Learn How to Lower Your Heating Bills
The frustrating part about trying to lower your heating bills is many homeowners already use blankets, space heaters or wool socks just to keep warm. In many homes, the thermostat is turned down low just to keep winter heating bills as affordable as possible. In order to reduce heating bills while improving comfort, upgrades to the home and the heating system need to be considered.
The first thing to understand about our homes during the winter is that they lose much more air to the outside than most people realize. It is a continual, silent process that goes on every moment of every day all winter long. This process, called “stack effect”, occurs because the air in our homes during the winter is much warmer, relatively speaking, than outside air. This warmer air in our homes slowly rises up like a hot air balloon through the many hidden holes, gaps and cracks between your house and the attic. Most people don't realize how many holes connect the inside living space of their home to their attic space. The number of connections is significant.
Once the warm air rises into the attic, it is then lost to the outside. All winter long, the warm air you are paying to heat with your furnace is lost to the outside through the many gaps, cracks and voids connecting your attic to the inside space of your home costing homeowners large amounts of heating dollars. To make matters worse, at the same time you are losing the warm air from your house to outside, an equal amount of cold air from outside then enters your home to replace the warm air that was lost. This silent, invisible process is a major reason for cold, drafty homes during the winter.
In addition to the large amount of warm air escaping from your home during the winter, most homes do not have enough insulation to slow the heat in your home from escaping through ceilings, walls and floors. This high rate of heat loss causes cold walls, floors and ceiling surfaces, uncomfortable conditions and condensation problems.
Another reason for cold, drafty homes in winter is the heat from furnaces is often wasted before it can heat your home. Air leaks in ductwork can lose the heated air in your duct system before it ever has a chance to heat your home. This heated air is expensive but it is lost to the outside before it can warm the rooms in your house.
New residential furnaces and boilers are required to be rated for efficiency in terms of AFUE or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. To lower heating bills, GreenHomes recommends natural gas and propane heating systems have a 95% AFUE or higher and oil-fired systems have an AFUE of 87% or higher. If you currently have a heat pump heating system, GreenHomes recommends heat pumps have an 8.5 HSPF rating or higher when replacing an older air source heat pump system.
Heating bills can also be lowered by using a programmable thermostat to reduce the indoor temperature at night or during the day when no one is home. Setting back temperatures during nighttime or during unoccupied periods will save additional money on heating bills. Be careful, however, if your heating system is an air source heat pump. Without a thermostat made specifically for air source heat pumps, setting back your thermostat can actually increase your heating bills.
Old, single pane, leaky windows can also contribute to poor comfort conditions and higher heating bills in homes during the winter. These inefficient windows can be very cold to the touch during the winter causing occupants feel colder while increasing heating costs. These inefficient windows usually are very leaky creating cold, drafty conditions in the home.