February 21st, 2018

Three Ways to Reduce Your Heating (and Cooling) Costs

Home Owners Network

This past winter has been an extremely cold one. Even if it isn’t that cold where you live, these three low cost ideas will help decrease your heating (and cooling) costs now and for years to come.

The first idea applies to all heating systems.  The other ideas apply to forced-air heating and cooling systems.  Forced-air systems are those with ducts that circulate air throughout your home.  If you have a system that uses hot water or steam, these other ideas do not apply to you.


Give Your System a Thorough Physical

Heating and cooling systems that are not serviced on a regular basis are more likely to stop working.  Murphy’s Law states that they will do so at the most inconvenient time, usually during the hottest or coldest weather when they are under the most stress.  You should have a qualified technician give your system a thorough physical at least every year to keep it operating efficiently and to extend its service life.  It’s less expensive (and less inconvenient) to keep problems from happening than it is to fix the system after it breaks.


Change (Clean) Your Return Air Filter

All forced-air heating (and cooling) systems have a return air filter.  Some have more than one.  These filters trap dirt and debris that can harm the system and reduce its efficiency.

Forced-air systems work by moving air.  Air entering through the return duct should equal air coming out from the supply ducts.  If the air entering the return duct is reduced because of a dirty filter, the air coming out from the supply ducts will be reduced as well.  Reduced air flow means the system must work longer to move the same amount of air.  Every extra minute that the system runs costs you more money; so helping your system work efficiently reduces your costs.

The best filter for most members is the inexpensive disposable mesh filter.  These are usually blue or white and cost around $1.25 at home centers.  You should change these filters every month, regardless of whether or not they look dirty.

We don’t recommend that most members use the more expensive filters.  These filters work well when they are new, but they can quickly become clogged as they do their job.  If you have allergies or similar problems, we recommend that you consider an air filter that is specifically designed to deal with allergens and is sized for your system.


Get Your Ducts Sealed and Straight

Homes with forced-air systems can cost 30% or more to operate because of poorly installed and poorly sealed ducts.  Duct problems can also contribute to other problems including mold in walls, floor, and attics.  It’s rare to find a home, especially older homes, without some duct problems.

Duct sealing can be a do-it-yourself project for the moderately skilled handyperson.  All you need is a tub of duct mastic, a paint brush, some foil tape, and some duct zip ties.  You can purchase all of this at home centers.  For most members, though, having a qualified technician seal and adjust your ducts is the better alternative.  A simple sealing job may cost around $250.  The cost will be more if ducts are damaged and need replacing.  Getting your ducts in a row (bad pun) has a great return on investment.


The Bottom Line

These low cost ideas will more than pay for themselves not only by reducing operating and repair costs but also by increasing your comfort.

We’re here to help at Homeowner’s Network.  Use our Ask The Experts service if you need help.  Please include as many details as possible about your situation so we can provide you with our best advice.

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