1. 13 Energy-Saving Tips to Lower Your Utility Bills

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    It’s easy for heating costs to shoot through the roof during the year’s coldest months. But there’s a lot you can do to increase the energy-efficiency of your home, using simple materials and straightforward procedures. But one area you can’t stint on in terms of cost is your heating system, our number 2 tip to help increase energy-savings in the long run. Otherwise read on to see what proactive measures you can take to make your home the most energy-efficient it can possibly be.

    1. Keep Your Heating Appliances and Heating Systems in A-One Condition

    Take proactive measures to maintain your heat-burning appliances and heating systems. For wood- and pellet-burning stoves and heaters you can perform a couple of maintenance steps: (1) for substance-burning appliances clean the flue vent on a regular basis, and (2) use a wire brush to routinely clean the interior of the appliance.

    For your heating systems as well as your gas fireplace put in a service call to an HVAC repair and maintenance technician. The expense will be worth it because with a comprehensive check and tune-up of your HVAC systems you will extend the life of them, and in addition save hundreds of dollars in repairs and power bills over time.

    The HVAC repair and maintenance technician will perform such tasks as an inspection of your heating system or gas fireplace, preventive maintenance, and note what components, if any, need repairing or replacing. They will also perform a safety check, such as seeing if there appear to be at all carbon monoxide or gas leaks. Some HVAC manufacturers will void the warranty on your equipment if yearly and ongoing maintenance is not done.

    1. Calibrate the Thermostat

    During the day and when you’re away from home for extended periods get in the habit of re-calibrating your thermostat to 10 to 15 degrees lower. If you tend to be a forgetful sort there are programmable (also known as smart thermostats) that can do the job for you. Smart thermostats can give you a cost-savings of at least 10% or over on your power bill. A standard smart thermostat costs as low as $25 and under. If you want to save even more buy a premium-model thermostat. Its price point will set you back at over $200, but additional cost-savings on your power bill at 12% for heating and 15% for cooling can compensate for the initial outlay of cash.

    Here’s a factoid to encourage your efforts to save on your heating bill: it’s a falsehood if you set the temperature lower on your heating system that it will struggle more to warm your home, thus increasing your energy bill. The opposite is true: you will experience cost-savings.

    1. Seal Leaks around Your Home

    There are many places in your home where cold air can enter. Sealing such things as ductwork, the open spaces around pipes, chimneys, and recessed ceiling lights will prevent cold air from entering your home.

    Examine the ducts to see if their corners and seams have loosened. If you use a forced-air heating system that is standard in most homes approximately 20%–30% of heated air is lost flowing out holes, leaks, and coming-apart ducts. The solution is to use an appropriate sealant on them to rectify the problem.

    1. Use the Sun to Help Heat Your Home

    Even though the temperature is frigid outside your home you can use the heat of the sun, penetrating southern-facing windows during daylight hours to provide heat to your home, preventing the need to turn on your heating system as often. At night you can draw the drapes closed to protect your home from windows that have grown cold. Don’t forget to clear tree branches loitering close by your window as well as plant life, obscuring the sun to optimize the benefits of sunlight to heat your home.

    1. Shield Your Windows and Doors

    Did you know cold and drafty windows in your home can account for 25% heat loss? This is an area that begs for intervention and insulation from the elements, invading your home’s interior. There are two methods to solve the problem: (1) a weighty clear plastic sheet or (2) a clear plastic film taped to the pane to form a tight seal, to be installed on the interior side of the pane. Don’t forget to include sliding-glass doors also. The cost-savings on your power bills, using these preventive measures will amount to approximately 14%. Clear plastic film is well under $10 for a 63 x 84-inch roll, found at your home improvement center. If you still feel a draft you can double-down by using close-fitting protective drapes, even close-fitting shades.

    1. Weather-Strip Your Windows and Doors

    Replace old and ragged weather-stripping around your windows and doors because the worn-out material is producing drafts, and allowing cold air into the interior of your home. Statistics reveal 7%–12% heat loss comes from doors and windows not properly protected. What happens is people bump up their heating system to stay warm and inadvertently bump up their power bills as well. The loss of warm air–whether or not the heating system is set higher–forces it to struggle more to heat your living spaces. As an alternative method you can caulk around your windows and doors. Be aware weather-stripping needs replacement every three or four years because of punishment from the elements. And caulking can become weatherworn also.

