As the fall season officially begins and temperatures cool, heating systems will be switched on in the coming weeks. The following are some important tips to consider as you prepare your home for colder weather:
Have your heating system professionally serviced. Having your heating system cleaned and serviced regularly could reduce your fuel costs by 10 percent or more. Getting your system professionally serviced now also reduces the likelihood of needing emergency service in cold weather.
The service technician should:
- Make sure the pilot light (if you have 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).
Having your heating system checked is also a safety issue, since improperly-functioning systems can produce carbon monoxide. UGI recommends that you check your heating system as soon as possible if you have not already done so to ensure it is operating properly.
Clean or replace the filter. One of the simplest and most important ways to keep your heating system running efficiently is to maintain the filters. Filters that are properly fitted and cleaned or replaced regularly can have a significant impact on your energy costs and 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 maintained, 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.
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.
Blocked or improperly lined chimneys and damaged flues are a common source of carbon monoxide in homes. You should contact a qualified professional if you suspect you may have an issue.
Make sure your appliances have proper air flow. If your furnace and the water heater are in an enclosed room or closet, make sure they get plenty of air. Furnace rooms or closets should have door louvers or a duct directly to the outside to provide sufficient combustion air.
If you renovated your home this year 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 air leaks. Small air leaks around windows, doors, pipes, recessed lighting, and electrical outlets can add up to a significant loss of heat. Sealing air leaks can reduce your heating bills by 10-20 percent and possibly more depending on specific conditions in your home.
Seal door leaks with weather-stripping or a door sweep. Window leaks can be sealed with caulking. Most heat loss occurs as warm air rises and exits the house through gaps around the chimney or attic. Pay particular attention to the attic hatch or pull-down stairs and to any interior-wall top plates in the attic, as these areas leak frequently.
Ensure that vents in the house allow air to flow. Your home’s vents make sure that the air inside your home can be circulated properly. If vents are not allowing air to flow because of an obstruction or clogged filters, your heating system will work harder to heat your home evenly. This leads to higher energy bills. Examine your vents and ensure that air can pass through. Clear clothes, toys and furniture from vents.
“Seal tight and ventilate right” should be the guiding principle when it comes to sealing air leaks and keeping vents unobstructed. The trick: making sure your home doesn’t lose valuable heat but provides enough fresh air to maintain good indoor air quality.
Clean and unblock heat registers. Dirt, dust, and pet fur reduce the effectiveness of ducts and registers that distribute heat. Clean these elements regularly and make sure furniture and drapes don’t inhibit the air flow.
Remove all flammable objects from around your furnace and water heater. Make sure that paper products, boxes, aerosols, and other flammable products are kept away from your furnace and 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 near bedroom areas.
Consider a new heating system. If your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old, consider replacing it with a new ENERGY STAR-qualified heating system. These models use six to 15 percent less fuel than non-ENERGY STAR systems.
UGI Utilities is a natural gas and electric utility with headquarters in Reading, Pennsylvania. UGI serves 680,000 customers in 45 Pennsylvania counties and one county in Maryland. Customers and community members are invited to visit the UGI website at www.ugi.com; our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ugiutilities; or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ugi_utilities.