The Coachella Valley may gift us with moderate temperatures year-round, making heating our homes considerably easy and inexpensive. However, without proper temperature control or an inefficient heater, you could find yourself paying far much more to stay warm in the winter months than the perks of living in Southern California promise.
Rather than pay blindly for an energy inefficient heater, our team at Earl’s Air Conditioning in the Coachella Valley can provide a few tips to save energy and keep your heater costs down in the winter. We value your knowledge of when your system is working efficiently, and when you may need to call the experts for regular maintenance or repair.
1. Monitor Your Energy Bills
Typical fluctuations in your monthly bill can be attributed to seasonal changes, cold snaps that last a few days, or even if you’ve simply logged more hours at home one month due to sickness or holidays. Some minor discrepancies are totally normal, but you also don’t want to think a high winter energy bill is the best you can do when wanting to stay warm.
Often times, we rely on our energy bill to determine the efficiency of our HVAC systems. However, during winter, it may take a shocking energy bill to realize heating your home is costing much more than you think it should – look for these sharp spikes and monitor your bill each month to remain aware of your heater usage. But, with the below suggestions in mind, you don’t want to depend on your energy bills to flag a warning all alone.
2. Know Your AFUE Rating
Evaluating your official heater’s utilization efficiency gives you a foundation of understanding about your heater system itself. AFUE stands for “annual fuel utilization efficiency” and is a percentage rating that measures how efficiently your furnace is converting energy into heat. The percentages lost dictate how much energy is wasted converting fuel into heat. For example, if your heater has an AFUE rating of 90%, you will, at the heaters best level of functioning, still have a 10% loss of energy when you use your heater. In short, the higher the AFUE percentage, the more efficient your heater.
While this rating is named “annual” it is actually prescribed to your unit in manufacturing—you can find your heater’s rating in the user manual or on the inside of your furnace cabinet itself. High-efficiency furnaces must have an AFUE rating of 90% or higher, with 80% AFUW ratings being the average. Very old furnaces, however, can dip well below average as low as 56% efficiency. Keeping your AFUE rating in mind can better help you gauge the energy level expectations of your heater.
3. Consider the Age of Your Heater
Even with a high AFUE rating, your heater may not be running at its own capacity. That is because a heater’s AFUE rating can decline up to 5% annually without proper maintenance. Considering the average lifespan of a heater is 15-20 years, knowing the age of your heater will help determine the accuracy of its AFUE rating and overall functionality. And, even if you are maintaining your heater regularly, it can still decline in optimal function—components still degrade over time, so even a properly maintained, high rated heater will not necessarily be optimal in terms of energy efficiency if it is over ten years old.
4. Take an Airtight Test
Depending on your home, even a properly maintained, high AFUE rated heater will find issues due to poor insulation or cracks in windows and doors. This is a very common issue, especially in older homes. Finding potential drafts around windows, doors, and fireplaces is what is known as an airtight test. This can determine if the problem has less to do with your heater, and more to do with the structure of your home.
One of the easiest ways to inspect your homes airtightness is by using incense sticks! Light incense sticks and hold them near places that could potentially be causing a draft: electrical outlets, door frames, windows, attic or floor hatches, chimneys and fireplaces, or even mail slots. Air leaks will cause the tips of the sticks to glow and the smoke to dissipate. From there, you know what kinds of drafts can be remedied—caulking trims and joints, closing vents, or replacing windows, or installing better insulation—and what could be significantly impacting your heating system.
Solutions to Improve Your Heater’s Energy Efficiency
Aside from regular maintenance, there are some ways you can improve how your home is heated and maintains a comfortable temperature without spiking your energy bill:
- Use reversible ceiling fans: if you have a central HVAC system (rather than a space heater or in-window unit), the anti-clockwise rotation will actually speed up airflow from your heater vents around your space, shortening the time it takes to heat a room.
- Invest in a good thermometer: having an automatic thermostat can help maintain comfortable temperatures in your home without having to crank the heater to get there. In addition, some thermometers can be set to lower during sleeping hours, or hours you know you are not home.
- Install ducted heating: If possible, you may want to upgrade your current single-room heater by installing a ducted heating system. A specialist will be able to tell you the kinds of upgrades available to you based on your building and budget.
Our expert team at Earl’s Air Conditioning in Coachella Valley wants to keep you warm while keeping your energy costs down all winter long. One of our team members can evaluate your home, inspect your climate, and help you determine how to improve your heater’s efficiency if needed. Whether you need a replacement for your heater or simple maintenance or repair, we can help ensure you have a heater that is running as energy efficient as possible.
Call Earl’s Air Conditioning today for a free quote regarding your heater’s maintenance, repair, or installation needs!