Cutting Energy Costs With Shade Trees

shade treesWhile there are many upgrades you can make to your HVAC system to help make your system more efficient, one of the most cost effective additions has nothing to do with your system. Shade trees planted around the exterior of your home not only improve your home’s curb appeal, they can also help cut summer cooling costs.

Early spring is the best time to choose and plant shade trees so you can start reaping their natural cooling benefits.

Benefits of Shade Trees

Healthy shade trees have all kinds of benefits. Not only are trees beneficial to the planet, they are also beneficial to the average homeowner.

Shade trees are good for thirsty summer lawns. By slowing water evaporation, trees decrease the amount of water your lawn needs to stay looking plush and green in hot weather.

Healthy, mature shade trees can also increase your property value. A well-planted yard is not only pleasing to the eye, it can also raise the value of your property by as much as 15 percent.

One of the most overlooked value of shade trees is the amount of energy they help homeowners conserve. By planting three simple trees in strategic locations around your home, you can cut summer air conditioning needs by up to 50 percent. By reducing the amount of energy needed to cool your home, you help reduce carbon dioxide and other pollution emissions from power plants. And the reward for cutting energy costs is extra money in your pocket.

You can also plant trees around the air intake of your air conditioner. By shading the area around your air conditioner, your system will pull in cooler air. This way, your system doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a comfortable indoor air temperature during the hottest months of the year, allowing you to save even more on your cooling bills.

The Best Shade Trees

Choosing the best shade trees for your yard starts with understanding your local climate. The type of trees that thrive in hot, humid areas will not flourish arid areas. Selecting species that are native to your area will help ensure you’ll be enjoying the benefits of your shade trees for years to come.

If your main goal of planting trees is to help raise the efficiency of your HVAC system, deciduous trees should be at the top of your list. Deciduous trees develop a broad, leafy canopy during the spring and summer. These leafy trees help shade your home and yard, helping keep temperatures cooler. In the fall, deciduous trees shed their leaves. Without leaves to cast shade, sunlight beams right through to add warmth to your home just when you need it most.

For more information regarding which types of trees are best suited for your area, check out the Arbor Day Foundation’s Guide to Choosing the Right Tree.

Deciding Where to Plant Your Shade Trees

Before you start digging holes for your new trees, make sure you are aware of the location of any underground wires or gas lines. It is always a good idea to consult your local utilities provider before you begin to dig. They can help you understand the safest places in your yard to dig.

You should also consider consulting a professional landscaper to help you determine the best location to plant your new shade trees. You want a location that will offer everything your new tree needs to survive and grow.

For example, you want to ensure your new trees get the proper amount of sunlight. Also, make sure you plant trees 10 to 20 feet from your home’s exterior. This distance will help protect your home’s foundation from creeping tree roots as your shade trees grow while allowing the limbs and leaves to protect your windows from the hot summer sun.

To help HVAC system get the most out of your new shade trees, follow these basic rules for tree placement.

  1. Plant shorter shade trees on the east and west sides of your home. This is where the sun will shine closest to the horizon, making shorter trees the best shading options.
  2. Plant taller shade trees along the southern side of your home. This will help provide ample midday cover and shade your windows and roof during the hottest part of the day.


Now is the time to start planning ways to trim summer cooling costs. Be sure to contact your local HVAC professionals for more energy-saving options.

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How to Fix a Noisy Furnace

noisyWhen your furnace is working properly, you can almost forget it’s there. It just quietly does its job of keeping you warm when it is cold outside. A noisy furnace is not only aggravating, it can be a sign of a significant problem.  

If your furnace is making any loud or unusual sounds, it is important to figure out the cause as soon as possible. Continuing to use a faulty furnace could cause major damage that could require extensive and expensive repairs. Be sure to turn off the power and gas to your furnace until you can isolate the source of the noise, and call a local heating professional for help.

Identifying the Cause of a Noisy Furnace

The noises coming from your furnace can help you pinpoint the problem. You may need to describe the sounds your noisy furnace is making to the repair technician so he or she can properly diagnose the problem.

Scraping or Grinding

If you hear the sound of metal moving against metal, it is most commonly caused by one of two issues.

  1. A loose blower wheel. The blower wheel is attached to the blower motor shaft by a screw. Occasionally, a blower wheel will work itself loose and rub against the blower housing. The result is a metallic grinding or scraping sound. If left unchecked, a loose blower wheel can cause damage to the housing.
  2. A broken motor mount. A broken motor mount will cause the blower wheel to make contact with the housing. It could sound like metallic rattling or scraping.

Thumping or Vibrating

Excessive thumping or vibrating is caused by a blower wheel that is out of balance. When the blower wheel is off balance, it can cause the motor to run out of balance as well. Left unfixed, this problem can quickly escalate and cause more damage to the internal mechanisms of your furnace.

