Using Your Furnace Efficiently
Energy Conservation Tips to Cope with the Cold
Keeping your Michigan home warm and comfortable through the long cold months of winter obviously costs money –but it doesn’t have to break the bank. To keep your expenses under control, here is some advice if you have a furnace, also known as a forced-air or warm-air system.
The number one tip for maintaining furnace efficiency is to replace or clean the air filter on a regular basis.
In most cases, this should be done at least every three months. However, it’s a good idea to check the filter monthly during the heating season to see if it needs to be changed or cleaned more often. This is recommended if you have pets in your home or a member of your household suffers from a respiratory ailment. Note: a filter change or cleaning will be included when you get a professional tune-up from a heating oil full-service company.
Understanding Your Furnace Air Filter
Air filters are located either inside the return air vent or in the furnace, and some are designed to be discarded and replaced periodically. Some filters have a plastic frame. If yours does, you can clean and reuse it.
Ultimately, you should always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions and always turn off the furnace before you do anything with the filter.
What Happens If My Furnace Air Filter Gets Dirty?
If your air filter gets clogged with particles, pet hair and other debris, the air has less room to flow through your heating system and then through your home. This means your furnace needs to do more work to get the air circulated. Such a lack of efficiency will lead to increased cost, and your home will not be as warm as it could be. You’ll also be dealing with a deterioration of your indoor air quality.
The harder your furnace has to work, the more likely it is that its parts will experience wear and tear. This means you’ll be paying for expensive repairs to keep your system up and running, or that you’ll have to upgrade sooner than you hoped.
Taking care of your heating oil furnace’s air filter regularly can add years to your system’s life. Besides maintaining the air filter, we also recommend cleaning the warm-air registers and removing any obstacles to air flow, such as large furniture or carpeting. Tip: if you’re not getting heat out of a register, check to make sure that the register is fully open.
It’s also a good idea to have your home’s ductwork inspected periodically. Studies show an average of 10-15% of the hot air produced by a forced air system escapes through leaks in the ductwork before ever reaching your living space. Have your ducts inspected every five years and get them sealed when necessary.
Five Other Ways to Save On Home Heating
Whether you have a heating oil furnace or heating oil boiler.
here are other ways you can conserve on heat this winter.
- Lower your thermostat – The U.S. Department of Energy says you can save about 10% on heating costs by lowering your thermostat from 72°F to 64°F for eight hours a day. The best time to do this is when you’re sleeping or away from home. It’s easy to do if you have a programmable thermostat!
- Bring in free solar heat – Keep drapes, blinds and curtains open during the day to allow the sunlight to warm your home. Be sure to close them at night to trap some of the solar heat inside.
- Weatherize – You wouldn’t leave a window wide open during the winter, would you? But that’s basically what you’re doing if you don’t fill in openings around external windows and doors in your home. Use caulk, weather stripping, door sweeps, and plastic sheeting to keep air leaks to a minimum. Consider insulating water pipes in unheated areas too.
- Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans – Most people only use their ceiling fans in the summer. That’s when ceiling fan blades move in a counterclockwise direction to create a cooling breeze. But modern ceiling fans have a switch that allows you to switch the fan direction. In the winter, you should switch the fan’s motor so it runs the blades in the opposite direction: clockwise. This will push rising warm air back down into the room. By recirculating the warm air, the room temperature will get higher, taking some of the strain off your home heating system.
- Replace your old heating system – Older home heating systems can operate at efficiencies that drop into the 60% range – about 30% lower than most modern furnaces and boilers. That inefficiency can cost you thousands of dollars over the years – more than enough to justify the cost of a home heating system upgrade. Be sure to ask your service provider about current rebates for upgrading your heating oil equipment, including your heating oil storage tank.
Always feel free to reach out to your local Michigan heating oil company if you have any concerns or questions about staying safe and warm this winter. Your heating oil company takes pride in its reliable service, and they truly care about your comfort and safety, especially during our harsh Michigan winters.
