It has been a long cold winter so far and it’s not over yet. If your getting frustrated with high utility bills which can indicate energy waste and the cycle of buying and throwing away furnace filters every month, there are a few simple things you can take to green your furnace.
These steps are so easy and cost efficient, they make sense whether you rent or own your home.
As a renter I never installed a programmable thermostat, then when I bought my house I waited until half way through my first winter to buy and install one. After the first month my energy usage decreased by about 20% and I immediately regretted waiting so long.
There are many types of programmable thermostats available. The one I have is a Honeywell 5-2 day programmable thermostat which allows me to set cycles for weekdays and weekends to raise the temperature when I’m usually home and lower it when I’m not home and when I’m sleeping. It costs less than $30 and came with a CD to show me how to install it. If I had know how inexpensive and easy these were to install I would have put one in every apartment I ever rented.
If your schedule is very different from day to day, you’ll want the 7-Day Programmable Thermostat.
On another level is the Nest Learning Thermostat which can be controlled through your computer or phone. Features include the ability to detect when you aren’t home and automatically adjusting the thermostat and tracking on your energy usage so you can analyze the information and find ways to save even more energy.
Whatever thermostat you buy, remember to save the receipt and look for rebates that may be available through your utility companies. I was able to get my thermostat for free after receiving a rebate offered by the electric company.
We all know we should get our furnace looked at every year by a professional, preferably before it turns on in the fall and blows all the dust that’s settled in it over the summer through the vents. Most home owners I know don’t get this yearly maintenance done and it results in wasted energy.
A furnace doesn’t run constantly. It starts up, runs until it’s warm enough in the house and shuts off. If you have noticed your electric bill increases dramatically in the winter, your furnace is the likely culprit. If it’s not cleaned and properly maintained it runs longer than it should, using unnecessary electricity and/or gas and decreasing the life of your furnace.
Furnace maintenance tends to be inexpensive but if you’re a renter you may not want to pay for it. In my experience I’ve found that landlords don’t often have furnace maintenance done because they don’t pay the utilities or don’t want to spend an afternoon waiting for the appointment. If you can, negotiate with your landlord to handle appointments and subtract the cost from your next month’s rent.
When I got tired of throwing out a furnace filter every month I talked to my heating and cooling expert about other options. He said he doesn’t like most replaceable filters anyway. The cheap, cardboard ones are too porous, allowing small particles like mold spores through. The white, cloth-like ones are too thick, forcing the motor to overwork trying to push air through the filter.
His recommendation was a permanent electrostatic filter which uses static to attract dust and small particles to the weave. There are many brands available and most have a 10 year warranty. When I was researching these filters I saw many with terrible reviews and decided it was best to avoid filters that you cut to size and assemble yourself as well as ones that expand to fit your furnace.
My advice is to measure the filter opening on your furnace and purchase an appropriately sized permanent filter. I chose a filter from Filtration Manufacturing because they were rated well regarding construction, performance and air flow. When the heating and cooling expert came back to maintain my furnace this year I knew all the research paid off when he complimented me on my choice.
These three easy steps to a greener your furnace will take less than 30 minutes each and can cost as little as $30. Which step will you take first?