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The best ways to keep your heating costs down during extreme cold

The best ways to keep your heating costs down during extreme cold
Posted at 6:36 PM, Jan 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-03 18:50:47-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The frigidly cold temperatures Central Virginia has seen this week cause home heating systems to work in overdrive, and that can mean higher power bills.  Experts say there are several parts of a heating system that any homeowner can check and fix to make their system run more energy efficiently.

Chris Digirolamo, HVAC Service Manager for Michael and Sons, took WTVR CBS 6 on a tour of an eastern Henrico home to point out those spots.

"In the winter, I think the filter is number one," he said.  "Airflow causes it to pull more amperes when it's running. Meter spins harder, costs you more money. It's the one thing you can do very easily."

Digirolamo said the air filter in your furnace should be changed at least once a month during the winter.

The 1 thing you should NEVER do if your pipes freeze

If you turn the temperature on your thermostat up and down, Digirolamo said it is a mistake.  Changing temperatures outside causes your system to work harder to warm your home than if you kept the temperature consistent.

"People say, 'What temperature; what temperature?' It's generally where you like it because houses are different," Digirolamo said.

If you see light shining under a door or around the outside of a window, you need to install weather stripping.  No house can be sealed 100 percent, according to Digirolamo, but the HVAC expert said you need to get as close as possible.

"Every percentage is money coming out of your pocket," he said.

Dominion Energy said there are multiple steps homeowners can take to save energy during the winter months.

  • Lower your thermostat to 68 degrees. Learn more about your thermostat online by visiting the U.S. Department of Energy website.
  • Seal air leaks. Seal all holes from pipes and wires that enter/exit the living space, including entrances, pull-downs and attic stair openings, light fixtures, pipes and wires.
  • Seal duct work. Make sure that all duct work is sealed at joints and intersections with duct sealer or silicone caulk. Otherwise, supply duct work can leak heated air into the attic or crawl space, and outside air can be drawn into the return duct work, increasing costs and reducing comfort dramatically. Ducts can be sealed using foil-backed tape or silicon caulking.
  • Lower water heater to 120-125 degrees. Many water heaters are automatically set at 140 degrees. Lowering the temperature on your water heater to between 120 and 125 degrees will reduce the amount of fuel needed to heat the water.
  • Change furnace filters every month. This is the number one reason for furnace breakdowns. Inspect heating and cooling equipment annually, or as recommended by the manufacturer. Have a professional check and clean furnaces once a year.
  • Weatherstrip doors, windows and attic entryways. Inspect windows and doors for air leaks. If you can see daylight around a door or window frame, then the door or window needs sealing. Air leaks can be sealed with caulking or weather-stripping. Insulate attic entryways.
  • Insulate water pipes. Insulate the first 3- to 6-feet of cold and hot water pipes near the water heater. Insulating hot water pipes located in a crawlspace or attic is not necessary.
  • Add an insulation blanket to the water heater. Wrapping the water heater with an insulation blanket can save heating money by slowing the drop in temperature from the hot water tank as it sits unused. Inexpensive insulation kits are available at most home improvement stores.
  • Add insulation to the attic. When adding insulation, start at the top and work down only after eliminating air infiltration