The leaves are falling, the nights are cooling, and suddenly it's here — home heating season. So, with our Minnesota winter fast approaching, it makes sense to ensure that you’re getting the best performance out of your heating system. Here are three ways you can increase your system’s efficiency and reduce your utilities bills this winter.
Ensure Peak Furnace Efficiency
To keep costs down, it’s important to keep your furnace in top shape. This can often be done with minor investments in maintenance, including some things you can do yourself.
- Clean or replace your system’s filters. Not only does this keep your furnace running efficiently, but it improves air quality, as well.
- Inspect all the system’s grilles and registers to make sure they’re all open, clean, and unobstructed.
- Invest in a professional furnace tune-up if you haven’t had one in the last two or three years. Besides making sure your system is operating at peak efficiency, the technician can also complete a safety check, giving you peace of mind for the heating season.
Replace an Outdated Furnace
If your furnace is older, you may want to consider replacing it — even if it’s working just fine. The reason is heating efficiency. These days, high-efficiency furnaces are rated at 92-98% efficiency. Compare that to an older furnace that may be rated anywhere from 60-80%, and you can begin to see the advantages of upgrading. It can take just a few years of energy savings to recoup the cost of a new furnace.
If you’re not sure what your furnace’s efficiency rating is, you can get a general idea by the type of chimney vent used. If you have metal vent piping leading to the chimney, your furnace efficiency is 80% or less. If you have a plastic vent (usually PVC), then you have a furnace that is at least 90% efficient.
Prevent Heat Loss
After making sure your furnace is operating at top efficiency, the next most important consideration is where and how your home loses heat. Anything you can do to prevent heat loss will improve your “home efficiency” and keep your heating bills down.
The biggest areas of heat loss are, of course, windows and doors. Not only can heat escape, but the infiltration of cold air from outside can account for more than a third of the total heat loss in your home. Make sure your weather stripping is in good shape, and consider replacing doors and windows that are old or “leak” air.
Insulation also plays an important role in retaining heat. Ceiling insulation is the easiest to add, making it the most cost-effective, as well. An area commonly overlooked, especially in older homes, is basement wall insulation. Older homes with no insulation on the block walls can lose a significant amount of heat. You may want to invest in a professional energy audit to see how your home efficiency can be improved by adding insulation (or taking other steps).
Small efforts can often give you big gains in your home heating efficiency and cost savings. Here are some more energy-saving tips for the coming season.