Summer is ending and your focus is probably turning inward as you prep for the colder months. Introspection brings home to mind … so what better time than the present to Get Your House in Order, both literally and figuratively. Here’s what you can do to stay warm and cozy while reducing energy costs.

#1.  Give Your Furnace a Tune-Up. The US Department of Energy recommends an inspection of your furnace before turning it on each year. Check for duct leaks, remove dirt or soot from the system, make sure moving parts are properly lubricated, ensure that the condensate drain(s) is not clogged, clean the heat exchanger, verify that air vents aren’t obstructed and change your air filters. You can conduct the inspection yourself or hire a professional, especially if you suspect a problem.

Did you know?

  • An improperly maintained furnace, flue leaks or blocked ducts can cause carbon monoxide – also called the silent killer – to accumulate in your home leading to poisoning of household members? 
     
  • A dirty filter can waste energy, damage or break your furnace and even catch fire?

#2.  Get a Home Energy Audit by a professional or Do It Yourself. Save 5% to 30% on your energy bills. A home energy audit identifies areas where your home is using excessive energy and ways you can save through home improvements. Energy can be wasted due to heat loss from air leaks, inadequate insulation and an inefficient furnace. Your local utility company may offer a free audit or a professional may charge between $300 and $500.

Did you know?

  • Space heating is the largest energy expense in the average US Home, accounting for 45% of energy bills?

#3.  Evaluate your heating source and determine if a newer, higher efficiency option is the right move. For help determining the condition of your furnace, refer to our Blog “Five Signs You Need a New Furnace.”

Benefits and options for upgrading, replacing or retrofitting your furnace:

According to Goodman, one of the world’s leading air conditioning and heating manufacturers, a new HVAC system can be up to 60% more efficient than a system purchased 10 years ago. Your choices in choosing a new heating system are many.

You may decide to replace you cooling system at the same time and choose a ducted central cooling system consisting of an indoor unit and outdoor unit. If you use a furnace for your heating, the air handler will be placed on top of the furnace and can distribute both the heated and cooled air. In contrast, the components of a packaged heating and cooling system are in one unit and housed outside.

If you decide to replace your furnace. Among your considerations will be its fuel source, efficiency, its installation applications, and the technology it offers to provide the best heating that you can afford for your home.

Gas heating includes natural gas and propane. You may also go with oil heating or electric. Natural gas is considered one of the most economical fuel sources for a furnace. Oil and propane furnaces are powerful but require more room for storage, burn less clean than natural gas and can be significantly more expensive to operate. Another option is an electric furnace but they can run up your electric bill and quickly become unaffordable.

The fuel efficiency of a furnace is determined by its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). The rating, which is detailed in a percentage, provides you with the amount of fuel that is actually used in heating your home. The balance is the fuel that escapes through your venting. So, if you have a furnace with a 90% AFUE rating, 90 cents of every dollar you spend on fuel is going toward heating your home.

If you have limited space or need to install your gas furnace in an awkward shaped closet, a multi-position furnace will save you a lot of grief. And for more control over the temperature in your home, two-stage, multi-speed and two-stage, variable speed furnaces are among the most popular. Highest energy efficiency is achieved with modulating furnaces and condensing furnaces, also known as high-efficiency or high-efficient furnaces. Condensing furnaces use a secondary heat exchanger to extract heat from exhaust gas that in a non-condensing furnaces would be vented out of the building and wasted. The condensing furnace captures the exhaust and extracts the heat by condensing it. 

Homeowners who choose to use electricity for their home climate control are discovering the benefits of heat pumps. Heat pumps don’t convert electric energy into heat energy like electric furnaces do. Instead they transfer heat from one area to another. To perform this function, the heat pump is energy efficient and can reverse its cycle to provide air conditioning. In the summer, instead of moving heat into your home, the heat pump removes heat (and humidity) from your home. With energy costs at the front of every homeowner’s mind, heat pumps known for their high efficiency deserve strong consideration. Heat pump systems can be ducted or ductless.

Another popular choice is a dual fuel system. Increasingly, homeowners are becoming wise to the fact that heat pumps can be combined with gas heating to significantly lower the cost of energy bills. Here’s how it works. The heat pump handles most of the heating and cooling for the majority of the year using very little electricity. The majority of heat pumps function in 5°F and colder. At any point that it is too cold for the heat pump to be energy-efficient, the gas furnace takes over. The good news is that fuel heating -- which is more expensive -- may only be needed for a few days or weeks out of the year.

Did you know?

  • The most common home heating fuel is natural gas, and it's used in 57% of American Homes.
     
  • Heat pumps can cut 30% to 40% from your electric bill if you make the switch from electric cooling and heating.

#4. Get technical about cutting energy costs! Install a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats can create peace of mind. Relax knowing you’re not wasting energy while your house or apartment is unoccupied or overnight when everyone is snug under their covers. Don’t worry. You’ll wake up in toasty bedroom. How about coming home from work and throwing off your coat immediately, instead of waiting for the heat to kick in. Just a few pre-sets and you’re all set.

Peace on the home front. End thermostat “tug of wars” over the temperature setting. Agree to a reasonable setting and “set it and forget it.” Those who trend toward chilliness can don socks and long sleeves.

Did you know?

  • The Department of Energy estimates you can save as much as 10% on heating costs by setting your thermostat back 7°F to 10°F when you leave the home for eight hours a day

  • The changing of seasons can create a knee-jerk reaction to turn on the heat on autumn nights when the temperature inside might only be 2°F lower than your normal 70°F winter setting. Avoid the temptation. Grab a sweater!

  • A programmable thermostat can help break the habit of thermostat “fiddling,” which usually results in temperature swings and higher energy bills. You know what we mean; you either crank it up or turn it “way down,” rather than keeping it steady when you’re home and at an energy-smart setting when the home is empty.

#5.  Air tight doesn't mean "air right." Congratulations are in order if you’ve recently replaced or sealed drafty windows and doors, made roof improvements or you’ve been fortunate enough to buy a newer, more modern “tight home.” However, there could be one critical factor you have overlooked.

“Air proof” homes can be breeding grounds for mold, mildew, fungi, dust mites and bacteria. When we trap in conditioned air we’ve paid so dearly for - as shown in our utility bills - we are forgetting that moisture from showers, cooking and even breathing transforms the air. Poisons like carbon monoxide from home appliances and volatile inorganic chemicals (VOCs) from furniture and paints also escape into the air. All of this stays trapped in our home. Surely, that’s not what we intended.

Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV) and Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV) are environmentally-friendly ways to keep our homes at a healthy temperature and improve indoor air quality. Heat recovery ventilators are best for colder climates where the goal is to keep heat energy inside while exchanging inside, stale air for outside, fresh air. These systems work by enabling the heat from the outgoing air to be absorbed by the cool, fresh air. The heat energy is transferred through a heat exchanger. The air doesn’t actually mix.

Energy Recovery Ventilators are recommended for areas that experience longer warm seasons and higher humidity. With ERV’s the heat rejected from the house is used to cool condenser coils, which then cool the fresh incoming air. The air is cooled and humidity is also removed. During the colder months, an ERV will use the same process but in reverse. It will transfer heat and humidity from the outgoing air to the cold, dry incoming air.

Did you know?

  • HRVs can recover up to 85% of the heat from outgoing air, positively impacting your bottom line significantly. They are also constructed with air filters to improve your indoor air quality further. 

  • ERVs can maintain relative humidity at a comfortable 40% to 50% all year long.