These tips can help make your home warmer and safer this winter
Heating your home, especially in areas with harsh winters, can really hit the wallet hard. People who understand this are always looking for ways to save money on heating costs without having to spend too much. Nowadays we all understand how tight the budget can be. We at Stramowski fully understand this and want to help. We have put together some great tips and tricks for not only saving on heating costs but ways to keep your furnace running strong through the harsh winter months.
Pinpoint Heating Loss: An Example of Smart Spending
A really smart Christmas gift this year has helped one of our Stramowski customers to pinpoint areas of his home that are leaking heat. The gift was a Digital Laser Infrared Thermometer Gun found on Amazon. This is a great present that led to great savings. Using the $16 thermometer gun from the comfort of his living room chair, he was able to “shoot” the red laser beam at areas around the room and measure the temperature at precise points. The unit displays the temperature on a digital screen on the back of the gun so you can clearly see where you’re losing that precious heat,and giving you ideas on where to better weatherproof your home.
Pointing it at door frames of external doors will show you where the weather stripping may need to be replaced or where gaps in the seals need to be addressed. The same goes for windows! You’ll know exactly which windows are leaking enough that they should be replaced. This smart spending by a smart gift giver led to a better knowledge for this customer of how to winterize their home. Now this customer can address the issues of heat loss, which is especially important during our winter cold snaps!
This example shows how if you’re smart you can spend a little and save a lot. The important thing is to remember to be proactive when it comes to making decisions about how to save. Don’t wait until the bitter cold comes to learn about winterizing your home or worse yet find out your furnace needs a tune-up! We go into more detail below about furnace maintenance as well.
First things first let’s break down how important the maintenance of your furnace is and how this is where you want to start with heating cost savings. We also break down some of the best tips for how to save on heating costs later in this blog. With our 8 tips to help you lower your heating costs, you will most certainly be able to lower the heating cost weight on your pocketbook.
Your Furnace is Like an Airline Seat
If you’ve ever traveled to a warm-weather destination in the summer, you know that airline tickets are typically cheaper. Why? Well because fewer people are traveling and there are more open seats to sell. The airlines price their seats accordingly to fill the plane.The same thing goes for getting your annual furnace tune-up. The cost is often substantially less when the HVAC company has fewer people on their schedule. This can lead to substantial savings for you and don’t worry the business would rather have some customers than no customers!
So, what is the best month to save money on your furnace tune-up you ask? The best months to save on your furnace tune-up are March, April, and May. The thing is HVAC companies have fewer scheduled appointments in March, April, and May.
By the way, pay no attention to the myth that if your furnace is tuned up in March, the tune-up doesn’t hold up until the Fall because it hasn’t been running. You are not losing any value in the furnace tune-up just because your furnace isn’t running. The idea is to be proactive and not wait until there is an issue. Bottom line the timing of your furnace tune-up doesn’t matter to your furnace; what is key is to tune up your furnace each year. Do the smart thing and save some money. Get your furnace tune-up in March, April or May.
Furnace Energy Ratings and Furnace Maintenance
Starting out, the first thing you should understand is that if you have an older, inefficient furnace then you may need to consider purchasing a new one. Therefore when it comes to replacing your home furnace you’ll need to consider a lot of options, including energy efficiency. AFUE ratings (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) determine how well a specific furnace uses energy.
The Department of Energy defines AFUE as the ratio of annual heat output compared to the total annual fossil fuel energy used by the furnace. An AFUE rating of 80% indicates that 80% of the energy in the fuel transfers into heat, while 20% is lost. It’s measured at the output vent of the furnace and does not include heat loss via the ducts. Here’s what the energy guide label looks like.
If your older furnace doesn’t have a label, you can estimate what the efficiency is. Furnaces that have pilot lights that are on continuously are most likely low efficiency. These systems are typically between 56-70% efficient. High-efficiency furnaces use two heat exchangers and are typically 90-96% efficient Below are the minimum efficiency standards as outlined by the Department of energy:
- Gas – 80% efficient
- Mobile home – 80%
- Oil – 83% efficient
Most gas furnaces in the northern states are required to be 90% efficient.
Things Homeowners Can Check to Prepare for Heating Season
A very common mistake most homeowners make is holding out to turn their heat on until it’s “absolutely necessary”. Waiting until temperatures drop to an uncomfortable level forcing you to turn your heat on, and realizing there is an issue, is generally what a lot of homeowners experience. Stramowski Heating has found that for homeowners this is a critical mistake.
Waiting until the last possible minute to turn on your furnace can result in longer wait times when looking for a contractor to fix an issue. As a homeowner, you can avoid long wait times and be confident that your system is going to operate when you need it, by turning your heating system on before the bitter cold. Having your system checked with a maintenance tune-up is also a good idea to identify any issues with your system and prevent maintenance that could be needed during the wintertime.
You don’t want to end up having to replace your furnace in the dead of winter. However, if your energy bills are rising or if repair costs are becoming a problem, you may need to consider replacing your furnace. Installing a new high-efficiency model will save you a bundle each month plus many local energy companies provide incentives and rebates when you put in a new furnace. We do however realize that we can not get to everyone for regular annual maintenance and that not everyone can afford a new furnace. Before the temps start to drop, there are a few things a homeowner can check before starting their equipment. Doing so can help avoid costly repairs at the worst possible time.
