Proper maintenance can have a big effect on fuel bills and should be performed on a routine basis. Follow the tips below to guarantee the efficiency of your heating and cooling system:
- Clean or replace air filters regularly every 30 to 60 days — more often during periods of peak usage.
- Caulk and weather-strip your windows and doors to prevent any air leaks
- Seal your ducts. All ducts should be inspected and sealed to ensure adequate airflow and eliminate loss of heated air. It is not uncommon for ducts to leak as much as 15-20% of the air passing through, and that can bring additional dust and humidity into living spaces. Sealing ducts can cost several hundred dollars, but can cut heating and cooling costs in many homes. Also, consider adding insulation to your duct system.
- Make sure your fireplaces have tight fitting dampers and keep it closed when not in use.
- Clean registers. Warm-air supply and return registers should be kept clean and should not be blocked by furniture, carpets, or drapes.
- Keep baseboards and radiators clean and unrestricted by furniture, carpets, or drapes.
- Bleed trapped air from hot water radiators. Follow prescribed maintenance for steam heat systems, such as maintaining water level, removing sediment, and making sure air vents are working. Check with your heating system technician for specifics on these measures and use caution: steam boilers produce high-temperature steam under pressure.
- Tune up your system. Gas-fired systems and heat pumps should be tuned up and cleaned every year. Regular tune-ups not only cut heating costs, but they also increase the lifetime of the system, reduce breakdowns and repair costs, and cut the amount of carbon monoxide, smoke, and other pollutants pumped into the atmosphere by fossil-fueled systems.
- Check for wasted fan energy. If your furnace is improperly sized or if the fan thermostat is improperly set, the fan may operate longer than it needs to. If you’re getting a lot of cold air out of the warm-air registers after the furnace turns off, have a service technician check the fan delay setting.
- Upgrade your system to a more efficient system.
- Turn down the thermostat at night and when you’re away from home. In most homes, you can save about 2% of your heating bill for each degree that you lower the thermostat for at least 8 hours each day. Turning down the thermostat from 70°F to 65°F, for example, saves about 10% ($100 saved per $1,000 of heating cost). Of course, you can use a good programmable thermostat to automate this process. You can expect to recover the cost of the thermostat in the first year.
- Aquastats. The thermostat that regulates the temperature of a hot water boiler is called an aquastat. Normally, the aquastat keeps water in the boiler around 160-180ºF. In milder weather, however, you don’t need your boiler that hot. The aquastat can be set manually to 140ºF (120ºF with condensing boilers), reducing fuel consumption by 5-10%. The aquastat control is usually located in a metal box connected to the boiler. If you can’t locate it, ask your service technician for assistance. Your technician can also provide information on modulating aquastats (or outdoor resets) that automatically adjust water temperature depending on the outdoor temperature.