How to Get Your Home System Ready For Winter
With winter just around the corner, now is the time to give your home a "check-up". Here are eight tips from Comfort Institute on what to look for and take care of to make sure your home is ready for those cold north winds.
1. Have your duct system tested for air leaks.
Many think that windows and doors are the major cause of a home's air leaks. But according to recent research by the Department of Energy (DOE), gaps, cracks 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% of the energy put out by the central furnace, heat pump or air conditioner. Leaks are usually the biggest problem. Click here for some key information on ducts from the Department of Energy.
2. Close any crawlspace vents.
If your home or any part of it are over a crawlspace, make sure the vents are closed for the winter. They should only be open for spring and fall. Recent research finds that in most climates, leaving them open in the summer actually brings in more unwanted moisture! Many building scientists are now recommending drying out crawlspaces, covering the exposed soil with a sealed plastic vapor barrier, and sealing and insulating the crawlspace walls permanently. Stayed tuned for more information on this topic.
3. Ask your heating contractor to perform an Infiltrometer "blower door" test.
The blower door is a computerized instrument originally invented by the Department of Energy. It pinpoints where your home's worst air leaks are, and also measures a home's overall leakiness. While most homes are still far too leaky, some are too airtight, and need mechanical ventilation to ensure the air inside is fresh. For more information, click here to visit the CI Whole House Comfort Checkup web page.
4. Replace your furnace or heat pump air filter.
Most systems need this done every month to ensure safe and efficient operation. (Some systems, such as electronic air cleaners, need to be thoroughly washed.) Consider upgrading your system's air filter. The standard filter is there to help protect the equipment, not to clean the air in your home. Ask your heating contractor for information on new high efficiency air filters that can capture over 90% of the breathable particles of concern.
5. Have your heating system cleaned and tuned by a qualified contractor.
A pre-season tune up is a good investment. It reduces the chances of breakdowns in the middle of winter, and more than pays for itself through more energy efficient operation. Click here to view the CI Special Report: How To Identify a Good Heating and Cooling Contractor. While it is geared more towards finding a good contractor to replace old equipment, many of the tips are valuable for identifying a good service company.
6. Have your system checked for carbon monoxide and install a CO alarm.
When performing a furnace tune up, a good contractor will also offer to test your system for hazardous carbon monoxide (CO). CO can be produced by a dirty or malfunctioning gas or oil furnace or water heater. Every home should have at least one CO alarm. They are available from most heating contractors, as well as many retail outlets. Click here to read the CI Special Report "What You Need to Know About Carbon Monoxide".
7. Adjust your thermostat to a cooler temperature when away or when sleeping.
Why heat your house when no-one's at home or everyone's under the blankets? Even just a five degree setback each night can save up to 10% on your heating bill. Save even more by setting back during the day when no-one's home. Even though the system will run a while to warm the house up, you still save money. If it's too much bother, ask your contractor to install a new programmable automatic thermostat. The new ones are reliable and very easy to use.
8. Consider replacing your old furnace or heat pump.
Just like a car, heating equipment doesn't last forever. If your system is over 12 years old and you are planning to stay in your home more than a few years, many authorities recommend considering replacing it before it fails permanently. A new system is safer, more dependable, and can pay for itself by being up to twice as energy efficient.
However, recent research has found that many newly installed systems have energy wasting mistakes. View the CI Special Report Tips and Secrets To Buying A New Heating and Cooling System.
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