1. Furnace filters. Change filters regularly. For one inch thick filters change once a month during heating and cooling seasons. Four inch think filters are good for 4 months. Look for the MERV rating. Don’t bother with filters having a MERV rating less than 5. Buy filters with a MERV rating between 5 and 8. These cost between $2.00 and $6.00. Filters with higher ratings can cost up to $25.00 and can actually restrict airflow in some HVAC systems. While doing home inspections we often find the filters installed incorrectly. The arrows on the filter must point toward the furnace.
2. Furnace tune-up. Get a furnace tune-up at least once every two years. This will keep your furnace running efficiently and prolong its life. Cost $80.00 to $120.00.
3. Gas meter. Make sure your gas meter is not covered with snow or ice. This can happen when snow is drifting or when shoveling or snow blowing your driveway. There is a small vent on your gas meter that keeps the pressure in the system balanced. If this vent is blocked a hazardous condition can occur. Even if your meter is inside the building there will be a vent outside. This must be kept clear. Clean off the gas meter with your gloves or a broom. If you can’t clear the snow with a broom, in the Twin Cities Metro area call Excel Energy at 1-800-895-2999. Do not use a shovel or other tool to clean gas meter. Keep area in front of meter accessible for utility workers. Call 911 if it is an emergency.
4. Icy sidewalks. In Minnesota ice is often a hazard. When using deicer on sidewalks use products made from calcium chloride. It’s good for 20 below and is less harmful to pets or concrete. Use sparingly. Sodium chloride or potassium chloride are less effective and more harmful to pets and concrete.
5. Programmable thermostats. These work especially well if everyone in the house has similar schedules. Program them for a comfortable temperature when you are at home and to drop temperature for substantial energy savings when not at home. Temperature setting can also be dropped during sleeping hours. Cost of $25.00 to $100.00 makes for a quick payback. Works in the summer cooling season also.
6. Ceiling fans. Most fans have a switch to reverse rotation of blades. Set so the tilt of the blades push air down in the summer. If you reverse blade rotation in winter and run on slow speed the fan will circulate the warm air that collects at the ceiling. Letting you get more use of the warmed air.
7. Window air conditioners. Although insulated AC covers are available and are better than nothing a much better solution is to remove AC unit and restore window to normal operation. You will save energy and window AC units often make the window susceptible to water intrusion.
8. Fireplaces. Keep damper closed when not in use. A lot of heat goes up chimneys. If the fireplace is never used the flue can be sealed off with rigid foam insulation board cut for a tight fit. While were talking about fireplaces it’s a good time for a reminder that all houses should have working smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and a fire extinguisher.
9. Window treatments. One final tip that costs nothing but can make a real difference is managing window treatments. Closed on cold winter nights and open on sunny days. Great for saving money on cooling in the summer also.