Being Prepared for a Winter Home Fuel Delivery
Clear the Way for Delivery Drivers
For heating oil delivery drivers, ice and snow can turn an already tough job into a potentially hazardous one. Maneuvering with a heavy hose while navigating slippery surfaces can be challenging as well. In some cases, delivery drivers have been injured when they lost their balance because of icy surfaces.
Keep Your Property Clear for Deliveries
After a snow or ice storm, please clear a path to your oil fill pipe so your driver can reach it quickly and safely. You’ll also need to shovel or plow your driveway so it is free of snow and ice. Safety codes prohibit oil delivery drivers from trying to navigate slippery driveways. Fuel trucks also need a space wide enough for an ambulance to get through.
How to Avoid Running of Oil
To make winter deliveries easier and stress-free for you, ask your heating oil company if they offer automatic delivery service. They will use your past heating fuel usage and current weather conditions to know when to schedule a delivery before you run low. This eliminates the work and worry of managing your fuel supply.
But if you still prefer to call for heating oil, you need to give your heating oil company extra time when conditions are harsh in order to avoid running out of fuel. It’s best to call for more fuel when your oil tank falls to the one-quarter mark.
Staying Warm with a Safe Home Heating Fuel
Remember that when you get a heating oil delivery, you’re receiving a home heating fuel that has a remarkable safety record because it is biodegradable, nontoxic and nonflammable.
For further peace of mind, modern heating oil tanks have been designed to be virtually leak-proof. Whether your oil storage tank is located in your basement or outside your home, the tanks being installed today are designed with corrosion-resistant materials.
Winter Tips for Your Heating System
Ensuring you have removed any obstacles to getting a timely oil delivery is important. But you shouldn’t forget about paying some attention to your heating system during the cold months.
First of all, make sure you’re keeping the area around your heating system as clean and clutter-free as possible. Never store anything flammable, like paint or old newspapers, anywhere near your system.
If you have an oil furnace, check the air filter a few times during the heating season and clean/change it if it looks dirty. A dirty filter compromises efficiency and if it becomes badly clogged with dust and other debris, can force your system to shut down.
If you have a steam boiler, check the water gauge periodically. Low water levels are a leading cause of boiler shutdowns. Steam boilers should also be “flushed” when the water in the gauge looks rusty.
If you have a hot water boiler, make sure the water level of the boiler is half-full. The boiler’s automatic filling system, controlled by the pressure-reducing valve, should maintain the proper water level at 12 to 15 psi of pressure. If there isn’t a pressure-reducing valve, manually feed the boiler by opening up the water feed valve until the boiler pressure reaches 12 psi.
Always feel free to reach out to your local Michigan heating oil company if you have any concerns or questions about staying safe and warm this winter.
Your heating oil company takes pride in their reliable delivery service and they truly care about your comfort and safety, especially during our harsh Michigan winters.
Why Is Ultra-Low Sulfur Fuel Oil Important?
Here are 5 Reasons
In recent years, we’ve seen significant improvements in heating oil efficiency and cleanliness, with vast reductions in the sulfur content of heating oil playing a major role. Here are five reasons why this is important.
- Ultra-low-sulfur heating oil (ULSHO) has much less sulfur in it than heating oil from the past, which averaged 2,000-3,000 parts per million. ULSHO has only 15 parts per million.
- The changeover to ULSHO results in a reduction in emissions of over 70%, compared with the emissions produced by heating oil from a generation ago.
- A buildup of sulfur in the heating oil system can lead to system maintenance issues. The drastic reduction of sulfur means that there will be far fewer system issues, which will result in lower maintenance costs for heating oil consumers.
- Because there is virtually no sulfur in the heating system now thanks to ULSHO, heating oil systems can burn the fuel more efficiently, resulting in lower heating costs.
