We should all think of our homes as an energy system. Although the furnace may create and deliver heat, it can’t do so effectively if heat is lost in ducts, through walls, in the attic or through cracks in doors and windows.
Even the most efficient furnace needs a little help and proper maintenance to provide the best results.
Since heating and cooling often make up 45 percent of the energy bill, it’s well worth it to tidy up operations.
Efficient furnaces and air conditioners
If you’re in the market for a new heating or cooling system, it’s the perfect time to go for high-efficiency. Your contractor should be able to point out the best models and help you find the right fit for your home. If you’ve already insulated and been busy sealing leaks and drafts in the home, you might even be able to get away with a smaller, cheaper furnace.
Furnaces have a minimum 78 percent AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating, but some models are over 90 percent efficient. Air conditioners go by the SEER standard (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), and must meet a minimum of SEER 13.
When ventilation has been reduced through efficiency measures, it can become necessary to install air exchange units. Heat-recovery ventilators trade indoor air for out but keep the heat from leaving, too.
Change furnace and air conditioning filters – Furnaces and air conditioners must work harder to pull air in through clogged filters, wasting energy to do it. If you clean or replace filters when it’s recommended, you can lower energy usage by up to 5 percent. Once a month is the usual recommendation for replacing filters.
Clean and vacuum registers, making sure nothing blocks them.
Help the HVAC system out
In warm months, keep drapes closed during the day.In cold months, keep south-facing windows uncovered during the day and covered at night. Don’t leave bathroom or kitchen exhaust fans on for more than 20 minutes after preparing food or showering. If they break down, replace with high-efficiency models (which will likely also be quieter). Insulate ducts in unheated areas, or if buying new ducts, choose ones that come pre-insulated.
A professional aircon installer should be hired for anything more than minor duct repair. Don’t place heat-producing devices like lamps near air conditioning thermostats. It could make the system think your home is warmer than it is and overcool. Place window air conditioners in shade without blocking airflow. Programmable thermostat Keep your thermostat set at a comfortable level.
During the heating season, 68 F should be good for daytime and 55 F at night or when you’re out of the house. Central air conditioning doesn’t need to be set lower than 78 F in the summer, unless health conditions require otherwise. A programmable thermostat can do all the altering for you, as long as you set it in advance. You can come home to a warm home, never knowing it was cold there during the day.
Programmable thermostats often cost between $40 and $150, and can save you up to $150 a year.