Winter is a costly time for homeowners, largely due to heating costs. In 2013, estimates placed the average cost to heat a home with natural gas at $679--and that doesn't include maintenance and repairs. If winter this year is extremely cold and bitter, you might feel like your furnace is burning piles of money to keep you warm.
Fortunately, while there will always be costs associated with heating your home, there are some steps you can take to reduce your financial obligation and risk. These steps tend to focus on three specific items:
- The furnace itself
- Your thermostat
- Vents and ducts in your home
Step 1: Preparing The Actual Furnace
If your furnace has a typical flat filter, you should replace it every month. For larger filters that function differently, such as HEPA filters, your directions might note a period of every three months for replacement. Regardless, you'll want to attack the winter season with a fresh filter, so try to time your filter switch with the season--even if you end up replacing it early. Then, be diligent with your replacements throughout the season. A clean filter allows air to pass more freely through it, leading to more efficiency for your furnace.
While you're doing that, it's a good idea to check your belt. To do this, you'll need to pull the access panel off of your furnace by unscrewing it first. You'll also need to switch off power to the furnace at your circuit breaker. Look for cracks in the belt itself--if there are any cracks present, consider making a call to a professional to replace the belt. That way, you won't have to make an emergency call when the belt breaks in the middle of a cold snap.
Step 2: Install/Use a Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat allows you to set the household temperature in conjunction with the time of day. If you do not have one installed in your home already, seriously consider having that done before winter--you'll save a lot of money if you do. However, the trick is to use them properly.
Remember, it's not the programmable thermostat itself that saves you money. Rather, it's the strategy you use for setting your thermostat back. Begin by setting your home temperature at 68 degrees while you're at home, and program the thermostat to run at 60 while you're away. You might have to tweak those numbers and the times to ensure that you have a warm home when you need it. That said, by going through this process, your furnace will work less--saving you money on fuel and wear on your unit.
Step 3: Setting Up Your Vents
You likely learned in elementary school that hot air rises and cold air sinks. That's why so many homeowners open their downstairs vents in the winter while they close the ones upstairs. Unfortunately, this actually decreases the energy efficiency in most homes. You'll want to make sure that all vents are open and that they are free of obstruction.
What you should do, instead of closing any of your vents, is make sure that they are clean. Most vent covers either lift off without tools or are removable with a simple screwdriver. Remove the cover and use the attachment on your vacuum to clean any dust, dirt, and hair from the vent and duct work. Then, so long as you keep them all open, you'll know your vents and ducts are working as well as they possibly can.
That's all there is to it. By focusing on these three areas, you'll be set to endure everything that winter brings in a nicely heated home. Remember, a little effort and money spent now can save a great deal of physical and financial hardship caused by an untimely furnace breakdown.
For more information, contact a local heating repair company like A Bailey Plumbing.