Winters are harsh. When the temperature falls, your heating bills rise. Fear not, though, because the professionals at MBI HVAC are here to help. MBI HVAC has been servicing HVAC systems in the Lehigh Valley since 1994. With decades of experience, we know plenty of tips including what works and what doesn’t. We can help you keep your home comfortable while keeping your heating bills low. We’ve compiled 15 tips as well as 7 busted myths to help you do so.
Free Ways to Save Money on Winter Heating Bills
Use a Lower Thermostat Setting
The best place to start when trying to lower your heating bill is to turn back your thermostat. Even just one degree can make a significant difference. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save 3% on your heating bill per degree lowered over a 24 hour period or 1% every 8 hours. During winter, the suggested thermostat setting is 68℉. It is also recommended that you turn your thermostat back 7-10 degrees for 8 hours a day to achieve savings of about 10%. Check out this video for more information.
Make a Seal for Your Chimney Flue When Not in Use
One issue MBI HVAC has noticed in some Allentown homes is chimney air leaks. Having a chimney without a seal is similar to leaving a window open. Air leaks can cause your HVAC system to run longer which leads to higher bills. That being said, sealing your chimney can reduce air leaks and save as much as $275 per year according to the U.S. Department of Energy. If you never use the fireplace, you can save even more by permanently sealing your chimney. Here is a DIY video on how to seal your chimney. Just be sure you never light a fire while the chimney is sealed.
Use Fans to Circulate Air
Ceiling fans can help circulate the air in your home and even save you a bit, as long as you know how and when to use them. According to Energy Vanguard, if you leave them running all day, they can end up costing you more in electricity than they save you in heating.
Keep Vents, Return Registers, and Radiators Clear
If your vents, return ducts, or radiators are blocked by furniture, rugs, or other belongings, it can trap the air. Not only does this waste energy, but it can be a fire hazard as well. It can also get in the way of MBI HVAC technicians who are trying to work on your system. It is important to make sure your vents, return ducts, and radiators are clear to promote good airflow, keep your bills low, and keep your family safe.
This includes your outdoor system vents as well. If they become blocked, your HVAC system can stall due to a lack of oxygen or shut off because of your system’s safety features.
Clean Vents, Return Registers, Radiators, etc.
Not only is it important to keep the area around your vents, return registers, and radiators clear, but is also important to keep them clean. Over time, dust, dirt, and other debris can collect. Similar to furniture and belongings, this can also block the airflow and pose a fire hazard. Therefore, it is important to dust and clean off these parts regularly when you see them covered in dust, then contact MBI HVAC 1-2 times per year for more thorough cleaning. Here are two videos to help you keep your HVAC system clean.
Pay Attention to Your Windows
Windows are important to pay attention to as 10-25% of energy can be lost there. Completely updating your windows can be expensive, and this technique can take decades to see a return. However, there are some free ways you can save on your heating bills.
During the day, shades for south-facing windows should be left open to allow heat from the sun to warm your home. Then you should close them at night to help keep the warm air in and cold air out. If you don’t have curtains or shades, blankets or drapes can also help insulate your windows.
Adjust Water Temperature
Your hot water can also soak up a lot of energy. Water is a slow conductor which means it takes more energy to heat water than it does to heat the same amount of air. With this in mind, the Department of Energy recommends setting your hot water to 120℉; anything higher is unnecessary and potentially dangerous. It is also worth noting that you can save 3-5% on your energy bills for every 10 degrees you lower the temperature of your hot water. If you need help adjusting the temperature of your hot water, check out this helpful video.
Inexpensive Ways to Save on Heating Bills
Use a Programmable Thermostat
Programmable thermostats can be yet another useful tool that can help you save. However, like fans, you have to know how and when to use them. You can learn more about that here.
There are a variety of different models of programmable thermostats on the market. They range in prices of $17 all the way up to hundreds of dollars. Each one has different options and features to choose from. Check out this video to learn more about the types of programmable thermostats and their features.
Change Your Air Filters
Like vents, filters collect dust and dirt over time. When the filter gets clogged it stops working properly and blocks the airflow. Cleaning or changing your filter is very important as it keeps your HVAC system running efficiently and helps your furnace reach its full life expectancy. It also helps you keep the air cleaner so your family can breathe easy and be healthy. MBI HVAC recommends changing the filter on a monthly basis or quarterly at a minimum. Here is a video on how to do so.
Ensuring that your filter is clean can help you save up to 15% on your heating bills. Most filters only cost about $10-$20 and are simple to install so this is a task to keep up with regularly.
Seal Leaks and Cracks
There are many places around your Lehigh Valley home that could be leaking air and wasting energy. Some common places include doors, windows, attic, basement, electrical outlets, where wires and cables enter, around pipes/vents, outward-facing baseboards, replace door weather stripping, etc. Search for areas that are significantly colder than the rest of your home and make sure they get sealed with help from the video below.
