home hvac care connecticutThe time to think about taking care of your home’s heating system is before the temperatures dip into freezing and you’re eyeing the thermostat in your house. 

Not only can a few easy steps help maintain your whole-house heating system, but it may also prolong the life of your furnace, saving you money in the long run. And since heating your home typically makes up 42% of your utility bill, it’s a good idea to start thinking about how to take care of your heat-generating investment. 

Yes, factors such as home size and gas rates can affect your utility bill, but so can the efficiency and care of your furnace

These easy tips can help maintain the health and life of your furnace.

1. Change the Filter Regularly

Most home furnace issues can be sourced back to a dirty filter. When you leave a dirty air filter in place, airflow is restricted, which leads to reduced energy efficiency, unnecessary wear and tear on your furnace and potential for overheating. Energy Star recommends checking your air filter every month, especially during months of heavy usage. At a minimum, you should be changing out your air filter every three months, to prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system. If you live with pets or in a house with a smoker, you may need to change the filter more often. 

2. Clean Your Ducts

Studies show that the average six-room home in the United States collects up to 40 pounds of dust each year. Where this dust is coming from is entirely different questions that even scientists have been trying to answer. What we do know is that this dust is settling in your home’s air ducts, and is forming a thick layer on the inner walls. This dust not only is then circulated throughout the home, triggering allergies, but it can also damage your heating system. 

The National Air Duct Cleaners Association recommends cleaning your air ducts every three to five years, however where you live may have an impact on how frequently you clean your air ducts. 

3. Check Your Blower Motor

The blower motor is critical to pushing the warmed air through the heat exchanger, which is then distributed through the rest of the home. It’s important to ensure your house reaches the correct temperature. If your blower motor is running constantly but your house isn’t heating up, you may have a problem. If you don’t properly maintain the blower motor, it can break down. A trained technician can help you determine whether the issue is with the blower motor. 

4. Ensure all Vents are Clear

For your heating system to work as efficiently as possible, the heated air must be able to circulate completely in the system, and throughout the house. This means making sure all your vents are working properly and the air is flowing freely. Inspect your vents, remove any furniture, boxes or household items that may be blocking the flow of air. Allowing the system to work as intended means it’s working more efficiently and not as hard to heat your home. 

5. Check Your Thermostat

Making sure your thermostat is in proper working order is an important step to caring for your home’s heating system. Before the cold season starts, turn up the thermostat and listen for the furnace to turn on, and continue running. If the furnace turns on, and then off after a short time, you may need to have your thermostat adjusted (either recalibrated or replaced) or your heat exchanger is malfunctioning. You will need to call a professional to inspect the unit.  

6. Tune-up Your Furnace Annually 

One of the most important things you can do for your home heating system is to get it professionally inspected and tuned up once a year. It’s a great way to extend its lifespan and prevent future breakdowns. Most companies, like Santa Energy, offer heating system tune-ups. This means they will send a professional heating technician to your house to inspect, clean, and fine-tune the different components of your furnace. 

While many of these things can be done on your own, if you don’t feel comfortable handling these tips, you should consider hiring a technician. A professional heating technician can address:

Ensuring your home’s furnace is running properly and efficiently is critical to a well-heated home to make sure you’re not spending more than you need to, in order to heat your home in the winter. 

home effiency issues connecticutOn those cold winter mornings, there’s nothing better than pulling up the covers and feeling the furnace turn on, keeping you cozy and warm. 

But, did you know that heating your home uses more energy and costs more money than any other system in your home? Energy Saver – an office of the U.S. Department of Energy – notes that heating your house makes “up about 42% of your utility bill.”

While factors like home size and gas rates can affect your utility bill, so can the efficiency and age of your gas furnace. 

In this article, we’re going to break down what you need to know about furnaces and more importantly, why your furnace could be losing efficiency. 

What does the furnace rating (AFUE) mean?

At its most basic, furnaces heat air and distribute the heated air throughout the house using air ducts. 

The efficiency of your furnace is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), which must be displayed on all new units. AFUE measures how efficiently the furnace converts energy in its fuel to heat over a year. 

More specifically, a furnace with an AFUE of 90% means that 90% of the energy in its fuel becomes heat, while the other 10% escapes from chimneys and elsewhere. 

Keep in mind, that the AFUE does not include the heat loss that commonly occurs via the ducting or piping, which according to Energy Saver can be as much as 35% of the energy output. 

While electric heaters have higher AFUE ratings of 95-100%, they are often the least economic choice for homeowners given the higher cost of electricity. 

Why is your furnace losing efficiency?

Over time, it’s common for a furnace to lose efficiency, due to age, as well as wear and tear. But, there are several things you can do to improve efficiency in your furnace, which will improve heating and result in lower bills.

1. Clean Your Filter

The most common reason for an inefficient furnace is a dirty filter. Most people don’t realize their filter needs to be routinely changed, so they leave the same one in for months, or even years. If you don’t change your heating system’s filter on a regular basis, it not only hinders the unit’s energy efficiency, it can cause long-term damage and reduce the air quality in your home. Check the unit for specifications, but the filter should be changed every few months, if not at least once a year.

2. Check for Air Leaks

It’s not uncommon for even the most sound homes to have air leaks that cause the heated air to escape the house. If your house isn’t properly insulated, your hot air (and your money) could be going out the window – literally. Heat can be lost through drafty windows and doors, through the ceilings, and even your walls

3. Your Radiators Are Blocked

Be sure and keep all baseboard heaters and radiators clear of furniture or other objects to ensure the heat is distributed evenly and as able to reach the entire house.

4. Check for Cracks, Loose Parts on Your Furnace

Loose parts and fittings can create enough space to reduce airflow and cause rattling. Don’t forget to also check the blower fan, which can break or bend. Also, the fan belt is a good place to look for fraying. Lastly, check the combustion chamber for cracks.

5. Weatherize for Winter

In addition to ensuring your furnace is running properly, you should also be weatherizing your home each year. This means reinsulating areas that you know to be leaky or drafty. Use weather-stripping to block air leaks around doors and windows.

6. Check the Burner Flames

Inspect your burners and ensure they are free of debris. If your burner flames are blue, that means the burner is clean. If they’re yellow, you have dirty burners. Turn off the power and gas and then vacuum your burners.

7. Check the Limit Switch

Did you know if your furnace has a bad limit switch your blower could be running all the time? This will result in a shorter life for your blower. When they fail, the heat is always on, making it very hot.

8. Clear Heat Pumps & Intake/Exhaust Vents

If your furnace vents to the outside, you should always make sure nothing is blocking the vents. Clear any leaves or debris in the area. If you have a heat pump, clear any debris from the fins of the outdoor compressor unit.

9. Update your Heating System

As heating systems age, they begin to lose energy efficiency. Even with a new filter and proper maintenance, a furnace that is 15-20 years old will not be nearly as efficient as it was when it was brand new. It may be time for a new furnace. 

Regularly checking and maintaining your furnace will help prolong the life of your unit and ensure cost-effective and efficient heating of your home. Before the cold grip of winter hits, consider whether or not you need a new furnace.