especially if the old windows are single-pane.
- Install a programmable thermostat. Program the unit properly so it lowers the temperature by up at least 10 degrees while you're sleeping or when you're away from the house for at least eight hours. Used correctly, a programmable thermostat can dramatically improve heating costs.
- Install insulated drapes. These drapes can help stop heat loss around windows. Open the south-facing drapes on sunny days to take advantage of free solar heating. While redecorating, consider moving any furniture that blocks radiators or heating registers to ensure optimum movement of heated air.
- Use ceiling fans. The buoyancy of heated air forces it to rise. A ceiling fan, used in the clockwise direction at a low setting in the winter, helps to recirculate the air, improving comfort without raising the thermostat.
- Turn down your thermostat. Wear some extra clothes and reduce the temperature. For each degree you lower the thermostat, you could improve heating costs by up to three percent.
- Consider using a humidifier. During the winter, especially with a forced air system, the heated air can become dry. Adding moisture to the air with a humidifier can make it feel warmer than it actually is, much like a hot day during the summer is worse with high humidity.
These projects are a good starting point to improve heating costs, as well as summer cooling costs. To increase your home's efficiency even more, consult our HVAC experts at Thermacon Service Company, Inc. We serve Beaumont, Port Arthur, Orange, southwest Louisiana and the surrounding areas.