You can use air foam for large gaps. Sealing up leaks and cracks can save you 10-20% on heating bills.
Add Insulation to Your House
Insulation provides an extra layer between your Whitehall home and the outside air. It helps reduce heat loss and keep your family comfortable. The attic and basement are two main places where MBI HVAC notices our clients losing heat. Insulating these areas can make a HUGE difference. Once you do, you will notice your HVAC running more efficiently and you may even be able to get a tax break for this type of home improvement.
Insulate Heating Ducts and Hot Water Pipes
Insulating your air ducts and hot water pipes can help minimize heat loss and avoid rust or staining from condensation. Here is how to do so.
If your heating ducts and hot water pipes run through an unconditioned area like an attic or basement, you can lose 60% of the heated air before it hits your vents. It is also important to make sure your ducts are well maintained. You can learn more here. Be sure to call on a professional HVAC contractor like MBI HVAC for help with all of your air duct needs.
Use Air Vent/Duct Booster Fans
If your air ducts have a lot of twists and turns, it can decrease the efficiency of your HVAC system. While a duct booster fan can’t completely remedy efficiency issues, it can help promote airflow. The overall effectiveness depends on your situation. You can learn more at the following links.
Most air vent fans cost around $40. If you want to ensure you get the most out of your duct booster fan MBI HVAC can help you install it. Yet, if you want to know more about the process, you can watch this video.
Use Plastic Window Treatments
Plastic window treatments are another inexpensive way to help reduce heat loss through your windows, especially for single-pane windows. Treatments generally cost about $7 for every 4-5 windows (Window widths will determine how many windows each kit can treat) and they can save you as much as 10% on your energy bills. The links below can help you figure out if plastic window treatments are right for your Lehigh Valley home.
Install Door Sweeps
The gap at the bottom of a door is yet another place where warm air can leak out of your home. For this issue, MBI HVAC recommends door sweeps. They are very easy to install and generally cost around $10. Installing door sweeps is a simple, fast, and inexpensive way to save significantly.
Common Heating Bill Myths
Shut Doors and Close Vents When Not in the Room
It might seem intuitive to close the doors and vents to a room when you’re not in it. However, doing so can cause the room to become pressurized and lead to back drafting. It can also cost you more in the long run. If the room loses too much heat, your HVAC system will just have to run longer later to get the room back to your preferred temperature.
Use Space Heaters
Space heaters may seem like a cheap to heat your Allentown home, but this is not true. In most cases, it is actually cheaper to heat your entire house with a furnace from MBI HVAC than it is to heat 1-2 rooms with space heaters. Follow the link below to see how much a space heater can cost you.
A space heater can help you save in some circumstances, but it is important to understand how to use it.
Use The Fireplace
When you have a fireplace, it uses air that you paid to heat for oxygen. This air ends up going up the chimney and out of your home. Furthermore, your other rooms get colder while the area around your fireplace gets heated. Therefore, using your fireplace can waste energy and cost you more.
However, if you closed off all other rooms and turned off the heat in those areas, this could be an exception. The heat must be off, though, not closed vents. It is also worth noting that a fireplace is different than a sealed wood stove.
Insulation Needs Expensive Materials
It is a common myth that insulation materials are expensive. However, there are plenty of cost-effective ways to insulate your home. Many of them have been covered in this MBI HVAC blog.
I’ve Insulated, That’s Enough
Insulation is great for lowering heating bills, but that step alone isn’t enough. When it comes down to it, insulation is better at keeping warm air in than it is at keeping cold air out. Therefore, it is also important to seal up the cracks in your Lehigh Valley home.
The Higher You Set the Thermostat the Faster Your Home Heats Up
No matter how high you set your thermostat, it will warm your home at the same rate. It won’t heat up faster because you set it higher. Doing so only wastes energy, especially if you forget to turn it down. If you need to get warm quickly, use a blanket or sweater.
Keeping the Heat on Low While You’re Away from Home Instead of Turning It Off Will Save Energy
This myth is a controversial topic in the HVAC world. Some experts say it is better to turn off your heat when you are away from your home for an extended period of time, while others say you should keep it running on low. There are many variables that go into determining which option is better including climate, humidity, what your home is made of, and how thick your walls are. If you want to figure out which option is best for your home, you can test both options or consult the professionals at MBI HVAC.
By taking some time to weatherize your home, you can benefit in a variety of ways. You can save on your energy bills, improve your system’s health, and ensure that your home is comfortable. It is important to understand the basics of how your HVAC works and how it affects your home. When you know what works and what doesn’t you can make better decisions for your home and family.