For many homeowners, winter warming costs are the biggest utility expense. When a home is functioning optimally, you can drastically reduce your winter heating costs and mitigate the damaging effects of ice and snow.
Some energy-saving options are inexpensive (like caulking openings) while others (like updating your furnace or improving insulation) can be more costly. Whatever changes you are making, check with your local government so see if incentives and tax cuts designated for energy efficiency can help to reduce costs.
The best place to start is with an energy audit of your home. Knowing where your home needs work will help you to determine which investments will give you the best return. You can conduct your own energy audit by following these steps from the Department of Energy.
Maintain your Furnace
Regular cleaning and maintenance by an HVAC professional will keep your furnace running optimally. Furnaces which aren’t properly maintained use more energy and have a shorter lifespan. The best plan is to contact a professional and have them do proper maintenance on your equipment including:
- Replacing HVAC filters as outlined by the manufacturer to improve efficiency and indoor air quality.
- Checking all vents inside and out are clean and clear of obstruction.
- Using a vacuum to remove dust from the coil, from the vents and from the ducting. This will improve furnace efficiency and the quality of your indoor air.
- Cleaning the chimneys of wood-burning stoves annually to prevent chimney fires and testing all smoke and gas alarms.
- Inspecting HVAC ducting to ensure that ducts are sealed and functioning well. Duct leaks can cost you far more than you expect. Read more here.
Seal the deal
- Check your windows and doors for leaky seals, cracks and gaps and repair as needed.
- Caulk cracks and openings around vents and plumbing fixtures.
- Cover exposed pipes with insulating material to prevent leaks.
- Prevent ice dams by cleaning gutters and replacing loose or broken shingles.
- Trim overhanging or dead branches to prevent them from falling on your home under the weight of snow or ice. This can also help to let the winter sunshine in to heat the home.
- Use a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature to occupancy and save 20-75% of your operating costs. Check the settings on a regular basis to ensure they are set at the correct temperatures and the desired time settings.
- Consider an Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) system which recovers heat from the furnace exhaust to warm cold air prior to bringing it into the home. ERVs can save 70% to 80% of the heat from the exhausted air while maintaining a comfortable indoor humidity of 40% to 50%.