What to Check Before Starting up Your Heating System
Every fall we are reminded of the life-saving habit of changing and testing the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. The reminders typically come when there is a fire that could have been prevented, or when daylight savings time approaches. This year, Daylight savings time is November 6th. Use this a reminder to also check/change your thermostat batteries. Check out our helpful video about checking/changing your thermostat batteries.
Your air filter is actually important year round. Most people don’t realize your air filter determines air quality not just through furnace season but also air conditioner season. You want to be sure of the air quality in your home year round. Check out our helpful video about changing your air filter and how to know when.
–Making sure your venting outside is clear:
High efficient equipment vents with PVC out of the side of your home and should be checked. Bees & birds can create nests over the summer that block venting causing your heat not to work.
Pro Tip: During heavy snow storms, be sure to check the outdoor venting pipes for your furnace and water heater. Keep them clear of snow drifts as the snow will block the exhaust and cause the furnace not to operate or function properly.
–Checking the circuit breaker:
The circuit breaker and main power switch to your heating system should be checked before the heating season. Main switches can easily get turned off causing your system not to run. Circuit breakers could have tripped during summer storms and have gone unnoticed. You don’t want to be calling your HVAC specialist to come to your home just to flip your breaker!
If you are unsure of the condition of your furnace do not wait. Don’t be caught in the cold. Contact us for a maintenance tune-up. We can evaluate your system and advise you on the condition of your heating unit.
Test All Smoke Alarms
Smoke alarms are your first defense against calamity during the winter months when your furnace is running at full steam. Test your smoke alarms and replace batteries as needed. Research shows that 33% of residential fire deaths happen in homes without smoke detectors and alarms that work. Fire safety devices that are fully working can give you and your entire family additional protection throughout the year. If you have any smoke alarms that are chirping, that means they’re near the end of their battery life and it’s time to replace batteries.
Use Space Heaters with Caution and Never use The Stove
If your furnace breaks down and you must use space heaters, be very careful to keep them away from anything flammable. Too close to the windows and it will be “curtains” for anyone in the room! (they can catch on fire very easily) Also whatever you do, never use the kitchen stove to heat your home, if using a gas furnace. Leaving your stove running for long periods of time can result in carbon monoxide poisoning.
Don’t do it yourself
Working on your furnace without proper training can be dangerous and lead to further damage to fragile components. A small problem could develop into a major repair expense if you are not sure what you are doing. It’s like doing your own dental work, it never works out right.
Make your home warm and SAFE this winter. Following these simple tips will make sure you are comfortable through the winter. And if you do need some assistance, the people at Stramowski are here for you!
8 Tips to ‘SOCK IT!’ to Your Heating Bill this Winter
We Saved the Best for Last!
- Leave the bathroom door open. If you live alone or the house is empty when you take a hot shower, leave the bathroom door open so the steam (and heat) spreads to other rooms. Leave the fan off or you’ll suck all the warm air away.
- Turn down the water heater temperature. Most likely it’s set between 120-140, but if you drop it 10 or 20 degrees, you likely won’t notice it very much. Every little bit helps.
- Stop heat from escaping. Keep doors to rooms open and heat your house as a whole. Keep your doors and windows shut and if you have a fireplace, make sure the flue is closed unless you are burning a fire. If you can install a metal fireplace insert, you may also be able to capture fireplace heat and redirect it into the room rather than up the chimney and out of your home.
- Install a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats are proven to save. Have your heating and cooling company (that would be Stramowski no doubt) install a programmable thermostat. You can significantly drop your energy usage when you’re away from the house and crank-it-up about a half hour before you arrive back home.
- Perform maintenance on your heating system. If you keep your heating system properly maintained, it will help it run more efficiently. Electric and oil heaters gas heaters should be professionally serviced once a year. And don’t forget to change out your filters. Dirty filters lead to higher heating costs.
- Look outside. The exterior of your heating unit should be checked. If you have a heat pump, don’t stack anything against it or drape anything over it. Hose the outside unit down to clear it of dirt, leaves and grass clippings. If your indoor unit appears to have excess water around it, see whether the condensate drain or lines are blocked.
- Check for drafts. Light a candle and hold the flame near windows, doors and light fixtures and look for smoke moving sideways. If you see it, that means heat is escaping through cracks and leaks you may not be able to see. Use weather-stripping or add some insulating material. That’s heat (and money) disappearing before your eyes.
- Keep windows covered. At night, cover your windows. This will help you lower heat loss and keep cold air out, especially if you have a house with old windows. During the day when it’s light out, uncover your windows and let the light in. Take advantage of the thermal heat coming in through the windows.
Stramowski Heating was founded in 1977 by Alvin and Elaine Stramowski. Your family is important to us and ensuring that they are warm in the winter and cool in the summer is our top priority! We take the worry out of any heating or A/C repair and make it easy to select a new heating or cooling system that best suits your family’s needs and comfort preferences. Our truck in your driveway is our commitment to creating extreme customer satisfaction.
Our goal is to give you peace of mind and confidence that we stand behind our work! Check out our 19-point furnace tune-up checklist. Call Stramowski at 414-762-6457 or email us to schedule your furnace tune-up.
Become An Advantage Plus Insider. It’s FREE!
When you become an Advantage Plus Insider, you no longer need to remember to call us to schedule your regular maintenance services. We will call to schedule your annual heating system or air conditioner tune-up when the time comes. When maintenance is performed on that piece of equipment and if you have issues you will not only take priority but you will not be charged extra for a night holiday or weekend service call.