It’s only natural that everyone is trying to save money while, at the same time, keeping their home comfortable. But there are right ways and wrong ways to do that. Here is some advice.
Not saying goodbye to an old system
If your boiler or furnace is at least 15-20 years old, think about replacing your heating system soon. The performance and reliability of heating equipment typically deteriorate after 15 years (sooner if maintenance has been neglected.)
At a minimum, a new system should help you save up to 20% on your annual heating costs. If you significantly improve system efficiency, savings can be even higher. That could mean hundreds of dollars in savings each year.
Additionally, you can finally stop paying for expensive repairs and escalating maintenance costs for your old system.
Turning off the heat in some rooms
One common mistake we see people make is when they drastically reduce or completely shut off the heat in different parts of their homes.
While you might think this will save you a little on heating costs, shutting off the heat creates the possibility that water pipes may freeze — especially in poorly insulated rooms or rooms with water pipes located in exterior walls. As you might expect, frozen pipes that burst cause extensive water damage.
If you have a furnace, shutting off some vents can disrupt normal airflow, causing an imbalance that will just make your furnace work harder, wasting money and straining your ductwork.
What’s the answer? It’s best to keep heat flowing to all the rooms in your home. A better idea is to keep the temperature at a comfortable level throughout your home and program it to energy-saving settings when the house is empty or everyone is asleep.
If you have a zoned system, you can vary the temperature in different rooms, eliminating the temptation of shutting the heat off completely in parts of your home.
Overusing electric space heaters
Some people choose to shut off their furnaces (or turn their thermostat way down) and switch on electric space heaters in their most frequently used rooms. But doing this vastly increases the chance of frozen pipes. Overusing electric space heaters can also make your utility bill soar. (Electricity is expensive!)
There is nothing wrong with using a space heater for some extra warmth when you need it. But if you do use a portable heater, always turn it off when you leave the room or go to sleep. Always keep pets and children away from space heaters. And make sure you keep your space heater away from anything flammable!
Trying to make your heating system work faster
When their home feels chilly on a cold night, some people turn their thermostat up as high as it will go, thinking their home will get warm faster.
That’s a mistake. Your heating system doesn’t work like a car — there is no gas pedal to make it go faster. Your system will produce heat at the same rate regardless of whether your thermostat is set to 68 degrees or 85 degrees. (Setting the thermostat higher just makes your system work longer and burn more fuel.)
What’s a better way? For better temperature control, trade in your old manual dial thermostat for a digital programmable one. This allows you to automate your home temperature settings and can help you reduce your energy use, with savings as high as 10% per year.
Neglecting your heating oil or propane system
If you have a warm-air oil or propane furnace, change or clean the filter on a regular basis during the heating season. A filter clogged with dust compromises efficiency and can cause your furnace to shut down.
If you have an older oil- or propane-fired steam boiler, check the water gauge periodically. Low water levels are a leading cause of boiler shutdowns. You should also flush your steam boiler when
the water in the gauge looks rusty. If you have a modern oil- or propane-fired hot water boiler, the boiler’s automatic filling system should maintain the proper water level.
And of course, you should always schedule professional preventive maintenance (ideally, in the spring), so you don’t have to worry about a breakdown or big repair bills. Regular service also improves efficiency, helping you to conserve fuel — and save money.
Doing your own repairs
Over the years, we’ve seen some costly — and dangerous — consequences when someone
tries to do their own repairs on a malfunctioning heating system or appliance. These types of repairs present unique challenges that more often than not require extensive training and sophisticated diagnostic equipment to assess and fix.
So, the next time you need a heating system repair, don’t attempt to do it yourself. It’s well worth it to call in a certified technician who has the training, experience, and tools to find and fix your problem quickly, correctly, and safely.