- Lower your thermostat.
Every degree you lower the thermostat reduces your fuel costs by about two percent. Keeping your home at 68 degrees in the winter, rather than 73 degrees will typically save about 10 percent in fuel bills. Lowering the temperature even further when the house is empty or when everyone is sleeping will also reduce your heating bill. If you keep forgetting to lower the temperature manually, a programmable thermostat can help. (“Set it and forget it.”) There’s a common misconception that it takes more energy to raise the temperature of a previously unoccupied home to a comfortable range than it does to maintain that temperature consistently regardless of whether the home is occupied or not. This simply isn’t true. If no one is going to be home, turn the heat down; you’ll save.
- Have your heating system professionally serviced.
Having your heating system cleaned and serviced regularly could reduce your fuel costs by 10 percent or more. Getting your system professionally serviced now reduces the likelihood of needing emergency service come January. The service technician should:Make sure the pilot light (if you have one) and thermostat are working correctly.
Check the fuel pipe and heating exchanger for cracks or leaks
Test the efficiency of your heating system (how effectively your furnace converts fuel to heat).
Since all conventional heating systems produce carbon monoxide as a byproduct of combustion, getting your system checked is a safety issue, too.Change the filter in a forced hot-air system monthly during the heating season to help keep the system at peak efficiency. Most homeowners can change the filters themselves.
- Consider a new heating system.
If your furnace is more than 15 years old, consider replacing it with a new ENERGY STAR-qualified heating system. These models use 6 percent to 15 percent less fuel than non-ENERGY STAR systems. Visit the ENERGY STAR Web site for a list of retailers and qualifying models.
- Seal those air leaks.
You wouldn’t leave a window open all winter long, but small air leaks around windows, doors, pipes, recessed lighting, and electrical outlets can cause an equivalent loss of heat. Sealing air leaks can reduce your heating bills by 10 percent to 20 percent and possibly more depending on specific conditions in your home. Here’s how: Seal door leaks with weather-stripping or a door sweep; seal window leaks with caulking. Rope caulk is an effective alternative to cartridge caulking and can be easily removed in the spring.Most heat loss occurs as warm air rises and exits the house through gaps around the chimney or attic, while also drawing cold outside air in through cracks in the basement and foundation (home airflow schematic). Pay particular attention to the attic hatch or pull-down stairs and to any interior-wall top plates in the attic, as these areas are frequently leaky.Exterior points such as bulkhead doors and the spaces around pipes where they enter your house (called plumbing penetrations) can also let in cold air and should be sealed.
Another significant source of air leaks is ductwork that extends throughout the house. Several studies have indicated that sealing ductwork alone can result in an average annual savings in heating bills of 17 percent. Seal ductwork joints with high-quality foil tape or mastic paste. Despite the name, duct tape doesn’t work well. Avoid it.
“Seal tight and ventilate right” should be the guiding principle when it comes to sealing air leaks. The trick: making sure your home doesn’t lose valuable heat but does provide enough fresh air to maintain good indoor air quality. You can have both.