Show your Furnace some Love
The heart of the heating system is the furnace. Keeping it clean and well maintained can save you a good chunk of money through energy efficiency. Plus, it will help your unit to last longer. With a new furnace costing up to a couple thousand (including installation), there is a lot of incentives to keep up routine house maintenance.
The best way to get the most bang for your buck is make sure that furnace maintenance is taken care of as a part of each fall home checklist. During this task a professional should clean the burner to prevent soot from inhibiting the flame. A clean burner will operate more efficiently and last longer.
A professional will then balance the air to fuel ratio. A special meter is used to measure the exhaust gases for carbon dioxide and oxygen. Excess air coming into the combustion chamber will lower the heating efficiency. Optimally it would operate at about 2-3% excess air, but most units will have about 10-20% excess air. It is essential to have some excess to keep air flow and prevent fuel from pooling and creating an explosion.
For more on this topic check out this useful guide from the US department of Energy.
So you’ve already paid a professional (or put in the time and effort yourself) to service the furnace? Great! Now make sure to keep it clean by replacing the HVAC filters (a.k.a. furnace filters) every 2-3 months. Replace them more often if your have pets or there is a lot of dust from a project. Cheap fiberglass filters need to be replaced probably every month.
Make sure to put the filter in the correct direction. There are little arrows on the side to indicate direction of airflow. While you are replacing the filter, clean the edges of the duct and dust off the vent cover.
Sealing up Leaks
Another easy way to make the most of the heating system is to seal up leaks in the duct work with mastic tape. Keeping air in the ducts ensures it makes it to the correct destination. To find the leaks simply run your hand over the edges of the duct to feel for air flow.