7 Easy Steps to Improve Your Furnace’s Efficiency

Changing a filter for furnace efficiency

An efficient furnace does more than keep your toes toasty in winter.

It helps you save on energy bills and is a big thumbs-up for the planet. So, by prioritizing furnace efficiency, you’re doing a solid for your wallet and Mother Earth.

A well-tuned furnace can reduce energy consumption by up to 30%. If you spend $200 monthly on heating, a 30% reduction equals a sweet $60 you’ve just saved. That amounts to $300 in the months from November to March! It’s like getting a bonus without doing extra work.

Plus, a well-maintained furnace means fewer breakdowns and less spending on repairs. So, you’re saving on energy and cutting down on unexpected costs. That’s a winning formula, any way you look at it!

Step 1: Have Your Furnace Inspected & Cleaned

Annual inspections and cleanings are your furnace’s version of yearly physicals. They help identify potential problems before they become big, expensive ones.

  • A professional technician will check your furnace for signs of wear and tear, clean the components, and make necessary adjustments.
  • He’ll identify parts that need replacing and deal with them on the spot.

A clean furnace performs better, and a well-maintained furnace is less likely to break down without warning.

Even if you’re a DIY enthusiast, you should schedule annual visits from a heating pro to keep your furnace in tip-top shape.

Step 2: Replace Your Air Filter Regularly

You wouldn’t run a marathon with cotton stuffed up your nose, right? Similarly, your furnace needs a clean filter to function at its best.

Dirty filters can block airflow, forcing your furnace to work overtime and burn more fuel. This hampers efficiency and puts extra strain on the unit, leading to potential breakdowns. Plus, clogged filters can push dust, allergens, and other unpleasant particles into your home, compromising indoor air quality.

Replace or clean your air filters every 1-3 months so that your furnace breathes easily, operates efficiently, and keeps the air in your home clean and healthy. It’s like treating your furnace to a spa day — and your lungs will thank you.

Step 3: Seal Your Heating Ducts

Think of your heating ducts as the highways that transport warm air from the furnace to the rooms in your house. Now, imagine a street pockmarked by potholes.

That’s what it’s like for a furnace attached to leaky ducts. You can lose up to 20% of your heated air due to poorly sealed or insulated ducts — you may as well toss money out the window.

Here’s how you can seal your heating ducts:

  • Identify leaks: Turn your furnace and fan on, then feel along the ducts for areas where air is escaping. You can also use a smoke pencil or incense stick. If the smoke wavers, there’s a leak!
  • Clean the area: Before sealing, wash the area around the leak. You’ll need a clean surface for the sealant to adhere properly.
  • Use mastic sealant or aluminum foil tape: Apply a mastic sealant or special heat-approved tape (like aluminum foil tape) to the joints. Avoid using “duct tape” — despite its name, it’s not the best choice for duct sealing.
  • Insulate your ducts: After sealing, insulate your ducts to prevent heat loss. Use fiberglass or foil-backed insulation and secure it with heat-approved tape.

This isn’t a one-time thing. Regularly check your ducts for leaks and seal as needed.

Step 4: Use a Programmable Thermostat

Investing in a programmable thermostat is like hiring a personal assistant for your furnace. It’s a small change that can significantly boost energy efficiency and savings.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • Consistent Temperatures: Programmable thermostats maintain a steady, comfortable temperature in your home.
  • Economy: They help save energy and reduce your monthly bills.
  • Convenience: With a programmable thermostat, you can “set and forget.” No more waking up early to take the chill off!
  • Reduced Wear and Tear: You can avoid unnecessary strain on your furnace by better managing cycles.
  • Adaptable Schedules: You can set different temperature schedules for weekdays and weekends, accommodating your family’s routines.

Now, let’s examine how to use a programmable thermostat for maximum furnace efficiency:

  1. Set a Schedule: Program your thermostat to lower the heat when you’re asleep or away from home and to warm the house just before you wake up or return home.
  2. Hold Steady: Avoid frequent temperature changes. Set your thermostat at the most energy-efficient temperature comfortable for your family (usually around 68°F during winter) and leave it there.
  3. Use Zoning: If your home has multiple heating zones, program the thermostat to heat only the rooms you use most.
  4. Embrace the Seasons: Adjust your thermostat settings as the seasons change. In winter, lower the thermostat when you’re out or asleep. In summer, set a higher temperature when you’re away.
  5. Limit Manual Overrides: Stick to your programmed schedule as much as possible. Frequent overrides can decrease your furnace’s efficiency.

Step 5: Improve Your Home’s Insulation

Proper insulation prevents heat from escaping your home. It’s like wrapping your house in a snug, warm blanket to keep the chill out.

Here are some tips on how and where to add insulation for maximum benefit:

  • Attic: Heat rises and can escape through an under-insulated attic. Adding insulation here can make a significant difference.
  • Walls: Insulate outside walls. Also, insulate interior walls between heated and unheated areas of your house, like the garage.
  • Floors: If you have unheated spaces below your floors, like a crawlspace, insulate them to prevent heat loss.
  • Windows and Doors: Drafts from windows and doors can chill the whole house. Use weatherstripping or caulk to seal gaps, or consider insulated doors and double-pane windows.
  • Ducts: Yes, your heating ducts need insulation too! Insulated ducts can prevent up to 60% of heated air from cooling before it reaches the vents.

Insulation is rated in terms of its thermal resistance, or R-value. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulation’s effectiveness.