    1. Adjust Your Door Thresholds

    Are you aware that your entryway door can cause you to lose heat? The way to know if this is the case is to check for daylight under the door. If you see light this means the door is not flush with the threshold enough so air is passing underneath the door. A simple method exists to contract the opening to prevent cold air and drafts from trespassing into your home. If you have a threshold metal strip or other material the strip contains screws you can use to change the width of the opening and close the gap. All you need to do is unscrew the hardware enough to block out the light coming through.

    1. Electrical Boxes a Site for Drafts

    Your outside walls are one of the prime places where drafts can enter your home through your electrical boxes. Insulation may be haphazardly installed, creating pockets where air can travel behind the box and from end-to-end.

    To resolve the air leaks caused by the faulty installation of insulation do the following:

    Take off the cover plates and use acrylic latex caulking for sealing small pockets. If the opening is large foam sealant is the material you should use. To protect outlets or switches from allowing cold air to pass through them also, cover them with an inexpensive foam gasket and put the cover plates back on. Protecting this equipment from cold air drafts will pay big returns in the months and years ahead in cost-savings on your power bills.

    1. Seal Spaces in Your Outside Walls

    We’ve already talked about the need to caulk around pipes, protruding through drywall, plywood, or other material used to hold them in place inside your home. The same applies to pipes on the outside of your home, as well as power cables and gas lines. They frequently contain spaces around them incompletely sealed with caulking material. The problem is caulking doesn’t last against the weather elements. In time caulking will start peeling, cracking, and separating from itself. Endangered caulking is vulnerable to cold air flowing through its worn spots. Eroded caulking will permit vermin to get inside your home. Use an expanding foam sealant to cover the openings.

    While we’re on the topic of pipes, did you know water pipes, located under your kitchen and bathroom sinks are also vulnerable to letting in drafts and cold air? The simple solution is to scoot back the escutcheon ring (only there for aesthetic purposes, and ineffective at obstructing air currents), and fill the exposed spaces with expanding foam sealant.

    1. Chimneys a Problem Spot for Air Leaks

    Chimneys are one of the best areas in your home where you can save money on your energy bills. When the fireplace isn’t being used, warm air travels up the chimney to the outside. If you close your chimney flue, it cannot completely block warm air from escaping from your home. The easy solution to this issue is to purchase a chimney balloon. By inflating an appropriately-sized chimney balloon for your chimney, and placing it in the chimney well, you will receive double your investment in one year at an initial cost to energy-savings ratio.

    1. Insulate Your Access Attic Door

    Although your attic may be adequately insulated, vulnerability exists in which warm air can travel through the access door (also known as the hatch). Warping of the attic hatch, or its being blocked by an object will not let the door lie flush against the jamb. This creates pockets, allowing air to come inside the attic. The solution to this problem is to create a tight seal to protect against cold air by tacking fiberglass batt insulation to the interior sides of the attic access door. If you can’t, for any reason, make the door about the jamb secure buy a latch-bolt device to seal the access door firmly.

    1. Unblock Your Heating Registers

    Heating registers must not be blocked by any object, especially heavy objects like furniture resting on them. Placing any object on heating registers hinders heat flowing into the room. Contrive to make your rooms’ arrangements as free of blocking the heating registers as you can.

    1. Lock Your Doors and Windows against the Cold

    Closing your windows and doors is not enough to keep cold air from seeping into your comfortably warm rooms. When you lock your windows and doors you create an air-tight seal where they make contact with the weather-stripping. Make sure to lock your windows early in the day before they freeze in place. Otherwise you will have a devil of a time trying to move them to lock them.

  2. Repair or Replace Your Furnace? The Facts to Consider in Making a Decision

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    As a homeowner, you understand the need to do maintenance work on the infrastructure of your home: a fresh paint job every few years, or repairing or replacing your roof are a couple of examples of what it takes to maintain the value of your home in anticipation of the day when you may sell it. Repairing or replacing your HVAC system is another area of concern in maintaining your home and its contents in A-one shape. At some point in time you will need to decide on whether you can continue to make repairs on your heating system to keep it operating longer, or is it time to invest in a new HVAC system, whether it be a new furnace or air conditioner. In this blog we will talk about how to decide to repair, or replace your HVAC heating system.

    Your Furnace’s Age

    Let’s consider how old your heating system is. The lifespan of a furnace varies, according to which HVAC experts you ask. Some say you can expect your furnace to last 10 to 15 years, while others estimate the lifespan to be 15 to 20 years. If your furnace is at least 10 years or older you may need to start repairing it more often.

