Even if you save diligently for major home repairs and upgrades, a surprise malfunction and shutdown of your heating equipment can sink your savings. Extending the life of your furnace begins with appropriate use, and reducing the load you put on the equipment cuts down on wear and tear as soon as you implement the changes. Try these five tricks to reduce your heating load and save money by putting off repairs and by using less energy on a daily basis.
Order an Energy Audit
First, call your utility company or local energy provider to find out what kind of energy audits are available for free or at a low cost. Even if you have to hire a professional for around $200 to $500, you can recoup that amount just by preventing one costly furnace repair visit. An energy audit with blower door tests and infrared cameras will reveal load-increasing problems like:
- Drafts around doors, windows, and other openings in the house's envelope
- Air leaks due to wall separations or holes cut for plumbing
- Damaged air ducts that let hot air pour into empty spaces instead of making it to occupied rooms.
By getting the energy audit first, you can determine where insulation is really needed before spending any money on actual improvements.
Once you know which parts of your home are wasting the most energy, work on increasing insulation. The attic floor is one of the most crucial spots for blocking heat loss in a home. The Energy Star Program recommends aiming for at least an R-38 on the attic floor, which translates to around 14 inches of fiberglass batting. You can add up to R-50 or R-60 for the biggest reduction in load for your furnace. Of course, you'll also need to insulate along the edges of the attic or heat will still escape up through the walls. Since heat rises, start adding insulation at the top of the structure and work downward for the biggest benefit in load reduction.
Add Window Treatments
Caulking around loose windows stops drafts, but it can't reduce the amount of heat lost through the glass itself. Unless you want to spend the time and money to replace all your windows before winter, try heavy window treatments that hang close to the glass and run down to the floor. Drapes with insulated linings are a relatively inexpensive way to immediately reduce heat loss. You'll notice the rooms stay warmer and your furnace runs less frequently once you cover up single-pane windows.
Try a Programmable Thermostat
Do you run in and out of the house multiple times a day to complete all your errands and chores? If you're spending more than 15 minutes away from the house at a time, you're likely heating the place unnecessarily while you're gone. A programmable thermostat is most valuable to people who come and go for work and pleasure because it allows the furnace to run less when no one's home. The newest models will track even the most complicated schedules and connect to your smart phone so you can always dial the heat back on when you're headed home.
Replace Filters Regularly
Finally, don't overlook the importance of replacing your furnace filters every two to three months. With extra occupants or a few pets thrown into the mix, you may need a new filter every month for optimal air flow. Blocking the flow in the furnace system even a little puts extra load on the equipment, resulting in higher monthly bills and costly repairs. Compare the prices of disposable air filters and a service call to figure out which one you'd rather pay for on a regular basis.
For more tips on keeping your furnace equipment in good shape, contact a heating contractor.