With the fall season and cooler temperatures arriving shortly, residents and businesses will soon be turning on their heating systems. Here are some important energy tips to consider in preparing for colder weather:
Have your heating system professionally serviced. Having your heating system checked is an important safety practice, since improperly functioning systems can produce carbon monoxide. UGI recommends that you check your heating system annually to ensure it is operating properly.
Having your heating system cleaned and serviced regularly can also reduce your fuel costs, in some cases by 10 percent or more. Getting your system professionally serviced now also reduces the likelihood of needing emergency service in cold weather.
A qualified service technician will check the following items on your appliance:
- Make sure the pilot light (if the appliance is equipped with one) and thermostat are working correctly.
- Check the fuel pipe and heat exchanger for cracks or leaks.
- Test the efficiency of your heating system (how effectively your furnace or boiler converts fuel to heat).
Clean or replace the filter. One of the simplest and most important ways to keep your heating system running efficiently is to maintain and/or replace the filters as recommended. Filters that are properly fitted and cleaned or replaced regularly can have a significant impact on the quality of air in your home.
Filters should be replaced or cleaned, depending on your type of filter, about every three months. By keeping your filters clean, you will not only have your home better prepared for winter, but you may benefit if you experience fall allergies.
Ensure the exhaust flue or chimney is clear of obstructions and in good condition. Have your chimney inspected for any damage that may have occurred during summer storms. Blockages, cracked liners, and other structural damage to chimneys can cause carbon monoxide to enter your home or soot to accumulate outside the liner, eventually leading to a chimney fire.
Anytime you are near your furnace, check for holes in the exhaust flue, particularly where the pipe meets the furnace. Small holes can be patched with foil tape, but corroded flues must be replaced.
Make sure your appliances have proper air flow. “Seal tight and ventilate right” should be the guiding principle when it comes to sealing air leaks and keeping vents unobstructed. Make sure your home doesn’t lose valuable heat, but provides enough fresh air to maintain good indoor air quality.
If your furnace and your water heater are in an enclosed room or closet, make sure they receive sufficient air flow. Furnace rooms or closets should have door louvers or a duct piped directly to the outside to provide combustion air.
If you renovated your home recently and enclosed your furnace or water heater in a small room or closet, you should inspect the work carefully to ensure your appliances have proper air flow. Lack of air flow will cause your system to function improperly and could create a dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide in your home.
Seal off outside air leaks. Small air leaks around windows, doors, pipes, recessed lighting, and electrical outlets can add up to a significant loss of heat. Seal door leaks with weather-stripping or a door sweep. Window leaks can be sealed with caulking. Pay particular attention to the attic hatch or pull-down stairs as well as any interior-wall top plates in the attic, as these areas leak frequently.
Ensure that return-air vents in the house allow adequate air flow. Your home’s return-air vents ensure that the air inside your home circulates properly. If vents are not allowing air to flow because of an obstruction, your heating system will work harder to heat your home, leading to higher energy bills. Examine your vents and ensure that air can easily pass through. Clear obstructions such as clothes, toys, and furniture from in front of vents.
Clean and unblock heat registers. Dirt, dust, and pet fur reduce the effectiveness of ducts and registers that distribute heat. Make sure furniture, curtains and blankets are not near or resting on your heat registers. Clean these elements regularly and make sure furniture and drapes don’t inhibit the air flow.
Consider installing a whole house central humidifier. Installing a whole house central humidifier can help improve personal comfort since adding moisture to the air as it is heated slows the evaporation of moisture off your skin, which will give you a sensation of warmth. This allows you to lower your thermostat setting by as much as three degrees, saving your energy dollars. Additionally, dry air can cause itchy, watery eyes, dry nose and throat, and dry skin. Central humidifiers are better than room humidifiers since they can add the proper amount of humidity to the whole house instead of just one room and are regulated by temperature and humidity settings.
Remove all flammable objects from around your furnace and water heater. Move combustibles that may have piled up over the summer such as paper, books, blankets, decorations, etc., away from heat sources. These materials should be at least 36 inches away from your furnace or water heater.
Check to ensure all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your home are working properly. Make sure detectors have fresh batteries. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be located on every floor of your home and one should be located within each bedroom.
Use properly-rated extension cords, and do not overload them. As you start to use electric blankets, holiday decorations, and additional area lights with earlier nightfall and cooler temperatures, make sure the cord is rated for your intended use and meets the needs of the appliance or device to which it is connected. It is also important not to overload extension cords. Cords that are overloaded or coiled when in use can overheat and cause a fire. Inspect all electric cords in your home for signs of damage or wear (cracked/frayed/bare wires, loose connections, etc.) before plugging them in and never use a cord that feels hot to the touch. Do not nail or staple a cord to the wall or floor. In addition, do not pinch cords in windows, doors or under heavy furniture, or through walls or ceilings.
Save money by checking for rebates. Many UGI natural gas and electric customers can qualify for rebates associated with the installation of energy-saving measures in your home or business. These rebates cover items such as Wi-Fi thermostats, adding extra insulation, or the installation of an ENERGY STAR certified furnace. Visit www.ugi.com/savesmart for full program details.