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Worst Heating Advice: The 7 “Deadly Sins”
Here is a sample of some of the worst advice we’ve heard over the years when it comes to heating your home. These mistakes may cost you money, damage your system, or sacrifice your comfort.
- Air Filters: Some folks buy the higher quality air filters – like the ones that filter allergens – and then mistakenly think that since they are higher quality, they won’t need to be changed as often. All air filters need to be changed at a minimum every 3 months to avoid damage to your air handling system. Actually, a case can be made that the higher quality air filters may need to be changed more frequently, since they trap more particles and are apt to get clogged up sooner!
- Vacationing: Many folks try to save money by turning their heat off when they’re going to be away for an extended time. But if temperatures drop below freezing, your pipes could burst causing costly repairs! Instead, turn the heat down to no lower than about 55 degrees. In fact, it's a good idea to turn off the water to the house (via the main cutoff valve), and then open up all the faucets so there is no possibility of frozen pipes. That's because if the power goes out while you're gone, the heat won't work anyway.
- Sacrificing efficiency: Many folks will crank up the thermostat to keep warm. But by making your system work harder than it has to, you’re decreasing its lifespan, which will leave you without heat sooner. Take advantage of ways to increase your heating efficiency like reversing your ceiling fans, opening drapes during the daytime and closing them at night, using a programmable thermostat, unblocking air vents, adding attic insulation, and sealing up air leaks. This will make you feel warmer without having to raise the thermostat as much.
- Closing off unused rooms: This is a mistake many homeowners make which only causes more stress to your system. Unless you intend to completely seal the unused rooms (including the air gap under the door) and the return air grille is not located in or near that room, a better solution would be to create a separate zone for that room (see: Is Zone Control for Your HVAC the Answer?).
- Using a fireplace or other local heat source to supplement your HVAC system: Some people think that it will help keep their house warmer if they use their fireplace in addition to their HVAC system. However, the fireplace causes already warmed room air to be sucked up the chimney and creates drafting which actually makes the house colder and makes your HVAC system work harder. Running exhaust fans for an extended period of time has a similar effect. Furthermore, using the fireplace greatly increases indoor air pollution (particulate, soot, and toxic chemicals in the air, which can trigger allergies). Using space heaters, candles, or kerosene lamps to supplement your central HVAC system also carries the added risk of house fires.
- Covering your outdoor unit to protect it from rain and snow: While the unit is on and operational, it must have good air flow all around it in order for it to operate, and you will damage the unit if you operate it with the cover on. You’ll need to keep the fall leaves off the unit, too! The only time it may be covered is if it's turned completely off at the circuit breaker. Keep in mind, a covered unit makes the perfect living space for small critters that can gnaw at your wiring and insulation, and it’s also a perfect environment for mold to accumulate.
- Skipping maintenance visits: Annual service is cheap compared to the cost of a breakdown. Having preventive maintenance will keep your system running at peak performance and efficiency (thus keeping you warmer), and will prevent future problems (thus saving you money). Plus, it could detect a potential health hazard, such as a carbon monoxide leak (see our posts Deadly Carbon Monoxide from Cracked Heat Exchangers and Your Furnace Can Kill You!). Don’t just ignore danger signs like unusual smells or noises – call a professional!
If you live in the Nashville and surrounding area, call on Interstate AC Service for all your heating needs, at 615-832-8500. We want to help keep you warm and safe this winter!