hand adjusting air vent damper

7 Things That Make Your Home Colder and Your Heater Less Effective

Does it feel like your heater isn’t pulling its weight the way it should? While it might be in need of a repair, there could be some other factors affecting the equipment’s performance. Below, we’ve assembled some of the most common problems that can make a home chillier and a heater less effective than it should be. We’ve also included solutions to each problem to help make your home cozier and your energy bills lower!

1. Closing Air Vents to Save Money

You may have heard that you can save money on your heating and cooling bills by closing air vents in rooms you aren’t using. This is actually FALSE. While it may seem like a good idea at first, it doesn’t work when you consider how your central heating and cooling system functions.

When you close a vent by shutting the register, your system won’t “know” that you did that, and it’s going to keep sending air toward that vent regardless. Additionally, your ductwork likely is not arranged in such a way that the air will be efficiently redirected to another room just by you closing a vent.

Furthermore, this build-up of blocked air creates a pressure imbalance that negatively impacts your heating system. Ideally, your system should be sending out as much air as it’s taking in, and when a vent is blocked, that’s not happening. This causes your system to work harder and less efficiently, and the pressure buildup can create air leaks.

Solution: Install a zone control system in your current HVAC system so that you can direct warm or cool air to whichever part of your home needs it most. If your HVAC system is incompatible with a zone control system, seal air leaks in rooms that get chilly, and if the room has a window, equip the window with energy-efficient window attachments.

2. Keeping the Same Air Filter In Too Long

The primary job of your heating system’s air filter is to keep dust and other airborne particles out of your heating equipment. However, if you let the air filter get too dirty before cleaning or replacing it, it will start to do more harm than good. A dust-clogged air filter prevents an adequate supply of airflow from circulating through your HVAC equipment. This puts the equipment through unnecessary stress and can cause it to overheat and even break down.

Solution: Clean or replace your system’s air filter periodically according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Most disposable air filters can be used for up to 90 days. If you have trouble remembering to check the filter, write down reminders for the entire year in your calendar or set up a recurring reminder in your smartphone’s calendar app.

3. Dust Buildup In Your HVAC Equipment

Despite the air filter’s best efforts, dust is still going to find its way into your heater, and it will accumulate there over time. Dust buildup makes your heater less efficient and more prone to system failures. In furnaces, in particular, it can also prevent your equipment from igniting correctly or burning fuel cleanly and efficiently.

Solution: Schedule professional maintenance for your heater once a year to prevent dust buildup and other issues and help your equipment run as efficiently and powerfully as possible. It’s usually best to do this during fall, right before the “heating season.”

4. Turning Your Heater Off Completely While You’re Away From Home

When you turn your heater off to save money while you’re not at home, this allows your home’s temperature to drop drastically. As a result, when you turn your heater back on, it’s going to have to work longer and harder to overcome that temperature drop and return your home to your desired temperature. This means higher energy bills and more wear and tear on your heater--and coming home to an ice-cold house.

Solution: Turn your thermostat down a few degrees while you’ll be away, but don’t shut your heater off entirely. Set it to AUTO so that it will come on every so often and spend less energy keeping your home a more consistent temperature.

5. Letting Drafts In Through Gaps

Your heater is going to work a lot harder than necessary if cold air is sneaking in through the back door. Air leaks frequently occur through tiny gaps around doors, windows, and window AC units, and they can make a room surprisingly drafty.

Solution: Locate the air leaks in your home and seal them with materials like caulking or weatherstripping.

6. Installing Your Thermostat In a Warm Location

Even if you own a smart thermostat, it’s still only smart enough to pick up on the temperatures immediately around it. That means that if you install a thermostat next to a heat-generating appliance, hot electronics, or in an area that gets a lot of sun, the device might think your home is much warmer than you feel like it is.

Solution: Consult an HVAC expert about the best place to install your thermostat so that you can avoid putting it in a place that’s especially hot or cold compared to the rest of your home.

7. Leaving window coverings open at night.

During cold weather, it’s a great idea to keep your sun-facing windows open during the day to take advantage of some free warmth. After all, a good deal of the sunlight that filters in through your windows will become heat inside your home. However, once the sun goes down, keeping your curtains and blinds open can allow heat to escape.

Solution: After sundown, close your windows and blinds. For extra insulation, opt for thermal curtains, Roman shades, or cellular shades. Not only will these help keep your home warm during winter, but they’ll also help block out heat during summer.

For reliable heating services throughout Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, and the surrounding cities, you can always count on HVAC & Plumbing Unlimited: (703) 454-5040.

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