Home heating systems operate inefficiently for a wide range of reasons, but there are several equipment changes that can reduce the energy required to heat a home. Signs that your home heating operation might be inefficient include increased energy bills, increased repairs, high humidity, increased dust, loud operation and rooms that heat up too much or too little.
Replacing Old Pumps, Furnaces and Boilers
One of the most effective ways to improve the efficiency of your home heating equipment is to replace it when it ages to a point of diminishing effectiveness. As heating pumps, furnaces and boilers age, they expend more energy to operate and provide adequate heat. Heat pumps more than 10 years old and furnaces and boilers older than 15 years often become inefficient. Replacing them can save on energy bills (see References 2).
Energy Star Appliances
Energy Star, a joint federal program of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, certifies heating appliances that meet guidelines for energy efficiency. Energy Star has established guidelines for boilers, furnaces and heat pumps. If 10 percent of American households bought Energy Star heating and cooling equipment, it would eliminate 15 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually, which is the amount of emissions produced by 1.3 million cars each year(see References 4). Buying Energy Star heating and cooling equipment can produce more than $200 in annual savings on energy bills and also give you a federal tax credit (see References 5).
Use a well-respected contractor to handle the installation of new equipment, whether it is Energy Star-qualified or not, because incorrect installation can prove expensive, costing you up to 30 percent more on energy bills than properly installed equipment would (see References 1). Incorrect installation can also shorten the life span of an appliance. Energy Star has guidelines for proper installation of new heating and cooling appliances. Almost half of the home heating and cooling equipment installed in the U.S. is installed incorrectly (see References 3).
Equipment and Maintenance
Diligent maintenance and some changes to existing equipment can improve home heating energy efficiency. For instance, installing a programmable thermostat allows you to manage heat settings by pre-programming temperatures for different stretches of the day so that you can keep the heat low when no one is home. Also, sealing ducts with mastic or foil tape and then insulating them can produce large energy savings by preventing warm air from escaping. Finally, an annual tune-up and monthly changes of air filters help keep a home heating system operating at full strength. (See References 1)
Tom Gresham is a freelance writer and public relations specialist who has been writing professionally since 1999. His articles have appeared in "The Washington Post," "Virginia Magazine," "Vermont Magazine," "Adirondack Life" and the "Southern Arts Journal," among other publications. He graduated from the University of Virginia.
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