We’re about a month into fall and already the temperatures are dropping and homeowners are preparing to hunker down for another cold winter. This time of year energy bills can suddenly become far more expensive, particularly if your home isn’t adequately protected against the elements. By taking some preventative measures, however, you can keep your energy bills to a minimum and save yourself a tidy sum by the time spring rolls around.
Start by Sealing the Gaps
Take a walk around your home’s exterior and keep a close eye out for any gaps around window panes and door jambs. Seal these gaps with caulk to prevent heat loss during the winter. If you have a fireplace, make sure that the damper is closed whenever it’s not in use. You can also purchase insulating film from your local hardware store to seal off windows for the season. Just make sure it’s pulled tight across the window and securely adhered to the window frame to prevent heat leaks.
Use the Sun to Your Advantage
Keep the curtains on south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sun to naturally heat your home. Once the sun goes down, close the curtains to trap that radiant heat inside at night. This will also provide an extra measure of insulation against any gaps you may have missed when sealing your windows.
Have Your Furnace Serviced
Maintaining your furnace will prevent mechanical breakdowns and ensure that it operates at peak efficiency during the winter. Be sure to change your furnace filter regularly, and have an HVAC technician perform a thorough inspection once a year.
This is perhaps the most effective and underappreciated step you can take to keep your utility bills low during the winter. It costs a whole lot less money to put on an extra layer of clothing than it does to keep your thermostat 5 degrees higher all winter. Keep your thermostat set as low as you can tolerate, and set it back further when you’re sleeping or out of the house. You’ll acclimate to the lower temperatures before you know it, and you’ll thank yourself come springtime.
Stay tuned for more home improvement tips and tricks from Chicago’s premier home inspection company: First Choice Inspectors.
Now that winter has receded, one of the last things that you may want to think about is your furnace. Rising temperatures, open windows and light breezes are far more appealing than thinking about maintaining and tuning your heating system, but that ounce of preventative maintenance and care could save you a tidy sum down the road.
After a full season of use, your furnace has probably accumulated dust, grime and dirt in the filter from blowing warm air throughout the home. One of the quickest and simplest maintenance jobs is to replace or clean the filter to keep your furnace running efficiently. The style of furnace you have will dictate both the style of filter and period of maintenance. Pleated furnace filters should be thrown out and replaced every three months, while permanent filters should be cleaned monthly. There are also electronic air cleaning filters which should be cleaned bimonthly. Performing this cleaning in the spring will have your furnace ready to go as soon as the temperatures drop again.
In addition, spring is a great time to inspect your full furnace system for any signs of wear that may have happened during the winter. This includes inspecting all ductwork and the casing around the unit itself for any holes or signs of blocked ducts that could be impairing your system’s efficiency or leaking carbon monoxide. A professional inspector should also check the thermostat settings, inspect electrical connections and lubricate any moving parts to ensure your furnace is ready to keep you warm when you need it.
A full professional tune-up involves a number of additional annual performance checks and services. These include analyzing the furnace’s combustion gases to compare to the manufacturer’s specifications, checking drainage systems for blockages or leaks, testing the amperage that the blower motor is drawing and comparing it to the default setting, and inspecting the fresh air intakes, burners and blower wheel for signs of rust, corrosion or debris. Inspecting some of these components may require partial or total disassembly of portions of your furnace, making a professional inspector or heating contractor the go-to solution if you’re not comfortable with performing those operations yourself.
Spending the time to make sure that your furnace is safe and running at peak efficiency is a great proactive step you can take today to keep yourself from being left out in the cold tomorrow. First Choice Inspectors offers a wide range of services, including furnace and air conditioning unit inspections. Call or email us today for a quote.