- ULSHO opens the door for the introduction of super-efficient heating systems, which are already being used with great results in other countries that have been using ULSHO for awhile. These systems can achieve efficiency levels of 90% or more!
Bioheat® Fuel: Another Positive Change
In Michigan, some gallons of ultra-low sulfur heating oil are classified as Bioheat® fuel. Advanced energy solutions like Bioheat fuel combine ultra-low-sulfur heating oil and renewable biodiesel, composed of organic products like used cooking oil, tallow, fats, and algae. Produced in the United States, it is one of the cleanest-burning energy sources.
Biodiesel in Michigan
Biodiesel—the renewable biofuel that’s used in Bioheat fuel for home heating—is also used to provide motor fleets with reliable performance and savings while vastly reducing emissions.
Biodiesel works seamlessly with existing infrastructure and vehicles, and the industry has spent significant time documenting and showcasing the fuel’s abilities.
Today, more than 78% of diesel vehicles coming off production lines are approved for up to B20 use. B20 means a blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel. Read more about biodiesel.
In a move to foster energy security, cleaner air and more sustainable transportation, the Michigan Soybean Committee recently announced the formation of the Michigan Advanced Biofuels Coalition.
The mission of the coalition is to promote the use of advanced biofuels, including biodiesel, renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
Produced from renewable resources, such as soybean oil and used cooking oil, these fuels reduce lifecycle emissions from diesel vehicles and aircraft by 50% or more compared to petroleum-based fuels.
What’s Ahead for Heating Oil?
The quality of heating oil will get even better in the years ahead! Over the next decade, oil-heated homes could be using even higher, cleaner-burning bio-blends.
The oilheat industry is excited about these new opportunities because they will positively influence the long-term future of the industry and the environment while uplifting the oil heat experience for millions of customers.
Right now, and in the years ahead, you should feel good about the way you heat your Michigan home every time you get a heating oil delivery.
Heating Oil Delivery FAQs
How to Be Prepared, Tips to Avoid Run-outs and More
We’ve provided answers to some of the most common questions oilheat consumers in Michigan have about heating oil usage and the process of preparing for a delivery, checking your tank level, avoiding run-outs, and more.
Q: How Much Oil Will I Need During Winter?
A: Many factors affect your fuel use, including the outdoor temperature, the size of your home, the quality of insulation in your home, the efficiency of your furnace or boiler and your family’s own heating preferences.
But here’s one basic rule of thumb that will help to give you a general estimate. If outdoor temperatures average about 32° over a 24-hour period, a typical 2,500 square foot house will burn about six or seven gallons of heating oil per day.
Q: How Do I Read My Oil Tank Gauge?
On top of the heating oil tank is a clear glass or plastic cube that is marked with numbers that resemble the gas gauge of your car: F, ¾, ½, ¼. A red marker or float commonly indicates the amount of fuel left in your tank – if the float is at the bottom of the gauge or not visible at all, your tank is empty or nearly empty.
To make sure the gauge is working, carefully remove the outer case and gently press the float down. If it bobs back up to the original position, the gauge is working. If the gauge is not working, contact your heating oil supplier and let them know. The last thing you want to do is to start guessing how much oil is left in your tank.
Q: How Can I Avoid Running Out?
To make winter deliveries easier and stress-free for you, ask your heating oil company if they offer automatic delivery. This allows them to be accurate about your fuel needs so they can make a heating oil delivery and you can continue to feel warm and safe using oilheat at home.
But if you still prefer to call for heating oil, you need to give your supplier extra time when conditions are harsh in order to avoid running out of fuel. It’s best to call for more fuel when your oil tank falls to the one-quarter mark.
Q: What Can I Do to Be Ready for a Delivery?
In bad winter weather conditions, delivery drivers may encounter some problems that can cause your heating oil delivery to be delayed or rescheduled.
Here’s what you can do to help make sure that your heating oil delivery can be delivered in a timely fashion.
- make sure your outdoor heating oil tank is cleared of ice and snow.
