Record world oil prices will hit home heating this winter, with consumers likely paying high prices to heat their homes. Natural gas will rise an average of 24 percent and fuel oil a whopping 36 percent says the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association. Now is the time to give your home a "check-up."
Here are seven tips from the Comfort Institute to make your home an energy sipper instead of a gas guzzler. They will help you save money, improve comfort and help the environment too.
1. Ask your heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractor to test your duct system for air leaks. Many people assume that windows and doors are the major cause of a home's energy-wasting air leaks. But according to recent research by the U.S. Department of Energy, gaps, joints and disconnections in the typical home's duct system are much more significant. The DOE states that the typical duct system loses 25 to 40 percent of the energy put out by the central furnace or heat pump. Authorities recommend sealing ducts with a brushed on fiber-reinforced elastomeric sealant. Duct tape, which is great for many things, usually dries out and fails.
2. Ask your contractor to perform an Infiltrometer "blower door" test. The blower door is a computerized instrument originally invented by the DOE. It pinpoints where your home's worst air leaks are, such as duct leaks, and also measures how leaky the overall house is. Most homes have the equivalent of an open window in combined air leaks. Many heating contractors offer an Infiltrometer test as part of a home and duct performance test that also checks insulation levels.
3. Have your heating system cleaned and tuned. A pre-season tuneup is a great investment. It reduces the chances of breakdowns on cold winter nights, improves safety and more than pays for itself through more energy efficient operation. For a free report: "How to Identify a Good Heating and Cooling Contractor," go to www.comfortinstitute.org.
4. Replace your furnace or heat pump air filter, or clean it if it is an electronic unit. Most systems need this done every month to ensure safe and efficient operation. Keep forgetting to do it? Ask your contractor for an extended surface area central air filter that only needs to be replaced once a year. It also does a far better job of keeping your equipment and the air in your home clean.
5. Close your fireplace damper. Did you remember to close it last time you used the fireplace? Shut it now or waste precious warm air all winter long.
6. Install a programmable set-back thermostat. Turning down the thermostat eight degrees for eight hours a day will save 8 percent on home heating costs. An easy way to take advantage of these savings is to lower the thermostat temperature while away from home or sleeping. Ask your heating contractor about new models which are much easier to program.
7. Consider replacing your old furnace or heat pump. Just like a car, heating and cooling equipment doesn't last forever. Is your system more than 12 years old? Planning to stay in your home more than a few years? Many authorities recommend replacing it before it fails permanently. New units can pay for themselves over time as they are up to twice as energy efficient. However, government and utility research has found that over 90 percent of newly installed high efficiency systems have energy wasting mistakes. Today's new equipment is drastically compromised if it is hooked up to bad ducts.