The cold weather arriving across the United States is a good reminder to make sure your furnace is in good, working order. Heating companies get very busy responding to furnace repairs in the dead of winter and your home can get very cold, very fast if the furnace goes out. The last thing you want is a furnace blowing cold air or simply not turning on as the temperature dips in the middle of the night.
Proper maintenance is the best way to prevent emergency furnace repairs and failure at the worst possible time. Maintaining your furnace can also help reduce heating costs by making your heating system work more efficiently. These tips can help you get the most out of your furnace this winter.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat can reduce your heating bill by up to 10%. You can schedule temperature changes in your home throughout the day to reduce heat when you’re asleep or at work.
Address Air Leaks
Heat loss through leaks can add up to 25% to your utility costs every month. Leaks can allow your heated air to flow right outside or bring cold air indoors. Here are some tips for finding and stopping the leaks.
— Weatherstrip doors and windows. Don’t forget to add weatherstripping to your attic access door.
— Install foam gaskets behind your wall switch plates and outlets.
— Use caulking or spray foam to seal leaks where ductwork, plumbing, and wiring enters through soffits, ceilings, walls, and floors.
— Upgrade single-pane windows to double-pane windows, which are more energy efficient.
— Make sure your dryer vent is not covered.
— If you have a fireplace, make sure the flue damper is closed when the fireplace is not in use.
— Insulate around recessed lights. Most lights have vents opening into the attic that allow warm or cool air to escape. In many homes, recessed lights are a leading cause of air leaks.
Seal Air Ducts
The ducts in your home that distribute heated or cooled air can contribute to high energy bills when they are worn or improperly sealed. Aging duct work can cause heat loss of up to 30%, but a professional can seal the ductwork for you to reduce energy loss. You can do it yourself as well using metal tape or mastic sealant to insulate ductwork you can access. Never use duct tape to seal your ducts as it won’t last long. This can also reduce the strain on your furnace in the winter and your AC system in the summer.
DON’T Close Vents
You want to reduce heating costs, so closing vents to rooms you aren’t using seems like a great way to boost energy efficiency. While it seems as if the heated air should just redirect to the rest of the house, research has found that closing your registers actually increases energy use.
This is because shutting your vents does not prevent air movement. Your rooms have heating vents along with cold air returns. Just as closing a door can impact air flow, closing a vent puts pressure on the closed-off room. This also causes your return duct to pull cold air from cracks in the windows and doors. The warm air will even keep pushing against the closed vent and start to leak out of improperly sealed ducts or get forced into floor cavities.
Closing too many vents can even put strain on your furnace and damage the system. Today’s high efficiency furnaces are designed to operate with a specific square footage with full-speed fans. If you close vents, you create unexpected blockages that force the furnace to work harder. This can shorten the life of your furnace.
Replace Your Air Filters
When your furnace filter gets clogged with dander, dust, and debris, it reduces airflow. This forces your furnace to work harder. It also increases wear and tear on your furnace and means you will need to pay for furnace repairs more often.
A clean air filter reduces the amount of energy your furnace needs to operate to reduce your heating costs. Replacing dirty air filters is also important for indoor air quality. It’s estimated that the air in our homes is 5x more polluted than outdoor air. Your furnace air filter works to reduce contaminants that circulate throughout your home. This is especially important for allergy sufferers as the filter removes pollen, pet dander, mold spores, dust, and bacteria.
Your air filter should be checked every month. While manufacturers usually recommend replacement every 3 months, you may need to replace it more often during the winter, especially with pets. Always change the filter whenever it’s dirty. It may also be time to replace the filter if you notice a dusty odor in the home or more dust around the home, especially around air vents.
To replace the furnace filter, turn off the furnace and remove the filter inside the return air vent or furnace itself. There will be an arrow on the new filter that indicates the direction if airflow.
Consider an Upgrade
If you have an aging furnace that seems to cost more and more money to operate — or you seem to need furnace repairs every season — it may be time for a new system. Older furnaces operate in the 55% to 70% range but newer models can reach 95% efficiency. While there is an upfront cost to installing a new furnace, it can dramatically reduce heating costs for years to come.
Schedule a Furnace Tune-Up
Your furnace should be inspected every year. The best time to do this is before the heating system, but the comparatively mild winters in Las Vegas mean you can still get a tune-up mid-season. An HVAC technician will clean and adjust components that help your furnace work efficiently. The inspection will also check for problems that should be repaired before they threaten your family with carbon monoxide.
Scheduling routine maintenance and repairs can extend the lifespan of your furnace and reduce your monthly bills. A furnace that’s properly maintained and repaired regularly can last years beyond a neglected furnace.