- shovel a path to your storage tank or oil fill pipe after a snowstorm.
- mark the location of an underground tank with a stake that is visible above snow so your delivery driver can find it easily.
- keep your driveway sanded and plowed and create a wide enough path so your fuel company’s bulk trucks can navigate it safely.
Keeping your tank accessible throughout the year will put a smile on the face of your delivery driver! With your help, you can make a tough job a little easier.
How To Fix 5 Common Furnace Problems
Steps to Follow Before You Request a Furnace Repair
There are a host of reasons why your furnace stops bringing warmth to your home. For some problems, you can find the solution yourself. In other more complex cases, you will need to reach out for help from a heating oil service provider.
1. Lack of Power
If your heat stops working and you’ve confirmed that there isn’t a power outage in your neighborhood, your next step should be to check for a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse. You also should check to see if the power switches to your furnace have been accidentally turned off.
If you find that the power switches for your heating system have been turned off by mistake, simply turn the electrical switches back to the “on” position and your problem may be solved. If only all solutions were that easy!
Typically, there is a power switch located on the side of the heating system or on a wall nearby. In addition, farther away, often at the top of the basement stairs, there is an emergency switch with a red cover plate that is labeled. People will sometimes turn this switch off by mistake, thinking it is the power switch for the basement light.
If your power switches are not the problem, check your circuit breaker box to see if all circuit switches are still in the “on” position. Flipping the proper switch on again may be all you need to get your system running again.
However, please keep this in mind: a circuit breaker rarely ever trips for no reason. If this happens once and never happens again, it may be just a fluke. But if this happens more than once, contact a heating oil service professional, as this could indicate a serious problem.
2. Malfunctioning Thermostat
Many instances of furnaces not working can be traced to the thermostat, whose job it is to send a signal to your oil furnace to call for heat. But this signal may be interrupted if the wiring of the thermostat has begun to deteriorate. A build-up of dust inside your thermostat is another common reason why your thermostat is not operating correctly. Another thing to look for are weak batteries in the thermostat.
3. Wrong Thermostat Setting
Make sure your thermostat is set to at least five degrees higher than your current room temperature so the furnace “knows” you need more heat. You also want to make sure the fan is set to “auto” instead of “on.” Here’s why. Once your furnace gets your home to the room temperature you want, it will shut off and stop producing warm air. If the fan is set to on, the furnace will continue to blow air—but it will not be warm.
4. Clogged Air Filter
You need to change or clean the air filter in the furnace on a regular basis during the heating season. A dirty filter lowers heating efficiency and if the filter gets badly clogged, it can cause your furnace to shut down. This is a built-in safety measure to prevent your furnace from overheating and causing damage.
To check the filter, remove it from the furnace and hold it up to the light. If no light shines through, the filter needs to be replaced with a new one, or in some cases, cleaned and then returned to the furnace. You can also use your sense of smell to detect a dirty filter. If you notice a dusty/dirty odor coming from your heating vents when the furnace is blowing hot air, this often indicates that the filter needs to be changed or cleaned.
5. No Heating Oil
If you call to order your fuel, make sure to check your heating oil tank regularly—especially in the middle of a cold snap. You should not let your oil tank fall below the ¼ mark. To prevent run-outs, see if your heating oil company offers automatic delivery service, which is designed to prevent run-outs.
Like any piece of equipment, your heating oil furnace will eventually have to be replaced one day. A new furnace can be a better option than paying for another furnace repair because you will be able to reduce your annual heating expenses substantially. Research your replacement options and then reach out to your heating oil service company.
What Is Bioheat® Fuel?
Answers to Your Questions about Bioheat® Fuel
There is no longer any doubt that Bioheat® fuel represents a smart solution for the delivery of a better, clean-burning fuel for your home and the environment. Making the transition to Bioheat fuel in the future is a win-win situation for Michigan homeowners who have oil-heated homes. That’s because Bioheat fuel is already reducing emissions around the country because it is low-carbon heating —and it doesn’t require any expensive system upgrades in your home.
