We’re in the heart of winter. It’s consistently cold outside. And this year, we’ve gotten a fair bit of snow, too.
All of this means that your heating system is working the hardest it’ll work all year.
As a result, this is the time of year when we typically get a steady stream of calls from homeowners asking about high heating bills. The good news is that, in the vast majority of cases, there is nothing wrong with the HVAC system itself – even if the heating bill was higher than it was the month before.
The bad news is that, yes, your system will probably incur higher heating costs when it’s colder outside.
But let’s end with more good news: There are steps you can take to lower your bill.
Let’s walk through some of the most impactful.
First, it’s worthwhile to review the different types of heating systems, because each heating system incurs costs differently.
These machines run, as you’d expect, on electricity. As How Stuff Works explains, they essentially use a small amount of energy to move heat from one location to another. This means that the more you use your heat pump, the higher your electric bill will be.
Importantly, heat pumps aren’t well equipped to heat homes in very cold temperatures (say, below 30 degrees); they simply don’t produce enough heat to offset heat loss. So, they’re built with auxiliary systems that are switched on as needed. Unfortunately, most auxiliary systems expend far more energy than the primary heat pump.
The end result of all of this is that, during very cold months when your auxiliary system is called upon more often, your electric bill will be notably higher.
These, on the other hand, burn oil or gas, then use the resulting heat to warm your home. This means that your heating costs won’t be primarily reflected in your electric bill, but rather in your gas or oil bill.
You can expect to see different costs depending on the type of heating system your home uses. Gas furnaces, especially, tend to be more economical, because electricity is often more expensive than gas.
This can be confusing, because heat pumps are often marketed as being “100% efficient.” That claim is (hopefully) true, but there’s a difference between efficiency and economy. Efficient systems use more of the energy input into them. Inefficient systems let more escape; gas furnaces, for example, often lose gas through the chimney without using it to warm the house.
But this energy loss isn’t directly correlated to cost.
Okay – with all of that clarified, let’s dig into a few things you can do to reduce your heating costs.
People usually don’t like to hear it, but this is the single most impactful thing you can do to lower your heating bill.
The higher you set your temperature, the harder your system will work. Heat pumps, especially, will incur high costs trying to keep your temperature above 72 degrees when it’s 32 degrees outside; they’ll simply have to rely on auxiliary heat.
The lower you can live with, the less you’ll pay. We recommend 68 degrees as a functional temperature. You may need to wear a sweatshirt inside on some days, but it’s reasonably comfortable and you’ll save a notable amount on your heating costs.
Another way to reduce your heating cost is to automate your thermostat. If you’re setting your system to 72 degrees and leaving it there all day, your systems are probably working unnecessarily hard. Your home doesn’t need to be that warm when you’re not in it or when you’re asleep.
Many modern thermostats come with scheduling capabilities. We recommend setting a fallback temperature for periods when you aren’t home and when you’re sleeping.
For instance, you might set your temperature to 65 degrees during the workday, 72 degrees during the evening, and 68 degrees while you’re sleeping.
The key in all of this is to reduce the load on your heating system, which will ultimately reduce your heating bill.
While it’s good to set a fallback temperature, make sure that you don’t let your house get too cold. Ironically, letting your house get too cold can actually cost you more money, because your heating system will have to work extremely hard to catch up to a normal temperature when you turn it back on.
The typical sweet spot is within five to eight degrees of your target temperature. So, if you like to have your home at 70 degrees when you’re in it, don’t set it to 60 degrees when you’re away. Keep it around 65, and when you come home, your system will easily be able to make up the difference.
This final tip is for frustrated heat pump owners: If you’re tired of dealing with your current heat pump and you want to lower your heating costs over the long haul, it may be worth it to install a high-efficiency heat pump.
Recent technology has increased the economy of top-end heat pumps, allowing them to function without using as much energy or incurring as much cost. One the tricks to these is that the auxiliary switches on in stages, so that, instead of jumping right to the high-end of energy usage, they phase up, saving costs in the process.
These systems are expensive; often, they cost twice as much as traditional heat pumps. But, if you use them correctly, you can usually make up cost savings within a few years.
If your heating bill is higher than last month’s, don’t worry – it’s probably just because the weather was colder. You can’t control that, but you can put these tips into practice, and when you do, you should see your heating bill come down.
And if you’re seeing huge abnormalities, especially compared to the same month last year, get in touch with us.
At Rod Miller, our expert techs are always ready to diagnose any issues and work quickly to restore your system to its proper functioning. We can’t control the weather, either – but we can help keep your home warm and comfortable.
79.95 HVAC Inspection 16 Point Efficiency Inspection, cost per unit.