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Why an Efficient Furnace Deserves an Efficient Home

Having an efficient furnace doesn't necessarily guarantee low heating bills. But when combined with an energy efficient home, that furnace will live up to its promise of lower energy bills and a more comfortable home. The systems and steps that contribute to an energy efficient home include:

  • Adequate insulation
  • Few air leaks
  • Efficient windows
  • Routine furnace maintenanc
  • Tight ductwork

If any of these factors are missing, the heating system will have to run longer and harder, which drives up heating costs. You can address these issues in your home by making improvements to each of these systems.

Adequate Insulation

Heat naturally travels to cold, and if you don't have enough insulation in the attic, you could be losing heat energy to the attic all winter. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends that homes in this region have up to 20 inches of insulation in the attic to slow the passage of heat through the roof. If you've ever had ice dams on your roof, it's likely that your insulation is inadequate in one particular area, or throughout the attic.

Insulation is one of the least expensive ways to help your efficient furnace live up to its energy rating. It lasts for years and can be simple to add to your attic or affordable to hire a contractor for the job. Good products to use include fiberglass batts or blown-in loose insulation. A professional insulation contractor also can use sprayed foam insulation that will also seal air leaks in the attic area. Sprayed insulation has a higher insulating value compared to other kinds per inch of thickness.

You can check the amount of insulation in the walls by removing an electrical outlet and looking inside. It's a reasonable assumption that the insulation you see here is the same level throughout the walls. Turn off the circuit breaker first to avoid an electrical shock. It's more difficult to add insulation to existing walls, but a contractor can help by blowing in loose fiberglass or cellulose. Spray foam insulation also can stop air and thermal losses inside walls.

Air Leaks

The most common places in your home for air leaks are the windows, exterior doors, foundation and roof. The easiest way to identify the air leaks is to schedule an energy audit that will pinpoint the precise locations of air leaks, using a blower door test and thermographic scanners. The blower door sits inside an exterior door frame and pulls air from your home, depressurizing the interior.

The air pressure gauges on the blower door show how quickly the pressure returns to equilibrium, indicating how extensive air leaks are in your home. If the pressure returns to normal quickly, your home is leaking air. The auditing professionals will use the thermographic scanner to find where the thermal differences are located, indicating leaks. This can also show where insulation is lacking.

It's hard for an efficient furnace to perform as promised if it continually has to warm the air due to air leaks. Once you know where they are, seal with caulk or expanding foam or add weatherstripping to exterior door frames and window sashes.

Windows

Unless you have thermal or Energy Star windows, you should use storm windows during the winter to cut heating costs. Glass has practically no insulating value, and getting through a northern winter with a single-pane window guarantees high energy usage. If window replacement or storm windows aren't an option, consider thermal drapes or clear plastic window sealing kits available at home centers and hardware stores. 

Furnace Maintenance

Checking and changing the air filter prolongs the life of an efficient furnace, as well as cutting its energy consumption. Dirty filters slow airflow, which lengthens the amount of time it takes to heat your home. Professional maintenance should be done once a year, especially for combustion furnaces to keep them clean, adjusted and performing safely. If your furnace has an active warranty, you may need to have professional maintenance performed at specific intervals to keep it active.

Tight Ductwork

It doesn't matter how efficient a furnace is if there are ductwork leaks throughout this system. You can ask the HVAC contractor to measure the tightness of your ductwork using special tools and seal them if they have leaks. Duct leaks not only waste energy, they're also a source for indoor air pollution and can even pull carbon monoxide into your home if you use vented gas appliances.

For more information about getting the most from your efficient furnace, contact Comfort24.7.com to find a reliable HVAC contractor in the Greater Chicago area, along with southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana.

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