Different parts of your home demand different R-values, so do your research or hire a professional to ensure you’re getting the most from your insulation.

Step 6: Consider an Upgrade

Like everything else around the house (aside from grandma’s fruitcake), your furnace isn’t meant to last forever. If your furnace is over 15 years old, it may be time for an upgrade.

As furnaces age, they lose efficiency and guzzle more energy. Worse, they can become a safety hazard. Here are a few signs it’s time to bid farewell to your old furnace friend:

  • Increased Energy Bills: If you’ve noticed a significant rise in your energy bills, your furnace might be the culprit.
  • Frequent Repairs: Has your furnace turned into a money pit? If you’re constantly calling the repair crew, investing in a new unit may be cheaper in the long run.
  • Temperature Inconsistencies: Are some rooms in your house colder than others, despite what your thermostat says? This could be a sign of a failing furnace.

Upgrading to a new, more efficient unit may seem pricey initially, but it’s an investment that can pay off in the long run.

Modern furnaces are more energy-efficient. They’ll consume less fuel, reduce your carbon footprint, and lower energy bills. They also come with advanced features like programmable thermostats and multi-stage burners that provide better control over your home’s temperature and comfort.

So, when it’s time to upgrade, consider purchasing a high-efficiency furnace. It’s a good decision for your wallet, comfort, and the planet.

Step 7: Use Heat Wisely

You might want to crank up the heat when Jack Frost is nipping at your toes. But using your heat more wisely can help improve your furnace’s efficiency. Here’s how:

  • Layer Up: Wear a sweater or throw an extra blanket on the bed instead of turning up the heat. It will keep you cozy without adding a charge to your heating bill.
  • Use Space Heaters Wisely: If you use a single room most often, consider firing up a space heater instead of heating the whole house. But remember, space heaters aren’t designed to replace your primary heating system. Don’t go overboard.
  • Let the Sun In: Take advantage of that bright orb in the sky. Open your curtains or blinds on sunny days to allow natural sunlight to heat your home. Close them when the sun goes down to keep the warmth in.
  • Don’t Heat Empty Rooms: Close doors and vents to unused rooms. No need to waste heat on the ghost in the guest room!
  • Seal Leaks: Drafty houses are like leaky buckets — the heat flows right out through the gaps. Weatherstrip and caulk around doors and windows to seal those leaks.

Lowering your thermostat by even one or two degrees can save you a ton on your heating bill. So play it smart!

West Coast Chief: Certified Furnace Service in Metro Los Angeles

West Coast Chief has been installing, repairing, and maintaining heating systems in metro Los Angeles and Orange County since 1995.

We can sell you a furnace, repair your existing furnace, or install a furnace you’ve purchased from another retailer.

Count on us for all your heating and cooling needs, fair pricing, and prompt service.

  • We offer same-day service in most cases.
  • We provide complete HVAC services, including ductwork.
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  • We’re open six days a week and can provide service after hours for emergencies.
  • We guarantee our work and honor all manufacturer warranties.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Furnace Efficiency

Q: What is a high-efficiency furnace, and how does it work?

A: A high-efficiency furnace, also known as a condensing furnace, extracts as much heat as possible from the fuel it consumes, wasting less energy and potentially saving you money. It achieves this through a secondary heat exchanger that captures heat from the exhaust gases that would otherwise be vented out of your home.

Q: How can I tell if my furnace is running efficiently?

A: If your energy bills are unusually high, your furnace may be working harder than needed. Temperature inconsistencies throughout your home or a furnace that requires frequent repairs can also be signs of inefficiency. A professional HVAC technician can conduct a thorough inspection to evaluate your furnace’s operation.

Q: Is it worth upgrading to a high-efficiency furnace?

A: While they cost more upfront, the long-term energy savings of a high-efficiency furnace can make it a worthwhile investment. High-efficiency furnaces use less energy, which can significantly reduce your monthly bills. They also reduce your home’s carbon footprint.

Q: What are the maintenance requirements for furnace efficiency?

A: Change the air filters every 1-3 months, schedule professional inspections and tune-ups annually, keep the ducts and vents clean, and clear the furnace area to ensure proper airflow.

Q: Can a high-efficiency furnace improve my home’s value?

A: Yes, prospective home buyers often look for energy-efficient features in a home, recognizing the long-term cost savings they can provide.

Q: What is the ideal temperature setting for my furnace?

A: The ideal temperature setting can depend on personal comfort and energy-saving goals. However, a standard recommendation is to set your thermostat to 68°F (20°C) when you’re awake and lower it when you’re asleep or away from home.

Q: What is AFUE, and why is it important for furnace efficiency?

A: AFUE, or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, is a metric used to measure furnace efficiency in converting fuel into energy. A higher AFUE percentage means greater efficiency. For example, a furnace with an AFUE rating of 90% means that 90% of the fuel heats your home while the other 10% escapes as exhaust.

Q: How does a variable-speed furnace improve efficiency?

A: Unlike traditional single-speed furnaces, variable-speed furnaces can adjust the speed and heat output based on the needs of your home. This provides more consistent comfort and ensures more efficient operation by reducing energy consumption during milder weather.

Q: How can I maintain the efficiency of my furnace during off-peak seasons?

A: During off-peak seasons, you should still change the air filters as needed, keep the area around the furnace clean and unobstructed, and schedule routine professional inspections to ensure your furnace is ready when needed.

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