Keeping your home heated efficiently and at a reasonable cost can sometimes be difficult. Heating systems – and the fuel needed to power them – can be expensive, and the nature of most houses means that they are not the most efficient retainers of energy. However, solutions are available that can help you keep your house consistently warm while still keeping your heating bills manageable. As a leading provider of heating and air conditioning solutions in California, Connolly Heating and Air Conditioning can tell you exactly what you need to know to heat your home affordably and effectively.
Insulation Is Everything
This is where it all starts. Regardless of how good your furnace, heaters or central heating system may be, it won’t matter much if your home is not well insulated. You can still keep a poorly insulated house warm, but your heating system will have to work much harder to replace the energy that is constantly being lost. On the flip side, if you invest in really excellent insulation, then even minimal heating will keep your living space nice and cozy.
So, before you even think about what kind of heating system you want, or how to get the most out of the one you already have, first examine your house from top to bottom and ensure that your insulation is airtight. Your goal as a homeowner is to keep energy where you want it to be, in other words inside during winter and outside in the warmer months. Insulation helps you keep the heat on the right side of your building’s boundaries, and that means more efficient heating working at a lower cost, and a generally happier and cozier home.
Start with the ceiling. The majority of heat that is lost in a house, dissipates through the roof. This is why, even if you only insulate the ceiling, and no other parts of the structure, you will still experience a massive improvement in the efficiency of your heating.
Here are your house’s key insulation areas and how to seal them most effectively and thoroughly:
The usual procedure for insulating attics is with a loose-fill cellulose or fiberglass material. The minimum thickness of this layer is 12”. Any less than that and you will not find any significant decreases in your heating bills. Some people even opt for 15” or 20” insulation, which is well worth it if you can afford the outlay. With a good, thick layer of insulation in the roof, you will earn what you spend back (in the form of reduced heating costs) in quite a short time.
After your ceiling, your walls are the second biggest sites of energy loss. Most houses built after the 1930s have cavity walls. An excellent way to insulate your home is to fill the cavity between the two wall layers with foam or cellulose sealants. This will help to lock in a lot of heat.
Most modern homes are fitted with double-glazed windows. If you don’t have these, it’s worth making the upgrade. Some homeowners even go up to triple-glazing now, which is not always necessary or worth the expense but will certainly give you additional protection against heat loss. For extra insulation, be sure to close your curtains at night. You can even buy curtains with a special layer of insulation for extra heat buffering.
External doors are best kept insulated with old-fashioned draft excluders, as well as products designed to keep letterboxes and pet flaps closed.
Hard floors are also a source of heat loss – wooden floors less so than tiles. If you have hard floors, cover them as much as you can with rugs or carpets.
- Radiator Pipes:
If you have a heating system that works with radiators, beware of any exposed pipes carrying hot water to them. These can lose heat where they are exposed to the open air, so don’t allow this to happen. Cover them with foam rubber insulator jackets and this should solve the problem.
Most of the improvements in efficiency that you can achieve in your heating are likely to come from your efforts at boosting your insulation. With a few additional measures, you can increase cost-effectiveness and overall efficiency to a maximum.
Repair and Guard Against Leaks
One of the main ways that your home comfort system loses heat is through leaky ducts. If you find that your heating bills are starting to escalate, there is a strong possibility that there is a leak or two in your ducts somewhere. It’s worth having a heating technician check the ducts thoroughly and repair the leaks where necessary. If your ducts are kept in good shape, the heat will stay exactly where it needs to be, ensuring that your home is heated consistently and efficiently, and your energy costs will be maintained at a reasonable level.
Choose the Right Heating System
First of all, what heating system should your home really have? Opinions are divided on this question. If you want to go for a central heating system powered by a furnace, should it be a wood-burning, coal-burning or gas furnace? The cost of wood and coal is variable, and both of these fuels have significant impacts on the environment, meaning that your household heating incurs greater costs for your community and general ecosystem.
Gas is far more efficient as a fuel source because it takes far less of it to reach the desired temperature. It also has very little impact on the environment compared to wood, coal, and standard grid electricity. However, electricity from renewable sources trumps gas in this regard. The cost is also unpredictable at this stage, as it depends on the available supplies, which can be quite variable.
So, what about electrical heating? Your basic heaters that work by converting electrical energy into heat are among the most inefficient. Your power bills are guaranteed to rise significantly during the winter months if you use these. They also tend not to have a very high output, which means you need several of them in order to heat your home, at least one or more per room.
The alternative with electrical heating systems is a heat pump. Heat pumps function in the complete opposite manner to ordinary electrical heaters, in that, instead of generating heat, they draw existing heat from the surrounding air and pump it into the air in your house. Even sub-zero air contains enough energy to be distilled and pumped out in the form of heat. The principle is similar to that used in refrigeration. In both cases, an inverter draws warmth out of the air. The difference is that, whereas a fridge will draw the warmth out of its interior and move it outwards, where it dissipates, a heat pump concentrates the warm air and pumps it into the building interior. Heat pumps have been proven to be markedly more efficient and cost-effective than traditional electrical heaters.
Whichever heating system you choose can be maximized for efficiency and cost-effectiveness, especially in conjunction with good insulation. Once the system is installed or upgraded, there are also some operational tips that you can use to boost the efficiency of your heating systems.
Use Heating Only When You Need It
There are two schools of thought on this matter, namely whether you should keep your heating running at a moderate temperature permanently, or whether you should only switch it on at a higher temperature when you really need it?
- Leave the Heating On
If your insulation is truly perfect (which it will never quite be, no matter how well you’ve attended to all the points above) it would make sense to leave the heating on all the time. However, since every house is likely to lose at least some heat, your heating system, already running 24/7, also has to expend greater energy to replace the energy that is lost. In really cold weather, this heat loss (even if it’s relatively small) will be more pronounced, because, as the difference between the exterior and interior temperatures increases, the interior will lose more heat than it would before the outdoor temperature drops.
- Leave the Heating Off
On the other hand, while it takes more energy for your heating system to get the temperature up when you switch it on from cold but leaving the heating off when you don’t need it also saves a lot of energy.
On balance, it really does appear that keeping the thermostat off when you can do without the heating is the most cost-effective option.
Gain Control over the Temperature
With a central heating system, you should have as much control over the temperature throughout the house as possible. This means that, instead of one thermostat controlling the entire house and heating it to a common temperature throughout, you should be able to divide your house into separate zones that can be heated more or less in isolation, as required. There are no heating systems that currently allow room-by-room temperature control, but you can divide the house into distinct areas – say east and west wings, if you have a large property, or upstairs and downstairs – that can be heated separately from one another. This higher level of control enables you to heat one zone at a time if necessary. This means that, if only one part of the house is occupied during a certain period, you can heat only that part and not waste energy on the unoccupied part.
When you hit the perfect temperature for your house, try turning the thermostat down by just one degree. It won’t make a major difference to the temperature in the house, but can reduce your heating bill by up to 10 % – every little bit counts!
You are unlikely to completely eliminate heat loss from your home. But you can get it down to a bare minimum. You can also install and operate a heating system that is most efficient and cost-effective for your home and its requirements. Whatever your home heating requirements may be, Connolly Heating and Air Conditioning can recommend and install the solution that’s right for you. Since 1992, we have been installing and repairing heating and air conditioning solutions for homes and businesses throughout Martinez County. Contact us for more information.