Why Your Heating Bills Might Go Up

dollar billsIt’s natural to want to know where your money is going. After all, it is your money. We don’t like to have to guess whether we’re spending enough or too much on, well, anything, but especially on essential, everyday things like water and warmth. That’s why it can always be a little disconcerting when the weather starts to get colder and we start to see higher and higher numbers on our energy bills. Regardless of what type of heater you have, be it a gas furnace or an electric heat pump, your energy bills will go up as the weather gets colder and the heater has to work harder to keep you comfortable. The big question is, how much should they go up and how much is high enough to warrant concern?

The answer to that question is complicated. It relies on a number of factors. It could very well be that you just want your home to be at a certain temperature whenever you’re around and it has gotten cold enough outside that your heater has to spend a lot of energy to keep it that way. That’s very possible. But if you start to notice what looks like an unaccounted for rise in your heating costs then you have reason to be wary. This tip is going to be all about some of the many reasons why you might see an increase in your heating bills that warrants doing something about it.

Degrading Insulation

If your house is over a certain age then wear and tear is to be expected. Over time you’ll find that parts of the house start to show signs of aging and one of the more consequential side effects of this is that over time you’ll find that your house becomes less and less insulated. That’s why if you find your heating bills have risen this season over what you’ve come to expect from previous seasons, you may want to try investing in some improved insulation. This is going to have the effect of saving you money and making you more comfortable.

Weatherstripping is one of those areas that is both prone to wear and cheap to fix. Worn and torn weather stripping around doors and windows creates drafts and lets in cold air. Seven to twelve percent of a home's heat loss occurs around windows and doors and these leaks often prompt homeowners to turn up their furnace to keep comfy. Even if they don't turn it up, they're losing warm air, causing the furnace to work harder. Some weather stripping needs to be replaced every few years because of wear. Replacing it is typically as simple as pulling off the old and tacking on the new.

You’ll also want to check for drafts around your house so that you can locate specific problem areas in your insulation to look into. You can do this fairly easily by holding a candle across the length of your doors where they meet the doorways and looking out for a flicker in the light. This is a telltale sign of a draft. You might even find drafts from improper insulation in electrical sockets. To stop the leaks, remove the cover plates and fill small gaps around the boxes with acrylic latex caulk. For large gaps, use foam sealant. Then place a foam gasket over the outlet or switch and replace the cover plate.

Obstructed Air Vents

Have you done any interior redecoration lately? Maybe you’ve made some upgrades in the form of a new couch or maybe you’ve recently just re-organized the living room and bedrooms. One thing people often do by accident when placing furniture, drapes, and rugs, is inadvertently blocking one or several air registers.

Air vents or registers are the small, rectangular grills in the floors, walls, and ceilings of your home that act as the exit and entry points for the warm air that the heater blows. The warm air blowing out of your registers needs a clear path into the room to provide even heating. So, if you place your favorite recliner or a sofa over the register, you're limiting the flow of heat. It's like leaving the vent partially or completely closed. To cut heating costs, arrange your room so that the register is as unobstructed as possible.

This will help your heater work as smoothly as possible and avoid putting unnecessary stress on the system as it attempts to create temperature equilibrium throughout the house.

Maintenance Needed

If your furnace is costing you more and more each month and each season that you use it and you haven’t had a maintenance checkup performed recently, this is very likely the cause. Furnaces require a lot of upkeep to maintain their peak efficiency. This is why most manufacturers recommend you get a yearly preventative maintenance visit to both keep your heater running as efficiently as possible and to prevent it from taking on any serious damage that will require more expensive repair.

Regardless of what your furnace runs on, it is prone to wear and tear. Like any appliance, your furnace can suffer from a loss of efficiency over time, as age and wear-and-tear take their toll. Here in Austin, heater repair services are on hand to correct such problems, but it helps to understand the potential causes of reduced efficiency in your gas furnace before you need to call in a professional. Better safe than sorry, as they say, and the more you can do to prevent the loss of efficiency, the better off both your furnace and your wallet will be.

In many cases, reduced efficiency is a simple matter of the accumulation of dust and detritus in your furnace. Burners can become clogged with gunk, which lowers their heating potential and may shut them down entirely if they become too clogged. Similarly, dust can create increased friction on moving parts, which affects their ability to do their jobs and makes wear and tear worse over time. This is especially true with such key components as the fan motor, without which heated air cannot reach your home. In addition, damage and build-up can result in reduced airflow throughout your ducts, which forces the furnace to work harder to warm your home. The same principle holds true with loose parts and fittings, which can create breaches in the airflow or cause individual components to rattle in their housings. The blower fan could become bent or broken, the fan belt may become frayed, and in some cases, the flow of gas into the furnace may become blocked by a build-up in the lines. None of these things will shut your furnace down, but they will sap its ability to do its job effectively: coating you additional money in monthly energy bills. A good technician can fix the potential causes of reduced efficiency in you gas furnace, either as part of our regular maintenance program or with a formal repair call.

Changing Weather Patterns

This reason for a higher heating bill than usual isn’t exactly something you can do anything about, but it is worth knowing about because it can explain higher bills that you can’t chalk up to anything else. If you find yourself needing to run your heater longer this upcoming winter season than you did last season then it might not just be your imagination.

Experts predict that heating costs will rise this season because we’re expecting a colder than usual winter for most of the United States. That's the message from government analysts who sifted through forecasts for a colder winter and slightly higher energy prices. The Energy Department has stated that household bills from October through March are likely to be higher for all four main heating fuels: natural gas, electricity, heating oil, and propane.

Last winter, above-normal temperatures reduced nationwide demand for heating fuels to the lowest level in at least 25 years. For most regions outside the West, that includes us in Austin, this winter is expected to be more typical, colder than last winter but still milder than many recent ones, according to forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As a result, the Energy Department said, consumers who use natural gas or heating oil will spend more on heating than they did in the winter of 2015 and 2016 but about the same or less than they paid during the previous five winters.

Dirty Air Filter

This is one of the easiest fixes when it comes to potential causes of reduced efficiency. If you have either a heat pump or a furnace as your main source of heat in your home that means you have a forced-air central heating system, meaning you have air filters in your house that need routine changing.

A forced-air central heating system uses ducts as the method for transporting hot air from the blower fan of the furnace to the rest of the house. Some of the vents that connect this ductwork to your home blow air out and some intake air. The intake air registers are going to have air filters behind them. The purpose of these air filters is to filter dust and other contaminants out of the air. This has the effect of keeping your air quality healthy and preventing dust and dirt from damaging your furnace or clogging up essential components. If these components do get clogged, which can happen if your air filter gets too dirty and can’t hold any more dust and dirt, then you’re going to see reduced efficiency and thus higher heating bills.

So every month or two you should be replacing your air filters, as is directed by the manufacturer. Doing so is going to keep your system healthy and your energy bills lower.

Identifying Efficiency Problems and Heating Repair in Austin

Hopefully, with some of the topics we’ve discussed in this tip you are now more aware of some of the problems that can be at the root of your unnaturally higher bills for heating in Austin. If you think you might be having problems with energy efficiency but you aren’t sure, or you aren’t sure what the cause is, one of the best ways to put the issue to rest is to contact Austin heating professionals to have a diagnostic and maintenance check done on your system.

AC Express is one such Austin heating company. Our technicians can expertly bring your heating back to its fullest with professional Austin heater repair. We operate all throughout the Austin area, from Buda and Kyle to Pflugerville and Round Rock. For any and all heater repair in Austin, call us today!