Every home has a heating and cooling system, but not every home has efficient heating.
For example, are you tired of drafty rooms or windows and high energy costs every winter?
Efficient heating means home comfort, along with reasonable energy costs. Especially in the Northeast, cold temperatures can cause your HVAC system to run constantly during the winter. An added benefit of an efficient heating system in your home is a lower utility bill at the end of the month.
Winterization helps, but does not always create efficient heating. Fortunately, there are some other steps homeowners can take to help. From understanding the basics to insulation and air sealing, efficient heating is an achievable goal!
What is efficient heating in your home mean?
In order to create an efficient heating system, then it is important to understand the basic components and function of your furnace or boiler (which are the major way homes in the US are heated).
Heating efficiency can be a little confusing, so it is important to understand that efficiency is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), which is required to be displayed.
AFUE is a measure of how efficient the appliance is in converting the energy in its fuel to heat over the course of a typical year.
But, AFUE does not include heat lost thru your ducts or piping, which can be as much as 35% when ducts are located in the attic, garage, or other partially conditioned or unconditioned space.
There are three main types of heating systems. Homeowners should understand the type of system in their home in order to compare efficiency.
- Old, low-efficiency heating systems require a continuous pilot light that leverages a natural draft to create a flow of combustion gases and roughly 55% to 70% AFUE efficient.
- Mid-efficiency heating systems require an electronic ignition that leverages an exhaust fan to control the flow of combustion air and combustion gases more precisely and is about 80% AFUE efficient.
- High-efficiency heating systems leverages sealed combustion to condense flue gases in a second heat exchanger for extra efficiency around 90 to 98.% AFUE efficient.
What are common efficient heating DIY tips?
Home heating efficiency can also be achieved by improving your home performance, which means using a smaller (and more efficient) furnace or boiler. What does this mean?
You do not always need a larger furnace or boiler to heat your home. This will also create significant savings!
1. Keep Heating Vents Clear
The warm air blowing out of heating vents need a clear path into the room to provide even heating.
For example, if a piece of furniture covers the vent, then you are limiting limiting the flow of heat. It’s like leaving the vent partially or completely closed. To cut heating costs, arrange your room so that the register is as unobstructed as possible.
2. Upgrade to a High Efficiency Furnace
Many furnaces built prior to 1992 waste that rely on standing pilot lights waste about 35% energy and are likely near the end of their useful life.
For example, an upgrade to a 90% efficiency would reduce your by as much as 25%. To cut heating costs, then work with your HVAC tech to determine your current efficiency during your annual checkup.
Plus, a cleaning helps as well. As James L shares his experience with SolvIt.
“Chris arrived on time and was very knowledgeable while cleaning my boiler. He was professional and explained the cleaning process. I would recommend SolvIt Home Services.”
3. Ensure Proper Insulation
Proper insulation slows the rate that heat flows out of the house in winter or into the house in summer, so less energy is required to heat or cool the house.
For example, proper insulation ensures any wall cavities are filled. To cut heating costs, consider finding a professional energy auditor because an expert can really make a difference in your energy costs all year long.
But don’t just take our word for it. Here is Linda describing her experience with the SolvIt team:
“Tom A. recently insulted insulation in my attic he was very professional and very patient with my many questions. Both him and the other worker answered all my questions so I understood exactly what they were doing. I am so looking forward to being warmer this winter. I actual feel the difference already! Having the insulation installed and their Home Energy Assessment is certainly money well spent. I have no doubt my electric bill will offset some of the costs. Thank you both very much!!”
4. Plant Trees & Shrubs
Proper landscaping, particularly deciduous trees, planted around your yard’s west side, can be very useful to save energy throughout the year.
For example, trees and shrubs help block or insulate the natural sunlight in your home. With more natural sunlight, then your energy bills will decrease because the furnace or boiler will not work as hard (this also works in the summer too!).
How do air leaks impact efficient heating in the home?
To create an efficient heating system, then it is important to identify and fix air leakage throughout your home. Outside of the standard doors and windows, air finds all the little nooks and crannies, so take some time to locate these sneaky air pockets.
5. Seal the Ductwork
According to Energy Star, the typical house with forced-air heating loses about 20% to 30% of the air that moves through the system to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts. Take a look at the ductwork in your basement or attic and look for places where the ducts may have pulled apart at seams and corners.
6. Check the Electrical Boxes
Electrical boxes are often drafty because insulation is not typically installed (or not installed correctly). To stop the leaks, remove the cover plates and fill small gaps around the boxes with acrylic latex caulk. For large gaps, use foam sealant. Then place a foam gasket over the outlet or switch and replace the cover plate.
7. Check for Holes in Walls
Often, the pipes, gas lines and electrical cables are installed haphazardly, which means gaps and air leaks. Simply seal the gaps with expanding foam or check the caulk that was likely used during the initial installation.
Does the hot water heater make a difference in efficient heating?
Typically, people don’t think about their water heaters until they have a leak or they don’t have any hot water. However, proper water heater maintenance can make a difference keeping you and your family warm during the winter.
Interested in hearing about how SolvIt can help with the water heater installation process? Take it from Nick L.
“The inspection and then installation processes were both above and beyond what I was expecting and we’re very satisfied with the repairs made to our boiler and our new water heater.”
8. Reduce Water Temperature
To create an efficient hot water heating system, the first step is to turn down the water temperature to the warm setting (120°F).
For example, most factory setting water heaters are preset to 140°F so the drop in temperature will add up to significant savings over time (and will not impact your hot water).
9. Add Water Heater Insulation
If your hot water heater only feels warm, then adding insulation will help. Although hot water heaters come insulated, they tend to lose heat if they are located in unheated spaces (such as basements).
10. Insulate the Water Pipes
If you have pipes which are warm to the touch, which ‘sweat’, or go through unheated areas, the fix is simple and very inexpensive. Why?
Typically, water pipes are not insulated, which results in lost heat as the water moves throughout your home. As heat loss occurs, then the water heater must work harder and uses more energy, so insulation helps.
For more information, then Energy Star provided a heating and cooling guide, which includes some overall HVAC system checks.
- Check Thermostat Settings
- Tighten Electrical Connections
- Lubricate Moving Parts
- Inspect the Condensate Drain in AC, Furnace and/or Heat Pump
- Change Air Filters
Home heating efficiency is one step to take ensure your HVAC system is running smoothly. Ultimately, everyone wants to a comfortable home.
If something doesn’t feel right, then stop and take a look. If you have any questions, then call a professional HVAC technician to help.