January 29, 2016

The good news is that heating costs are down. The Energy Information Administration estimates that this winter’s heating costs will be down anywhere from $64 to $459 for the average homeowner depending on how they heat their homes. The bad news is that heating is still very expensive. Even the most energy efficient homes are expected to spend around $1,000 or more on heating this winter.

Making changes in your home could save you money. Of course, making one change alone won’t completely solve your home’s drafty, heating issues, but it is a start. To save the most money and be more energy efficient in your home, we also recommend looking at how all systems of the house interact with each other and fixing the issues at their core to maximize your savings and increase your family’s comfort. You can do this by having an energy audit peformed on your home by a professional.

In the meantime, you can implement these 7 cheap, easy ways to get the most out of your furnace this winter. You’ll save money and heat your home more sustainably – what could be better?

1. Change Air Filters

Changing the air filters in your furnace at least once every three months can save you money in the long run. You should check these filters at least once a month to see if they’re dirty and either replace them or vacuum them and put them back.

2. Tune Up Your Furnace

When tuning up your furnace, you should first check your thermostat settings, and only turn the heat up as high as your family needs to stay comfortable. The rest might be best left in the hands of an experienced contractor. They’ll make sure that all electrical connections are tightened and safe, will lubricate the system, check your gas connections and take a look at your air filters to ensure that your furnace is running at peak efficiency.

3. Turn Down Your Water Heater

One of the greatest causes of wasted energy isn’t actually the furnace - it’s the water heater. The thermostat on your water heater likely goes much higher than you’d ever realistically need it to go. Most manufacturers set the thermostat at 140 degrees by default, but by turning it down to 120 degrees you can save energy without noticing the difference.

4. Check Your Windows and Doors 

The older your windows are, the more likely they are to leak air and make your furnace work harder to keep your family comfortable. Doors are the same way.

If there are windows in your home that don’t open or that you don’t open often, cover them with window film. If you aren’t using them, there’s no harm in covering them up. You can also weatherstrip your windows to stop warm air from escaping. Additionally, by leaving your windows open during the day, no matter how cold it is outside, the sun can actually help warm your home.

Take a look under the threshold of your door: can you see daylight? If so, then you can be certain that warm air is escaping. To solve this issue, take a screwdriver and raise the threshold to the point where most of the daylight is blocked out, but the door can still easily open and close. Adding weatherstripping can also prevent air leakage.

5. Check Your Ducts

Make sure that your air ducts aren’t working against you. Blockage is a major source of wasted energy, but it’s not too difficult to detect. Turn on your heat and wait for the fan to blow before checking your vents for airflow. If airflow is slow, check to see that your filters aren’t clogged and the grill cover is not blocked. Improper sealing of your ducts can also lead to leakage. 

6. Insulate Your Electrical Boxes

You might not realize it, but poorly insulated electrical boxes are notorious for letting cold drafts into your home. You could pay to re-insulate them, but it’s much easier to seal gaps with caulk or sealant and cover the outlet with a foam gasket.

7. Don’t Rely On Your Furnace Too Much

If you’re truly concerned about saving money, then don’t work your furnace any harder than you need to. The best thing you can do for yourself is to think about the savings and invest in some rugs to cover bare floors, some thick blankets and sweaters and a nice pair of slippers. If you keep warm without overtaxing your furnace this winter, then these small purchases will easily pay for themselves.

If you are looking to improve the overall comfort of your home for years to come, it may pay to look into other ways to winterize your home and save money looking at the house as a system.

Maurice Sheehan founded Central Heating & Cooling of Buffalo, NY in 1993 to provide a higher standard of HVAC service to Western New York. Central’s technicians include BPI-certified building analysts, heating specialists and more. We’re proud to be rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau.