Your home is likely one of your most treasured investments . It upholds you financially through equity-building, and it’s a place to bring up your family and make memories, too. Now that the winter season is here, you may also be faced with rising utility costs.
When it comes to energy efficiency, homes are like cars: Some are energy guzzlers; others are sippers. No matter the type of home you live in, there are ways you can take the chill out of heating your residence this winter. The Experts are here to offer seven insider tips, some more unconventional than others, to ensure your comfort without breaking the bank.
- Change your air filter
It's the most economical recommendation that exists and the best way to keep your furnace functioning properly through the winter. The type of filter and seasonal factors affect the frequency for replacement. High allergen counts, pets and the size of a home can also influence longevity. Typically, inexpensive fiberglass filters should be replaced every month, but pleated ones are made with higher-quality material and could last three months or longer.
“It’s really the big thing folks forget about,” said Jim Hughes, senior manager of education and training at Service Experts. “The more loaded up the filter is, the less air is able to move through it and actually heat the home. A clogged filter makes your furnace work harder.”
- Get an HVAC system tune-up
It’s common for many people to have a service technician visit their home for an air conditioning tune-up in the spring to make sure the air conditioner is ready for the hot months. However, many homeowners overlook that they need to schedule an appointment before the winter season as well.
An inspection involves checking thermostat settings, cleaning and lubricating components inside the furnace, examining system shutdown and startup controls, and more. That tune-up is often what saves people the hassle of calling for a heating issue in the middle of winter. In fact, some reports indicate as many as 75% of those “no heat” calls during cold snaps could have been avoided with an annual tune-up.
- Check windows and doors for leaks
The main points of entry for cold air are windows and doors. Caulking and sealing window and door frames is cost-effective measure that will help keep cold air out. One test Hughes suggests is this: Close a door, and look to see if light can be seen around the door when it’s completely shut. If you see light, it’s not entirely sealed. Adjustments or weather-stripping may be needed.
If your home is older and you have single-pane windows, you might consider a dual-pane option. Some homeowners insulate single-pane windows with plastic film insulation. It’s not a bad move, but dual-pane windows have two pieces of glass separated by a thin layer of air, providing a much superior insulator for keeping cool air out. Energy savings could be as high as 25%.
- Limit usage of vented appliances
If you’re cooking and need to use the exhaust fan, don’t leave it on for an extended period of time, Hughes said. The same goes for for using the clothes dryer. Don’t allow it to keep running after your clothes have dried. These appliances and any exhaust fan in the home pulls the warm air out and forces cold outside air to be pulled into your home from other places. Continually running these appliances will only make your furnace work harder to battle the unnecessary, intrusive chill.
- Examine your home’s perimeter, fixture bases and wall plugs for air leaks
Check your home’s building envelope— the barriers that shield your home from the outdoors — especially if you have basements, watch for cobwebs that may blow, and if you put your hand near the floor in areas around the edge of your home, you may feel the cool air coming in.
Polyurethane sealers and other products can be used to plug up basement walls that may be allowing air into the home. Another cost-effective tip is to add foam seals for the bases of home fixtures like ceiling fans or overhead lights, as well as electric wall outlets. They’re super easy to install and are great at keeping the cold air out in the winter.
- Evaluate your insulation levels
It’s worth confirming that you have adequate insulation levels in your home as well. In fact, the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association estimates about 9 in 10 U.S. homes are under-insulated. Hughes recommends visiting the zone map at energystar.gov to find out the R-value, or heat resistance level, that your home’s walls and attic space should have, based on the geographic area where you live.
- Is your equipment failing? Consider the Advantage Program
Winter can be trying for dated, failing equipment. If your furnace is failing or in need of major repair, there’s a good chance you’re not ready to spend thousands of dollars on a new system. You might want to consider the Service Experts Advantage Program.
The program requires no down payment and allows homeowners to avoid costly repairs with a small monthly fee. With the Advantage Program, Service Experts installs a high-efficiency system in your home, and its professional technicians maintain and repair it for you without any extra out-of-pocket cost.
For more information on the Advantage Program or to schedule an appointment for HVAC and plumbing services, visit serviceexperts.com to find a Service Experts location near you, or call 866-397-3787.
Source: Get Creative, a division of USA Today