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Heating Tips and FAQ

These following heating tips can help keep your system operating smoothly and at peak efficiency, keeping energy costs as low as possible all winter long.

Turn Down the Heat

Did you realize that you can reduce your heating costs by 5% just by lowering your thermostat by 5ºF for 8 hours? If you maintain your home at that lower temperature for 16 hours a day, you’ll knock 10% off your electric bill. If you really rough it and keep the temperature 5 degrees lower all day, your savings jump to 15%.

There are some things you need to consider of course. Is your home insulated well enough to so that the pipes won’t freeze if you lower the thermostat in extremely cold weather? You’ll want to address this before you decide to lower your night–time temperatures to 55?F, which some gas and electric utilities recommend.

Don’t worry about how much it costs to heat your home back up. Studies have shown that the longer you keep your home at a lower temperature, the more you’ll save on your energy bills.

Recycle Heat

During the winter months, you can use heat generated while cooking to your advantage. If you have a glass top range, you’ve already had to learn to not touch the surface while it’s hot. As soon as you are through cooking, let that heat escape into the room. The same technique can be used for other electric stove–tops. (Don’t keep gas burners going though. It could cause carbon monoxide poisoning.)

Like stove tops, you can reuse heat generated while cooking with your oven. We’ve all felt that wall of heat when we open up the oven to take our food out, right? There’s no reason to seal that heat back up inside the oven during the winter, when you can let it warm your home, allowing your traditional heating source to use less energy. Many ovens allow you to partially prop them open, and recycle cooking heat in a relatively safe manner. Safety is a concern when you consider leaving an oven door open, so homes with pets or small children should avoid this heat recycling option.

Unless you live in a very humid area, you can consider letting the heat generated by your shower escape into the rest of the house.

Turn Down the Hot Water Heater

It’s tempting in the winter to turn up the hot water heater, especially if you love long hot baths. Resist the temptation and keep the thermostat at 120°F instead of 130 – 140°F, and you will see your heating bill drop. You will also reduce your risk of a severe burn. This can be extremely important for seniors or small children who could suffer severe third–degree burns from slipping and remaining exposed to 130°F water for just 30 seconds.

To prevent unhealthy bacteria, such as Legionnaires’ disease, from growing in your hot water tank, don’t keep the temperature any lower than 120°F.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

A programmable thermostat allows you to enjoy comfortable heat when you want it and to reduce the temperature of your home at times when you don’t need it as high. You can program your heat to drop for the hours you are at work, and rise for the hours you are at home.

You can also program your heat to begin dropping about the time you are preparing to sleep for the night. You’ll fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply as long as you have the right bedding. Then you can set your thermostat to start warming up the house so it’s back at a comfortable temperature when you get up in the morning.

Close down the hatches

Make sure that your windows and doors are properly weatherized. Air leaks let out heat and let cold air in. One of the best ways to identify leaking windows, doors and outlets is to hold a candle near them. If air is leaking, the flame will flicker.

Also, make sure you aren’t losing air through bathroom and kitchen ventilator fans. Only use them when absolutely necessary.

If you have a fireplace, make sure you keep the flue closed. As additional security against losing heat up the chimney install tempered or radiant glass doors to prevent the air inside the home from being pulled into the fireplace.

At night, close the curtains. This will reduce the flow of cold air into the home and hot air out. Be sure to open the curtains during the day, as any sunshine will help to heat your home, even if you have low E windows.

Heating Maintenance

Routine maintenance is critically important to keeping a heating system operating properly and efficiently. Whether your heating system is electric or gas, it should see the attention of a professional at least once a year. Especially with gas, it’s vital that the system is operating correctly. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a very real risk. While a carbon monoxide detector is another important safety measure, it should always be backed up with an annual heating system check.

There are some things that homeowners can do for themselves: check filters regularly, usually every month during the heating season. Look for signs of dirt, which leads to the blower having to work harder and longer, and increases your heating costs.

Heating FAQ

What setting should I set my thermostat be at in the winter for the best energy efficiency?

It’s recommended that you set your thermostat to between 68 and 71oF when you are at home, and to lower your thermostat to around 62oF when you are away, or at night while you are sleeping.

68°F is a moderately comfortable temperature if you are moving around. It can feel quite cold if you are not. For this reason, plan on wearing thermals and sweaters to stay comfortable.

Also 68°F feels much warmer in a home heated with radiant heating, than central heating. This is because the warmth is rising from the floor so there aren’t any cool drafts or cold spots.

Sleep studies have proven that you sleep better in a cooler room, so dropping the temperature to between 62 – 64°F at night will keep you comfortable while saving you energy.

Doesn’t turning the heat down waste the energy required to warm the house back up?

Turning the heat down any time you plan on being away from home for more than four hours will save you money. It’s recommended that you have a programmable thermostat installed. That way your home is already comfortable when you return. It doesn’t take that much energy to bring the temperature back up 6 – 8 degrees, but it does take a lot more energy to maintain that extra 6 – 8 degrees.

Heat pumps operate a little differently and take a lot longer to raise the temperature. It’s recommended that you purchase a programmable thermostat that is designed to specifically work with heat pump systems.

If you need assistance with installing a programmable thermostat, call you’ll need an HVAC contractor. They’ll also help you find the right thermostat for your system and your personal needs.

What do you mean when you call a heating system a “dual fuel” system?

When a heating system is designed to run on more than one type of fuel, it is called a dual fuel system. The most common dual fuel system involves combining a gas furnace and electric heat pump. Heat pumps are efficient during mildly cold weather, but begin losing their ability to heat a home as temperatures drop. If the home is equipped with a dual fuel system, the gas furnace can kick in and take over heating.

Can a fireplace be an efficient way to heat a home?

Generally, fireplaces draw more heat out of the home than they createunless a special fireplace insert is installed that acts more like a wood–burning stove. It is important to use an insert that has a radiant glass door, as it increases the heating efficiency of the insert by up to 90%. When a blower is included, the heating efficiency goes up 74 – 92% as compared to a fire in a standard fireplace.

Both wood–burning and gas burning fireplace inserts are available. Call a heating contractor if you would like to explore this option. An expert can help you choose the right option for your home.

Should I close the heating registers in rooms I don’t use?

It’s okay to close a few heating registers, but be careful not to close more than 1/3 of the total registers in your home. A forced air system is designed for the size of your home, and when too many registers are closed off, it allows pressure to build up in the ducts. The blower fan has to work harder to push air through the registers that are open. This kind of wear and tear will cause the blower fan to wear out long before it should.

How important is it to make sure the ducts in my heating system don’t leak?

Leaking ducts can cause more energy loss in a heating system than anything else. A duct inspection that pressurizes the duct system to identify if it has any leaks could be one of the smartest investments you could make. Making sure your ducts are sealed, connected and free from leaks can drop your energy bill anywhere from 5 –17%.

How often should ductwork be cleaned?

Clean your ductwork every three to five years. Make sure they are cleaned upon completion of any renovations on the duct system.

Ducts collect dust, bacteria and molds that are then transferred into the air as it moves through the rooms of your home. Routine cleaning can reduce allergy symptoms and some other unexplained symptoms, including as headache and fatigue.

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