With curiosity growing about this remarkable, renewable fuel of the future for heating oil delivery, we’ve provided answers to the most common questions we’re hearing from people in Michigan.
How Is Bioheat Fuel Made?
Bioheat fuel is a blend of ultra-low sulfur heating oil with renewable biodiesel that’s made from organic and recycled products. These products can range from soybean oil, used cooking oils and inedible corn oil to canola, tallow, fats and algae.
These renewable products are defined as feedstocks for producing biodiesel. Blends of biodiesel in heating oil are designated in percentages. For example, a 5% blend of biodiesel is defined as B5. B10 refers to a 10% blend, while B20 is a 20% blend.
Is It True that Biofuel Can Be Made from Grass?
Yes. New research at Michigan State University (MSU) has shown that switchgrass, a biofuel crop, can mitigate the effects of climate change when grown on agricultural land of little value. For farmers, it may also provide economic returns in these otherwise unproductive spaces. Read more about the value of switchgrass as a biofuel crop.
Is Biofuel the Same Thing as Bioheat Fuel?
No. Biofuel is a broad term that can include various products including not only biodiesel, but ethanol, renewable hydrocarbon diesel, and raw vegetable oil known as RVO or LR100. It’s important to note that raw vegetable oil does not meet industry specifications; it is not biodiesel or Bioheat fuel and it is not suitable for home heating oil use.
Can Bioheat Fuel Save Me Money?
Yes. Bioheat fuel burns more cleanly and more efficiently than conventional heating oil. So, you’ll be using less heat to get the same amount of warmth, and your heating system will last longer. You’ll also likely find that you need fewer repairs on your system. You may also be able to extend the time between system maintenance service. All of this amounts to savings on your household heating expenses.
Is Bioheat Fuel Made in America?
Yes. Bioheat fuel is domestically made and helps our economy by helping meet our nation’s energy needs without incurring the cost for new land use or drilling, or paying premium prices for imported fuels.
The U.S. biodiesel and renewable diesel industry now supports about 65,000 U.S. jobs and more than $17 billion in economic activity each year.
Nationwide, some three billion gallons of biofuel were consumed last year, and biofuel use is expected to exceed six billion gallons by 2030. This will eliminate over 35 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions annually. Expect those numbers to get even more impressive as biodiesel takes us farther along the road to clean energy.
Do I Need to Replace My Equipment to Use Bioheat Fuel?
No. Most major heating system manufacturers accept Bioheat fuel as covered under their warranties for use, and you won’t need to make any changes to your furnace, boiler or oil storage tank to use it. Performance standards for Bioheat fuel have been approved by ASTM International, an organization that sets industry standards for fuels and lubricants.
Update on Today’s Energy Prices
Tips to Save Money on Heat This Winter
Entering 2022, energy prices were already high due to lingering supply issues and market speculation. But prices rose in anticipation of potential sanctions on the Russian energy sector in the event of an invasion of Ukraine. Then the war started and prices surged again. This affected prices in all energy sectors and beyond. At the same time, pent-up demand post-COVID pushed prices even higher.
There’s some reason to be hopeful. Just as constrained supply and increased demand caused upward movement in prices, the reverse will be true. It’s just a question of when prices will come down. And history is on the side of lower energy prices.
Some people mistakenly think that local fuel companies make more money when energy prices are high. The opposite is true. It’s like when the price of milk or coffee goes up. Your local grocery doesn’t make a higher profit. And no one will be happier to see falling prices than your local heating oil provider.
If you have questions or concerns, we recommend getting in touch with your heating oil provider now. They may be able to work out a solution with you and help you to navigate this winter a little bit easier.
Tips to Conserve Energy and Save Money
While your heating oil supplier cannot control what happens with prices on the global market, here are some steps you can take to improve your home’s energy efficiency and save money on heating your home next winter.
