Winters can be warm without being pricey

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Photo: George Staniloae

Your old-fashioned thermostat might be costing you cash. Consider upgrading to a programmable one.

(NC)-With the onset of the fall season, colder temperatures and snow will soon be here. In light of increasing fuel prices, that first large heating bill may come as a shock!

If your home has a furnace with a standing pilot, you may want to look at replacing it with a model that could substantially reduce fuel costs and improve the comfort levels in the home at the same time. Furnaces with standing pilots are typically efficient to between 50 per cent and 60 per cent. That means that for every dollar spent on fuel, 40 to 50 cents goes up the chimney in wasted energy. That can add up to a lot of money over the course of a heating season. Homeowners with furnaces in the 15- to 20‑year range may also want to consider upgrading to a more efficient model.

Today’s minimum standard for furnace manufacturers is 80 per cent (known as “mid efficiency” models). In contrast, some high efficiency units are efficient to over 95 per cent (so that less than five cents of every dollar spent on fuel is wasted.) The cost of upgrading an old system often can be returned in fuel savings within a few years.

In addition, some furnaces contain energy-saving variable speed (“ECM”) blower motors that operate more quietly, distribute heat more gently, and use substantially less electricity than a standard motor. These systems can provide excellent additional savings, especially when the home has an air purifying or central air conditioning system. A heating professional will be able to advise you as to which furnace model is best suited to your needs.

Another way to achieve savings is through the use of a programmable thermostat. These control systems can be programmed to adjust (lower) the temperature of the home during sleep times or when the home is unoccupied, and return (raise) it to more comfortable levels when the home is occupied. Depending on the set-back temperatures and times, it is possible to achieve up to a six per cent savings over a non-programmable thermostat.

Poorly maintained equipment and/or dirty furnace filters can impede air flow through the furnace and duct work, resulting in higher fuel costs. Ensuring that the furnace and filter are clean will save you money on your energy bill while also prolonging the life of the equipment.

Draft-proofing will also save you money. Homeowners often compensate for small drafts in isolated areas by raising the temperature on the thermostat. Installation of weather stripping around doors and windows will prevent drafts from entering the home. Checking and sealing small openings, and using lined or insulated drapes will help to reduce fuel consumption as well.

Eliminating drafts will not only save on energy but will make the home more comfortable overall.
Having a properly operating humidifier can help to save on fuel costs, while adding to the comfort of your home. Typically, warm moist air feels warmer than just warm air. Being able to lower the thermostat even one degree with higher humidity levels can result in fuel savings.

Incorporating these small steps as winter approaches may help you save money in 2009. To find a qualified heating contractor, visit www. hrac.ca or call toll free at 1-877-411-HRAC (4722).