6 things you should know about heating your house

Your home may be your castle, but you don't have to pay a king's ransom to keep it warm.

By MSN Real Estate partner Jan 6, 2014 12:16PM

© ThinkStock/JupiterimagesBy Pat Mertz Esswein, Kiplinger 


1. It's cold inside

Sitting in your overcoat with the thermostat at 78 degrees? You could have a problem. If you haven't already sealed out wintry drafts, do it now. Apply weather stripping and clear plastic film over windows, and add door sweeps. To find out where else your home is losing energy, hire an energy auditor ($250 to $600) who is certified by Home Performance With Energy Star or the Building Performance Institute.


2. Your furnace could be kaput

You should schedule an annual furnace tune-up by a member of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America ($80 to $100 per unit). But if the furnace is more than 15 years old, you could be sending one-third to half of the fuel it uses up the flue. Replace it with a new, Energy Star-qualified gas- or oil-burning furnace that runs with at least 90 percent to 95 percent efficiency. The cost of swapping an older gas furnace for a high-efficiency one starts at about $2,000 to $6,000, but it could cost $7,000 to $12,000 or more, depending on model and capacity, according to CostHelper.com. If your old furnace was originally rated for 78 percent efficiency and the new unit is 90 percent efficient, you'll save about $14 for every $100 you spend on fuel, the Department of Energy says.


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3. Take a holistic approach

If your air conditioning is more than 10 years old and uses the furnace's blower to move cooled air through your home, replace both units simultaneously. That will decrease your total cost by about one-third compared with staggered installation, says Glenn Hourahan, senior vice president for technology with the ACCA. If you live in a moderate climate, you could install a "dual fuel" system, with a heat pump and gas furnace, for greater savings. The heat pump will heat and cool your home, say, from spring through fall. In the winter, a "smart thermostat" will fire up the furnace when outdoor temperatures drop below 40 degrees.

4. Know who to call

For installation, maintenance or repair, look for a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor who is a member of the ACCA and employs technicians certified by North American Technician Excellence. The best contractors subscribe to ACCA's Quality Installation Checklist.


5. Roll in R2D2

For those rooms where you still need to wear furry slippers and a Snuggie, consider either a convection or radiant portable space heater (about $30 to $150). For greatest efficiency, match the heater's size to the rooms where you'll use it, and get one with thermostatic control. For safety, choose an electric model with the Underwriter's Laboratory label and a tip-over safety switch that will shut off the unit if it falls over.

6. Remember the small stuff

Capture the sun's warmth by opening shades on south-facing windows during the day. And cover all windows at night. Use a programmable thermostat to set back the temperature 10 to 15 degrees when you're away or asleep. Clean or change your furnace filters once a month or as recommended. If you have a fireplace, close the damper and doors when it's not in use.


More from Kiplinger


Jan 9, 2014 7:32PM
I replaced old windows.  It dropped by heating bill by half in the winter.  I don't have A/C, but I can say except for a handful of days it didn't get over 80 degrees in the house. 
Jan 9, 2014 5:40PM
 How is Al Gores Mansion heated? yacht? Private jet? I can tell you by massive fraud and abuse of the drooling stupid democrats. Now eat cake b@tch
Jan 9, 2014 3:47PM

These are good tips. I work for in energy efficiency and know that many (and I am one) are  finding it harder and harder to pay those high utility bills. Nor can they afford to make such a purchase of furnaces or new HVAC units.


I will add one Major tip, and this is geared more to the elderly whom I find doing this often this time of year.   DO NOT try to heat your home with your Oven!  Not Healthy, Not Safe, and Costly.

Jan 9, 2014 1:46PM

it's so cold niagra falls has frozen

it's so cold hell Michigan has frozen over

it's so cold the tires of some vehicles have stuck to the pavement


in Australia it's so hot round a hundred degrees

Jan 9, 2014 1:36PM
Good tips, but if you think you can get a thourough furnace tune up and inspection for $80.00- $100.00 than you are better off waiting for it to break? A lot of companies in my service area offer incrediable deals like this, and often complete this work in 15 minutes or less. You get what you pay for. A sincere investment is about doubled. Most offers like that, is a way to get to your home, wipe the outside down and place a sticker on it, so you will call them when it breaks. Awesome marketing huh? Simple tip, change or inspect your air filter (s) every 60-90 days, more often if you have a lot of pets, and have yearly service, plan ahead before hand, not in the middle of winter. Small problems can become bigger. If you hear a strange sound, dont ignore it, most likely it wont go away. 80% of the No heat jobs I go out on are due to plugged filters. All the best....
Jan 9, 2014 5:23AM

Thank you for all the tips. Very useful.

Jan 9, 2014 5:09AM
We put on a  front storm door.  Most of the cool weather from the outside came through the wood door and  putting insulation tape, didn't do anything due to the door opening and being closed all of the time.  It was worth the money, it keeps the cool air out.
And it is best to shut off the heat in rooms you don't use and close the door (but make sure there aren't any bathroom pipes with those rooms!), we used our fireplace, ordered wood in every other year, kept the home at 65 deg. (this was a Colonial 4 bdrm) and stayed in the family room with the fireplace, kitchen, dining area.  Also don't forget to open those blinds and curtains during the days when it is sunny you would be surprised how the sun warms up the rooms and at night close the blinds and pull the curtains shut to keep the cold out!
Jan 8, 2014 3:18AM
Season of winter is becoming more dense day by day, most of the news channels already declared that this season is gonna be ice fest. So to keep the house warm is a tricky as well a costly challenge for people out there, but with a little bit diligence and extra effort we can keep it warm. Try lo layer up you house, close unnecessary doors and wear winter warmers inside the house to keep you safe from chilly season. Apart from orthodox methods you can also use electric heaters to keep your house warm but keep this thing in mind that the heater must be Eco friendly. There are different types of electric heaters available in the market, you can take better information about those here http://www.electricheaters.ie/efficiency/ecology
Jan 7, 2014 3:34AM
Number 1 should be never buy a central air conditioner virtually anywhere in the US.  If you're already prepared to shell out a couple thousand for the AC unit, spend a few hundred more on a heat pump.  The difference between the two is basically a reversing valve.  Getting a heat pump will provide you with fuel flexibility you'll really appreciate the next time nat gas prices spike.  Plus they are extremely cost effective to operate in the spring and fall when outside temperatures are moderate.  You'll likely still need some other kind of backup heat for the coldest of days in most of the US (which is why home builders typically cheap out and still put in regular AC units vs heat pumps), but the fuel flexibility and extreme low cost operation during moderate months makes te couple hundred upcharge an absolute no brainer...
Jan 6, 2014 12:49PM
Forget spending all this money. Unless your heating/cooling system has completely died, all you need to do is seal up windows and doors. I used a $2.00 roll of 3M painting tape around door frames and window sills. Even in this current cold patch in the south (3-degrees this morning), my heat system hasn't kicked on any more than usual. My house is still a very comfortable 68-degrees (where I normally keep it), and all it took was a $2.00 roll of 3M painting tape.
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