As an experienced home inspector, I often encounter homeowners who are looking for ways to reduce their heating bills, especially during the colder months. It's a common concern, as heating a home can account for a significant portion of monthly expenses. The good news is that there are several practical and effective strategies that homeowners can adopt to reduce these costs. These methods not only enhance the efficiency of your heating system but also contribute to a more sustainable living environment. In this guide, I'll share some of the most effective tips I've learned through years of inspecting homes. By implementing these strategies, you can enjoy a warm, comfortable home without the stress of high heating costs.

The cornerstone of an efficient heating system is regular maintenance. This is something I cannot stress enough in my professional experience. A well-maintained system not only functions more effectively but also extend the lifespan of your heating equipment.

Change Your Air Filters

Air Filter Testing

The simplest yet most overlooked aspect is the regular changing of air filters. For those using furnaces or heat pumps, this is crucial. A clean air filter ensures adequate airflow, reduces strain on your system, and maintains indoor air quality. Fiberglass filters, while economical, should be replaced monthly. For better filtration and longevity, consider paper element air filters, which need changing every 90 days for 1” thick varieties, and every 9-12 months for the thicker types. Pleated air filters are a step up, especially for trapping finer particles of dirt and dust.

Conduct Regular Inspections

Beyond the filters, periodic inspections of the entire system are vital. This includes checking for any signs of wear and tear, ensuring that all components are functioning correctly, and making adjustments or repairs as needed. For those with boilers and electric baseboard heaters, while there’s no need for filter changes, it's important to regularly check these systems for efficient operation and safety.

Get it Professionally Serviced

Just like your car, heating systems need regular servicing to function efficiently and safely. A yearly check-up by a qualified HVAC technician can make a world of difference. This not only ensures that your system is running at peak efficiency, but also helps identify potential issues before they turn into expensive repairs. For systems venting into chimneys, ensure these are inspected too, as blockages can be hazardous. And, if your system uses direct vents, keep them clear of obstructions like plants or snow. An un-serviced system can become a source of increased utility bills and, more importantly, a safety hazard due to the risk of carbon monoxide emissions.

Use Smart Thermostats

Utilizing a programmable thermostat is a smart way to tailor your home's heating to your daily schedule, reducing energy usage when you're away or asleep. By programming your thermostat to lower the temperature during hours you're typically out or asleep, you can cut down on unnecessary heating costs. Additionally, it's important to update your thermostat's settings in sync with daylight saving time changes. This ensures that your heating schedule remains consistent and efficient throughout the year. Modern smart thermostats even offer the convenience of remote adjustments through your smartphone, making it easier to manage your home’s temperature and save on heating costs.

Upgrade Your Home’s Insulation

Proper insulation is a game-changer for energy savings. In my region, the standard for new homes is R-49 in attic insulation. Various materials offer different R-values, indicating their resistance to heat transfer. When adding insulation, take care not to block necessary ventilation. Don't forget about insulating your attic access points too, as neglecting this can significantly undermine your insulation efforts.

Seal Gaps

Sealing doors, windows, and other openings in your home is a cost-effective measure that has immediate benefits. By using caulk or weather stripping to seal these gaps, you prevent the loss of warm air and the intrusion of cold drafts. This not only helps maintain a consistent temperature but also contributes to overall energy savings. Moreover, sealing these openings also helps in preventing moisture and insect infestations, thereby protecting the integrity of your home. Even small leaks can lead to significant energy loss over time, so this simple step is a crucial part of maintaining an energy-efficient home.

Use Infrared (IR) Thermography

infrared thermography by WIN Home Inspection

Consider hiring a certified infrared thermographer for a thermal scan of your home. This technology is useful for locating areas of missing insulation and detecting cold air entries. It's a quick process and provides digital evidence of where your home is losing energy.

As a home inspector, it's my responsibility to ensure the heating systems in homes are functioning properly. This involves testing different types of systems, such as furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, and radiant heating, using their normal operating controls. My goal is to verify their basic heating functions, ensuring they operate efficiently and safely. This process includes checking for any irregularities or potential issues that could impact the system's performance or the homeowner's safety. A thorough inspection of the heating system is a critical aspect of a home inspection, as it provides valuable insights into the system's condition and efficiency.

Remember, each of these steps not only contributes to a more energy-efficient home but also lessens the strain on your wallet. Small changes can make a big difference to your overall energy consumption and costs.

Author Bio:

Josh Rogers

As a former professional home inspector and Training Specialist at WIN Home Inspection, Josh has years of experience in both performing and teaching home inspections, infrared scans, radon testing, mold testing, and more.