If you’re like most people, you’re probably looking at a much higher heating bill this winter than in winters past. The good news is that there are a few cost-effective things that you can do to raise energy efficiency in your home this winter.
To begin it’s important to understand that your heating system is made up of three important parts – the furnace, the duct system and the thermostat—and each one of these parts plays an important role in your consumption. Let’s say you’re spending $1,000 a year to heat your home. How much might you save by upgrading any one of these three parts of your heating system?
For every degree you set your thermostat above 68 degrees, you increase your heating cost by 3-5%. In practical terms, turning your thermostat down from 72 to 68 could save you up to 20% or $200 a year! Set your thermostat to a lower temperature at times you’re away from the home and at night when you’re sleeping. How much lower you set it, which is referred to as your “setback” temperature, depends on your comfort requirements.
Your duct system is likely responsible for wasting a lot of your heating costs. The duct system may be poorly insulated and leaky, or there may be a disconnected duct. Using our $1,000 per year example, you could save $200 a year by tuning up your ducts. Begin by sealing the leaks in your duct system. At the same time we’re sealing the ducts we can use the opportunity to correct another common problem– compressed flexible ducts. Flexible ducts should be fully extended and supported at most every four feet with at least 1.5” hanging straps. Lastly, all ducts should be wrapped with R-6 to R-8 insulation–most existing ducts are insulated with just R-2.
A new unit can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,500, and a high efficiency unit can be $500 to $1,000 of this cost. The higher your heating costs, the more sense it makes to go for a higher efficiency unit. Using our example of $1,000 per year heating cost, if your furnace is 60% efficient and you replace it with an 80% unit, you’d save about $200 per year. If your furnace is 15-20 years old it probably needs to be replaced anyway. The air filters in your system should also be changed when they begin to look dirty, otherwise they’ll slow the air down and decrease efficiency.