It's So Easy, Being Green

(February 14, 2013, posted in Home Improvement)

With oil and natural gas prices rocketing, a renewed interest in keeping heating costs under control has has been sparked. Homeowner's have an ignited passion in understanding energy saving methods. If you're in this boat, stuck in cold waters, here are some tips for energy saving tricks of the trade.

If you're living in a home with a furnace that's more than 20 years old, you may have already attempted the "buy a sweater" method of keeping warm. This is certainly one approach, but these days upgrading your home's heating system is a much better option, and will help now, and in the long term should you decide sell your home. More and more, home buyers are looking for homes with energy efficient systems already in place. So, think of these upgrades as a long term investment in the resale value of your home, as well a cost efficient and green alternative to your current conditioning system.

That old furnace huffin' and puffin' away is probably not as efficient as it could be, no matter what fuel type it uses. Newer gas furnaces are mid-efficiency (78-82%) or high efficiency (89-96%). Although the higher efficiency products can cost up to $1000 more than the mid-efficiency products, the extra costs will easily be re-couped in a couple years. And you will be the greenest frog on the block, sending less harmful emissions out into the atmosphere. "It's so easy being green", murmured Kermit, once he upgraded his furnace.

Take note, it's still the case that electric heat is more expensive than oil and gas, although a smart combination of central wood stove supplemented by electric heat can be cost efficient.

Let it Flow: Change Your Filters!

Whether disposable or washable, all forced-air heating/cooling systems use filters. And these filters need to be maintained and changed. Some filters require monthly changes while other last up to three months, and much depends on the conditions within your home. A dirty filter will restrict air flow and block heat that would otherwise be keeping you toasty warm. Do yourself a favor and keep on top of the regular changing of filters. This is a pretty easy way to boost your energy efficiency and cut costs.

Pump it up: Install a Heat Pump

Air source heat pumps are the most common and they are generally used with a back-up heating system. In terms of function a heat pump works by extracting heat from the outside and bringing it in, (in heat mode), and by removing heat from the inside of the house and releasing it outside. ( in cooling mode).

The king of heat pumps, though, are ground and watersource - or geothermal. And while the initial investment may be great, the saving will be substantial in the long run. These pumps will use 25-50% less energy than conventional conditioning systems.

Conserve: Get a Programmable Thermostat

Another simple method to help with soaring heat bills is to keep an eye on the  temperature levels in your house, Room temperature is normally around 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) but often it can be set lower at night and while the house is unoccupied. A simple to install programmable thermostat can save you 10%-15% in yearly heating costs and some of the new models can even be controlled from you smartphone.

If you'd rather avoid the " put on a sweater" method of winter energy conservation, you might consider investing in an improved heating system that'll bring you warmth today, and will be a smart investment in the re-sale value of your home for the future.

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