The heating system is winding down, but we still have more than a month left of chilly weather to depend on our heating system. Since HVAC costs make up around half of our total home energy bill, we thought it would be important to separate fact from fiction.
At 207 Plumbing & Heating, we specialize in the installation, repair, and servicing of your furnace, boiler, or heat pump. We’re here to help with all your heating system needs or upgrades with fast, dependable and friendly service.
In this month’s blog, we tackle the top 8 heating myths, and what you can really do to help your system run more efficiently and enjoy a longer lifespan.
#1 – I’ll keep my house chilly and just blast the heat when I need it for a quick warm-up.
When you walk through the door into a cold house, most people have the tendency to heat the house up as quickly as possible. Heading for the thermostat, you crank it way up for that fast blast of heat. Unfortunately, this is counterproductive.
Your heating system cannot heat a building any faster at a high temperature than it does at any other temperature setting. Higher heat setting does not equate faster heat production. Perhaps without realizing it, you are just going to make the indoor temperature too hot, and you are wasting your energy resources – wasting money in the process of being impatient. Heating systems are basically either “ON” or “OFF”, so your best approach is to set the temperature at a moderate setting (use a programmable thermostat to boost your heat a bit before you come home) and allow your heating system to adjust accordingly – in time. Wearing a sweater for a few minutes will save on your heating bills and your system wear and tear.
#2 – I have a programmable thermostat, so I’m always saving money.
Programmable thermostats do save money by keeping the temperature low when heat is not needed or desired, and moderating the inside temperature as set when you want your home warmer. However, ironically, most people don’t actually program their thermostat effectively! We find most people use a programmable thermostat much like a basic thermostat, thus making them ineffective. Take some time to plan out when you want heat and when you don’t and actually set your thermostat accordingly! Used wisely, programmable thermostats do result in less energy used and consequent cost savings.
#3 – I close off the vents in the rooms we’re not using to save money on heating costs.
While it makes sense that restricting heat from reaching rooms not in use, this doesn’t actually result in your heating system redirecting the heat to other rooms. Closing off the heat to certain rooms of your house only causes your heating system to be unbalanced. Your system must then work harder, reducing its efficiency and making parts more susceptible to malfunction. Also, when you create colder spaces in your home, warmer air is drawn to those spaces (think, laws of physics), which draws your heat from the desired spaces. You, in turn, adjust the thermostat more to compensate for this heat loss, negating any savings you think you are achieving. Your heating technician sets your unit for the climate, size of the home and the occupancy and it’s best to let it run accordingly.
#4 – I save money by using space heaters just in my high-use areas.
It can make sense to use space heaters carefully in the space you are occupying and restrict the use of your heating system to heat the whole house, but there are several words of caution to this technique. First, if you are using electric space heaters, the cost of electricity is three to five times higher what it costs to heat the same square footage with a boiler. You could quickly be spending the same amount to heat small spaces as you would to keep the whole house up to temperature!
Secondly, when you do need to warm up the rest of the house, the variance in current and comfortable temperatures can be considerable, forcing your heating system to work harder and longer than if you were simply maintaining a moderate temperature.
Lastly, space heaters are extremely dangerous! Space heaters are behind 79% of deadly home heating fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. You space heaters sparingly and never, never leave them running unattended or plugged in when you are not there.
#5 – I’m replacing all my windows with new energy-efficient windows and will save 40% on my heating expenses!
Even in extreme cases, homeowners typically see a savings between 10% – 20% when they replace their older windows. Unless you are living with single-pane, completely unmaintained, loose and cracked windows, that 40% is a sales pitch, friends. There are many, much more economical and less disruptive, options to reduce heat loss. Using storm windows, window treatments and shades, and caulking and weather stripping windows and doors goes a very long way to saving on heating costs. Even plastic sheeting (yeah, it’s ugly but it works!) applied to less visible windows can be a great solution. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, curtains on your windows can reduce the heat lost in a room by as much as 10 percent.
Again, the challenge is to get in the habit of actually using your window treatments properly! Get in the routine of closing your curtains every night to save energy, opening them again in the morning to take advantage of solar gain during the day.
Consider the cost of window replacement, the realistic savings you will achieve per year, and the number of years you plan to remain in the home, to calculate your true return on investment. If you are planning to stay in your house for the long-term, replacing your windows may be worth it.
#6 – I’m sealing up my air duct leaks with duct tape – that’s what it’s for!
Ironically, duct tape is actually not designed for sealing air ducts, nor is it a good choice when doing so. It tends to dry out, peel and not stick well in the long term. If you need to seal up your air ducts to your furnace, it’s best to have a professional inspect it for safety first, and advise you on the best approach to sealing leaks. If you are going to do it yourself, use aluminum foil tape or mastic sealant. Always clean your duct connections first before applying any sealant to ensure a good quality seal.
#7 – We use our fireplace to supplement the heat in our home.
A fireplace has great ambiance and does throw a little heat out into the room. However, it is not an efficient way to heat the rest of your house. You need to have the flue of your fireplace open to let the smoke from the fire out. Unfortunately, when you do that, the vacuum it creates, sucks all the heat from the surrounding rooms as well. Your other rooms will be colder, likely causing you to turn the heat up, defeating the purpose. It you are interested in burning wood for heat, going with an efficient wood stove insert in your fireplace is a good option.
#8 – Ceiling fans are for summer heat relief.
While the ceiling fan can relieve a lot of summer heat buildup, and offer a nice breeze in the summer, they actually neither cool nor heat, they simply move air. Ceiling fans can help a room feel much warmer in the winter too. All you need to do is switch the little black toggle switch at the base of the fan to reverse the fans direction. This will move the warm air that has risen to the ceiling back down into the living spaces below.