Fall is officially here. For many, in addition to the appearance of pumpkin-spiced everything, this signals the end of the cooling season and in a couple of weeks, the first time you’ll turn on your heat. There are a number of things to check before you fire up your long-dormant furnace.
Schedule a maintenance call for your boiler, furnace and other heating systems. Regular cleaning, calibrating and maintenance can make a big difference in your monthly bills. Dirty coils, dusty ductwork or controls that have been bumped could affect the efficiency of your machines, especially if they have been sitting idle for months. If you use a wood stove, have the pipe or chimney cleaned. Many house fires start in the chimney.
Replace or clean your HVAC system’s filter. Most filters should be changed monthly, but we all know not many people actually change them every time the calendar flips. A clogged air filter can cause your HVAC system to use up to 15% more energy. Changing the filter could save you more than double the cost of the filter in just the first month. Keeping it changed every month is one way to ensure your home’s heating system is running at peak efficiency.
Check Vents and Returns. Over the course of the spring and summer, items may get shifted and block the vents or returns. The duct system in your home is carefully designed to ensure maximum airflow throughout the house. Blocking a vent or return not only means that particular room isn’t getting the heating it needs, it also means all that warm air is going to other rooms in your house. Most houses have only a single thermostat. If it isn’t getting proper air-flow, your thermostat may read the home’s temperature as 68, when really most of the home is much, much warmer.
Weatherize your home. The average home in the United States leaks air at a rate equivalent to a four-foot by four-foot hole in the wall. Imagine trying to heat your house with two of your windows completely missing! Weatherizing your home could save as much as 60% on your heating bills. Here are some quick and easy things to do to seal some of those holes.
Add weather stripping to the inside of your attic access. The vast majority of the heat loss in a home occurs through the roof. If you’ve already insulated your attic, take a moment to seal around the access panel and make sure it fits tightly. If warm air can bypass all the insulation in your ceilings, that is just wasted effort!
Caulk around holes where wires and cables enter your home. Often, cable installers, electricians, and telephone companies don’t seal the holes they drill in your house. Injecting some quality silicone outdoor caulking into those holes can save big!
While you have the tube of caulk out, check around the edges of the windows. Many times, the caulking the seals the window to your house (Not the actual sash part that opens, where the window frame meets the house.) is old and cracked. Spending a few minutes to remove the old, worn out, cracked caulking and add in a fresh seal can stop significant drafts. Afterward, be sure to check the inside, where the window frame meets the interior wall as well. Much of the heat lost through windows doesn’t go through the glass at all, it finds its way around the window.
Check the weather stripping around exterior doors. If you can see daylight through your door, precious heat can escape! A roll of foam weather stripping only costs a few dollars and takes just minutes to replace, but can save you a significant amount on your heating bills.
Watch the weather. During the fall, the outdoor temperature can fluctuate as much as thirty degrees in a single day. It’s not uncommon for it to be in the upper seventies in the afternoons and in the fifties at night. If you know it’s going to warm up while you’re away, turn the furnace off and allow the sun to warm your house for free! If you have east-facing windows, open the curtains when it is sunny but cool. Close them to help hold the heat in when the sun isn’t shining. Sunlight streaming through a well-insulated sliding glass door could raise the temperature of a room by fifteen or more degrees without using any electricity at all. If there is a stone or concrete floor on the inside of that sliding door, warming the floor can save much of that energy for after the sun goes down.