    Here’s another way to look at it. Replacement of your heating system might be in order if it has exceeded 75% of its lifespan. Which means if your heating system has aged 15 years and you need to spend $750 for a repair it’s not worth it. Better to update to a new model and cash in on the savings you’ll experience with tax credits, rebates, and lower energy bills. Go for broke and don’t be content with a model that has 80% energy-efficiency; buy a model with 95% energy-efficiency. It only makes sense when you realize a model that has almost 100% energy-efficiency is going to pay you dividends in spades. But it’s up to you to decide; we’re only putting out information to help you decide if repair or replacement is better, depending on the age of your system.

    Old Technology vs. New Technology

    Another consideration on whether you should repair or replace is outmoded technology. Older-model technology can’t offer the kind of efficiency and savings on your energy bills newer HVAC models can, plus newer models come with the most advanced features to make the heating system’s operation easier and more convenient.

    Expense to Repair

    Consumer Reports puts out guidelines that say–among other considerations–that when repairs are costing you more than 50% of the expense of a new heating system, it is about the savings to you in the long run that makes it wiser to invest in a new heating system. Besides new heating systems arrive with a warranty to protect you against spending money on repairs if there are any problems while the heating system is under warranty.

    Municipal, State, and Federal Tax Credits

    In purchasing a new heating system you can save even more because you’ll be eligible to receive local and state tax credits. Even a federal tax credit is available, depending on the model you choose. These incentives could add up to as much as 30% of the purchase price of your new higher-efficiency heating system. Factor in savings of 20% to 40% on energy costs, and you can begin to see it’s a no-brainer.

    Here’s another piece of information to chew on. If your old heating system dates from the 1970’s its efficiency rating is around 65%. With current heating system models the efficiency rating jumps to 97%. At this high rate of energy-efficiency that will lower your energy bills significantly; the new heating system will pay for itself over time.

    Power Company Rebates

    There are more savings to be had if your local utility company offers a rebate for buying an energy-efficient heating system. And when you purchase a newer, more efficient model you’ll save on your monthly power bills.

    Environment and its Impact

    If you want to leave less of a carbon footprint it’s wise to upgrade to an Energy-Star-certified heating system that meets, or goes beyond federal regulations on what constitutes energy-efficiency. A fact you should know about: HVAC systems (both heating and cooling) make up approximately 50% of the energy use in your home.

    In an effort to try and stop the depletion of the ozone layer the federal government and the Environmental Protection Agency has authorized phasing out R-22 refrigerant by the year 2020. Buying an R0410A heating system will support the environment as well as help you not spend more money on repairing your old heating system. As R-22 refrigerant becomes less available due to the phase-out it will be more expensive to buy.

    System Performance

    If you’re having to repeatedly re-set the thermostat to remain comfortable; rooms are heating unevenly; the heating system is becoming noisy with sounds like clattering or knocking, snapping or squeaking; or the blower either runs continuously, or repeatedly shuts off-and-on; it’s time to consider replacing your heating system. These symptoms are all signs of a heating system that hasn’t long to go before it expires.

    Effects on Family Health

    An aging heating system may start to show cracks. When this occurs toxic gas, known as carbon monoxide, can infiltrate your home, causing family members to experience nausea, dizziness, headaches and other symptoms flu-like in nature. An emergency such as this requires immediate action to save your family’s health. Throwing open all the windows and doors in your home and leaving the house is vital. Next, you must get the gas shut off by contacting either your fire department or utility company. This is where a service contract can come in handy, because you will be able to get an HVAC repair technician to your home immediately. A service contract usually contains a priority maintenance clause, which means service repair technicians are on-call to provide emergency service 24/7. Better to get the problem taken care of right away than to spend a night in an expensive motel room. Once at your home the HVAC repair technician can advise you whether your heating system only needs repair, or if now is the time to replace it.

    Dry or Dusty Air

    An older heating system is unable to freshen the air, or increase its moisture content to ensure the comfort of you and your family during the winter months. Symptoms of a malfunctioning heating system include a feeling of staleness or stuffiness in the air; the worsening of indoor allergies; or a feeling of dryness in your throat, nose, and on your skin. These indicators mean it’s likely the time to buy a new heating system. Other signs that mean you might need a new heating system are frequent buildup of dust; static shocks; plants that are unhealthy; creaking floorboards and furniture, or a piano that needs more frequent tuning.

    We hope this information has been helpful to you in making a decision on either repairing or replacing your HVAC heating system.