- If you have a warm-air furnace, check your air filter regularly, cleaning or changing it when needed. Clogged filters lower furnace efficiency by making it overwork to keep you warm; that means higher heating bills.
- Apply caulk to close off any air leaks around exterior doors and windows. Replace any worn-out door weatherstripping.
- Keep curtains and shades open in sun-exposed rooms to absorb all that free heat and energy during the day, then close them at night to keep the heat in at night.
- When used correctly, a smart programmable thermostat will pay for itself in just a short time with the energy savings you can achieve. If you choose a smart Wi-Fi thermostat, you can control your home’s temperature from your smartphone, no matter your location. In the winter, the recommended thermostat setting is 68°F when you’re at home. Dial it down toward the 60°F range when you’re asleep or out of the house. Don’t go too low or you risk frozen pipes.
Read advice about using programmable thermostats from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Why Handle Heating Maintenance & Repairs Now?
You Won’t Get “Bumped” for Emergencies in the Fall
Between now and the arrival of Fall, you should take the time to take care of your annual heating system maintenance—and any minor repairs you’ve been putting off. This may seem like an unnecessary task to add to your summer To-Do list, but it really makes sense. Here’s why.
By scheduling your annual heating maintenance now, you can take advantage of your local Michigan HVAC service provider having a more open schedule– instead of being jammed with emergency heating repairs or fuel run-out emergencies. This is a common situation when the weather turns cold again. It’s all about supply and demand.
When the first cold snaps hit, phones start buzzing with people reporting no-heat calls. At the same time, HVAC companies may also be booked solid with annual maintenance appointments, also referred to as tune-ups or system cleanings. Something has got to give.
This situation puts them in a terrible bind, as they will eventually have to disappoint someone. But since being stuck with no heat when temperatures get near the freezing mark can pose real risks, heating oil service companies normally end up having to reschedule their heating tune-up appointments.
Waiting until the last minute for maintenance service may also force you into a situation where you find your boiler or furnace needs major repairs—and you may end up having to replace your equipment under a tight time frame—before the weather really gets cold.
During the preventive maintenance service visit, your heating service provider will conduct a thorough inspection of your entire heating system. During this inspection, problems can be identified and fixed before they become expensive repairs. If your HVAC service provider finds a major issue that warrants a replacement system, you have some good options that will save you money.
Michigan Heating Oil Rebates
If your oil boiler or oil furnace is at least 20 years old, consider replacing your heating system before next winter. The performance and reliability of heating equipment typically begins to decline after that time period. And if you haven’t had your system regularly serviced by your local heating oil service provider, you might experience system decline even sooner.
At a minimum, a new system should help you save up to 20% on your annual heating costs. And if you significantly improve system efficiency by upgrading from a really old system to a high-efficiency unit, your annual energy savings could be 40% or more!
By acting soon, you may be eligible for equipment rebates from the Michigan Petroleum Association/Michigan Association of Convenience Stores (MPAMACS} with the support of the National Oilheat Research Alliance. Read more about current rebate opportunities in Michigan.
To qualify for these rebates, your property must be located within the state of Michigan and the system you install must be higher efficiency than the system you replace. Don’t wait! Funds are limited for this program and rebates will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
New Study Shows Value of Switch Grass as Biofuel Crop
Mitigating the Effects of Climate Change
New research at Michigan State University (MSU) has shown that switchgrass, a biofuel crop, can mitigate the effects of climate change when grown on agricultural land of little value. For farmers, it may also provide economic returns in these otherwise unproductive spaces.
The research team was led by Bruno Basso, an MSU foundation professor in the departments of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, as well as the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station.
Basso said the goal of the research project was to examine whether marginal lands could be both profitable and environmentally conscious, something that would be a victory for everyone involved.
“This shows that some marginal lands lacking nitrogen have potential value for biofuel crop production, which is of interest to farmers looking to increase profitability and of environmental importance by reducing the carbon footprint of the operation,” Basso said.
