The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) reminds homeowners that the fall season is the ideal opportunity to prepare heating equipment for the cold winter months to ensure the unit operates at its highest efficiency. "Heating and cooling is the single biggest energy consumer in your home, and accounts for about 40 percent of all the energy used by homeowners," said Steve Yurek, AHRI President and CEO. "That's why taking steps to ensure your unit is running as efficiently as possible can help offset heating costs this winter."
AHRI offers homeowners the following tips on how to keep their heating units running efficiently:
- Change the air filter. Check the furnace filter and change it if it's dirty, or according to the manufacturer's recommendation, to keep dust from collecting on the evaporator coil fins. Keeping your filter clean can cut energy consumption 5 to 15 percent. Turn off the power to the furnace before pulling the filter out so the blower doesn't come on and blow dust throughout the system. Be sure to position the filter according to the manufacturer's instructions. If you have a heat pump, clear away leaves, grass, weeds, plants, and other debris that block airflow through the outdoor condensing unit, which is the large metal box in your yard next to your home. Anything that collects on the unit's fins will block airflow and reduce its efficiency. In autumn, piling leaves are common culprits.
- Check to make sure the room air vents inside your home are not obstructed by furniture.
- Close off unused rooms and close vents in those rooms.
- Consider installing a programmable thermostat.
AHRI also recommends that homeowners hire a professional to service their heating system. In fact, arranging a service agreement with a reputable local contractor will not only ensure the system will operate at peak efficiency, but a well-trained technician will find and fix problems in the system - often before they become larger and more costly. Homeowners with service contracts typically are serviced first during periods of peak demand. When choosing a contractor, however, it's important to know that not all technicians have the same level of training. Look for a contractor that has at least one technician that is certified by North American Technician Excellence (NATE). You can find a NATE-certified technician online at www.natex.org.