Keeping Warm This Winter

Is your furnace or boiler on its last leg? Are you spending a lot more money than you’d like on heating your home? Keeping your home heated requires more energy and costs more money than any other system in your home, so taking the plunge for a new system might make sense. Before you decide, however, here are some things to consider.
Make Your Home More Energy Efficient
While it might be time to replace your heating system, you should first make every effort to improve your home’s energy efficiency. If you have a home that never seems to warm up no matter how much you run the heat, it is probably time for a home energy audit.
Adding insulation and reducing air leakage makes your home more energy efficient and can help keep you warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Don’t discount the impact that caulking and weather-stripping around your doors and windows can make as well. Sealing and insulating leaky HVAC ducts can also be very cost-effective.
Replace Your Furnace or Boiler
If your heating system is more than 10-15 years old, you’ll find many great energy-efficient options for furnaces and boilers. Modern heating systems can achieve efficiencies as high as 98.5%, which means that virtually all of the fuel is converted into useful heat for your home. Older furnace and boiler systems are only about 55-70% efficient, so only 55-70% of the energy actually converts to heat (and 30-45% of the energy is lost).
If you live where winters are cold, it makes sense to invest in the highest-efficiency system you can afford. In milder climates, the extra investment required to go from 80% to 95% efficiency may not be worth it.
Convert Your Fireplace
Most of us love our fireplaces, but they are one of the most inefficient ways to heat your home. And when not in use fireplaces are a major source of warm air loss–sending your heated air right up and out the chimney. If you crave the coziness of a fire, but would like more heat than a traditional fireplace can offer, consider adding a gas insert or an efficient wood or pellet-burning stove.
Today’s wood and pellet stoves are far more efficient and cleaner burning and can easily heat a small to average-size home. But wood smoke is a major source of pollutants, so some areas restrict the use of wood-burning stoves. Before installing a wood or pellet stove, contact your local building codes department or state energy office about wood-burning regulations that may apply in your area.
Gas inserts have come a long way from the purely decorative models of the past. They are efficient, clean, and super convenient: no hassling with wood or pellets, or cleaning out ashes. They are clean burning, low maintenance, and you can use a wall thermostat to control the heat output and maintain a specific temperature in the room.
No matter how you choose to heat your home, remember that properly maintaining and/or upgrading your equipment can help you save money. Make sure you regularly change any air filters, and get your HVAC system tuned up annually.


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