The research was supported in part by the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center; the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research program; the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture; and MSU AgBioResearch.
Green Fuel for the Future Continues Its Growth
With all of this good news about the positive benefits of using various organic products like switch grass as a biofuel crop, you might wonder where home heating oil stands. Don’t worry. Not only is today’s heating oil environmentally friendly, it’s also a vital part of America’s progress toward reaching net-zero carbon emissions.
Advanced heating fuels like Bioheat® fuel combine ultra-low-sulfur heating oil and biodiesel, composed of organic products like used cooking oil, tallow, fats and algae. Produced in the United States, it is one of the cleanest-burning energy sources.
Biodiesel is a gallon-for-gallon substitute for petroleum-based fuels. Widespread regional use of Bioheat fuel annually prevents more than 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of removing 320,000 vehicles from the road.
Plus, homes that heat with energy-efficient Bioheat fuel use less energy overall. Right now, and in the years ahead, you should feel great about heating your Michigan home with renewable heating oil!
Use Less Energy, Save More Money
Ring Up Your Energy Savings with Small Changes
With energy prices so high and inflation rates draining cash from our pockets every day, most Michiganders want to save money at home wherever they can.
Here’s an idea: there are actually many small yet important energy conservation methods that can add up to impressive savings over time. Here is a closer look at some of the steps you can take to improve your home’s energy efficiency.
Besides partnering with your heating oil service provider to perform regular, money-saving maintenance on your heating equipment, you can also do some self-maintenance tasks during next heating season.
For instance, if you have a forced-air system (one with vents or registers rather than radiators or baseboards), the most important self-maintenance task is to check your filter regularly, cleaning or changing them when needed. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines for proper maintenance. Clogged filters lower furnace efficiency by making it overwork to keep you warm; that means higher heating bills and more wear and tear on your equipment. Note: the same principle about checking air filters applies if you have a central air conditioning system in your home.
If you have an older steam boiler, you should check the water gauge periodically. Low water levels are a leading cause for boiler shutdowns. Steam boilers should also be flushed when the water in the gauge looks rusty. If you have a modern hot water boiler, the boiler’s automatic filling system should maintain the proper water level.
If you’re not sure whether you have a boiler or a furnace, please go here.
Weatherize and Insulate
While the weather is mild, take the time to apply caulk to close off any air leaks around exterior doors and windows. While you’re at it, replace door weatherstripping that might have worn away.
In terms of insulation, most homes are under-insulated. Adding enough to meet recommended R-values is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve your home’s overall efficiency and comfort. Read the Energy Department’s Guide to Home Insulation.
Here Comes the Sun
During the cold months, keep curtains and shades open in sun-exposed rooms to absorb all that free heat and energy during the day, then close them at night to keep the heat in at night. Do the reverse in the summer by closing curtains and shades during the day to block solar heat. Smart window treatments can help manage solar energy throughout the year.
Fireplaces, Vents, and Thermostat Settings
An open damper on your fireplace is like an open window; close the damper when you are not using your wood-burning hearth.
You should also move any furniture, drapery or rugs away from air vents, baseboards or radiators. This helps improve airflow and keeps heat circulating into rooms.
Do you have a smart programmable thermostat? When used correctly, it will pay for itself in just a short time with the energy savings you can achieve. If you choose a Wi-Fi thermostat, you can control your home’s temperature from your smartphone.
In the winter, the optimal thermostat setting is 68°F when you’re at home. Dial it down toward the 60°F range when you’re asleep or out of the house. Don’t go too low or you risk frozen pipes. The temperatures you ultimately choose will depend on factors like the outdoor temperature and your family’s comfort preferences. Remember, these are just guidelines.
To learn about how you can make an even bigger impact on your home’s energy efficiency through upgrades to systems like high-efficiency heating oil boilers and heating oil furnaces, please go here.