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heating efficiency

Running your furnace is an expense we deal with in Toronto every winter. What most people don’t know is  that we often don’t have to pay as much as we do.

If you’ve been wondering how to improve your furnace efficiency, look no further. These 5 tips will help you run your furnace more efficiently – and save money every winter.

1. Check and Clean or Replace Your Furnace’s Filter

Every house has dust and hair, no matter how clean it is. When this gets drawn into your ducts and into your furnace, it can cause problems over time.

For this reason, your furnace has a filter to protect it. If this filter gets clogged, the flow of air to your furnace will be reduced, and your furnace will have to work harder, use more energy and cost you more money.

The US Department of Energy says that a dirty filter can cost you 5% – 15% in efficiency. To get a dollar value, we’ll assume you’re spending what the typical Toronto homeowner spends on gas, averaged out over every month of the year: $150. If you spend 5% less every month on gas, you save $90 a year, or $1,350 over a 15-year lifetime of your furnace.

You can do the same calculations using your real heating bills:

  • 5% of $150 is $7.50
  • Multiply that by 12 months = $90
  • Multiply that by 15 years = $1,350

You can use this online calculator to help.

Check your filter at the start of the cold weather season and every month while your furnace is running. If it is clogged, then replace it. Some types of filters can be vacuumed, rinsed and reused – make sure to check any instructions if yours is like this.

2. Have a Programmable Thermostat Installed

Running your furnace to heat your home to one temperature all the time wastes energy. We don’t need the house to be as warm when we’re away at work or snuggled under the covers while we sleep.

The problem is that most people are too busy to remember to turn the temperature down several times a day. It’s also irritating to have to wait while the house heats back up in the morning and when we come home from work.

A programmable thermostat allows you to set the temperature and then get on with your day. The unit will automatically reduce your home’s temperature to use less energy. You’ll also be able to set the furnace to have everything warmed up for you when you wake up or come home, so you don’t even need to notice that you’re saving money.

When used correctly, a programmable thermostat can save you a minimum of 6.5% – often more if you care about cutting costs – and that’s on both gas heating and electricity for your air conditioner. That’s another $117 per year, and $1,755 in furnace lifetime savings.

3. Invest in Yearly Furnace Maintenance

Getting a furnace tune up every year (especially in the early fall) will make your furnace last longer. It will also run more efficiently while it’s working. It’s one of the simplest steps we recommend to our customers who want to know how to increase furnace efficiency.

Your furnace technician will make sure everything is clean and working its best, and replace anything that isn’t safe or is about to break down. You can help avoid more expensive emergency repair situations – and sitting in a freezing house – by booking a tune up appointment annually.

It’s hard to estimate the total amount you could save, but considering increased efficiency and repair bills you don’t need to pay, let’s be cautious and say $500.

4. Invest in a Zoned Heating System

Most homes have rooms that tend to be cooler than the rest of your house, and rooms that don’t need to be kept as warm as they are.

A zoned heating system allows you to program different temperatures for different areas of your home to compensate. Not only can your home heating be evened out, but you can close down rooms that aren’t used as often and save on heating fuel.

It’s hard to provide a concrete estimate for the savings on this one, because so much depends on the way its used. But if you pay attention, wear a sweater, and can keep your kids from sneaking up the temperature, you can definitely find some savings on this!

5. Have Your Air Ducts Properly Sealed

Most people don’t think about the air ducts that bring the heated air from your furnace to the different areas of your home. If these are not perfectly sealed, you can lose up to 20% of your heat through leakage.

Sometimes the problem is that they were never sealed properly, and sometimes the house has aged and shifted over time and this has resulted in leakage. No matter the cause, a professional sealing job will help get your heat where it’s supposed to go.

This energy auditor found that his clients were wasting on average 10% of their heating and cooling energy. Using our average Toronto bill example, that’s $180 a year and $2,700 over 15 years.

Other Causes of Inefficiency

If you’ve tried the solutions above and not gotten the efficiency you want, you may want to consider replacing your furnace. The one you have now may not be the right size for your home and its energy requirements.

There are newer, more efficient furnaces coming out on the market all the time, so if your furnace is over ten years old you’re definitely not getting the maximum efficiency level. It can be quite an eye-opener how much you can save in energy, and you’ll find a more efficient furnace can be well worth purchasing.

For example, an EnergyStar certified gas furnace uses 6% less energy. Our average Toronto homeowner will save $108 every year. That’s $1,620 over the 15-year lifespan of the furnace.

The exact amount you save will depend on a lot of things:

  1. Whether the winter is warm or cold.
  2. The size of your home.
  3. How well-insulated it is.
  4. Sun exposure, window size and number.
  5. How warm you want to keep your home.

That’s why we encourage you to dig out your real heating bills, and do your own calculations.

We’re sure that no matter what how your actual numbers work out, you’ll find that you’re spending thousands of dollars that you could be using for something that’s much more fun.

If you’re ready to start saving on energy, contact Air Quality Dunrite for more information on how to make your furnace more efficient. You can also schedule a furnace tune-up online.

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