Squealing or Screeching

A high-pitched squealing sound is usually caused by insufficient lubrication, although it can also be caused by a loose fan belt. The noise can usually be remedied by either tightening the belt or applying oil. Make sure to contact a professional for expert help with these small jobs.

Banging or Popping

Loud banging or popping when the furnace starts or stops is caused by the metal ducts flexing. This could be a sign that you have a clogged filter or closed vents. Try changing your air filter and checking to make sure your vents are open and unobstructed before contacting a repair technician. If the noise continues, it could be sign that you have undersized ducts.


If you furnace makes a constant low rumbling noise, it could be a sign that you have a bad burner. If you hear a low rumbling when your furnace is running, turn off your unit and contact a professional for help.

Fixing a Noisy Furnace

If you are experiencing rackety noises from your furnace, it is best to contact a professional to rule out any major or potentially dangerous problems. Attempting to repair your furnace yourself could cause more damage and even lead to accidental injury.

However, there are a few simple repairs that any homeowner can tackle on their own.

Replace Your Filter.

Replacing an old filter with a new one is one of the simplest cures to minor furnace noise. Here are some basic step-by-step directions for replacing your furnace filter.

  1. Select an appropriate filter. There are several filter options available. Low-quality filters need to be replaced more frequently, so it may be worth the extra money to invest in a high-quality filter. If you are unsure which filter to use in your furnace, contact your owner’s manual for dimensions and guidelines.
  2. Switch off your furnace. Before you begin the process of replacing your furnace’s filter, be sure to turn off your unit to prevent any accidents.
  3. Open the furnace access panel. The access panel is usually located on the side of the furnace near the bottom of the unit.
  4. Remove the old filter.
  5. Position the new filter. After the old filter has been removed, it should be easy to slide the new on into position. Be sure to carefully follow the airflow arrows marked on your filter.
  6. Replace the access panel.
  7. Turn on your furnace.


If your furnace continues to make excessive noise after you have replaced the filter, it is time to call in the professionals. More serious repairs require mechanical know-how and experience. A certified HVAC technician can help you diagnose and fix a noisy furnace so you can rest in peace, quiet, and comfort.


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Troubleshooting Guide for a Short-Cycling Furnace

routine hvac maintenanceWhen your furnace is functioning properly, it will regularly cycle on and off to maintain a comfortable indoor air temperature. As the temperature drops below the setting on the thermostat, the furnace will come on and produce heat. When the desired temperature is reached, the thermostat will cause the furnace to shut off. This cycle repeats many times throughout the course of a day, as your furnace works to keep everyone in your home comfortable.

What is Short-Cycling?

Short-cycling occurs when the furnace turns on and off repeatedly in a short period of time. The system may turn on for a few seconds, or even a few minutes, and then shut off again.

This rapid cycling is generally ineffective at sustaining a satisfying temperature. It can also be expensive as the rapid cycling uses more energy. Short-cycling can also reduce the lifespan of your heating system, putting undue stress on the starter and other internal components.

A properly-sized furnace turn on and off anywhere from three to eight times in an hour. The number of times your furnace cycles on will depend on the outside temperature, if your home is well-insulated, as well as other factors.

In extremely cold weather, a properly functioning furnace will typically run for several minutes before shutting off. If your furnace only runs for less than a minute or two, it could mean your system is “short-cycling.”

What Causes a Short-Cycling Furnace?

There are several things that will cause a furnace to short-cycle. This can be a potentially serious problem, so isolating the cause quickly is the first step to resolving it. Some potential causes include:

  • Inadequate airflow. Dirty air filters or blocked air vents can restrict indoor airflow and cause your thermostat to register temperatures incorrectly. Replace air filters regularly and check to make sure your air vents are not restricted by drapes, furniture, or clutter.
  • Improper thermostat location. Thermostats are easily affected by drafts from windows and doors, as well as the cooler temperature of an exterior wall. Be sure your thermostat is mounted on an interior wall in a regularly used room.
  • The heating unit is the wrong size. If your heating unit is too large for the space being heated, it can cause the furnace to cycle on and off continuously. A qualified heating technician will help you calculate the proper unit specifications for your home.
  • A damaged furnace. If a furnace overheats, a safety switch will automatically cause it to shut off as a preventive measure. However, the thermostat will cause the unit to turn back on in an attempt to maintain the temperature inside your home. Then the cycle repeats itself. A crack in the heating exchange or dirty coils will cause a unit to overheat. These problems require attention from a qualified technician.

The Importance of Regular Maintenance

As your furnace heats your home, it causes regular wear on the unit’s internal mechanisms. Regular maintenance will help reduce the wear and tear on internal parts and ensure your unit runs safely and efficiently. Scheduling an annual check-up with a local HVAC professional will help prevent potential problems. Ultimately, regular maintenance will save you money on your energy bills and prevent expensive repairs before they occur.

During a regular maintenance visit, a qualified technician will inspect your unit for cracks, corrosion, leaks, or other potential problems. Regular professional maintenance will prevent a short-cycling furnace and optimize your system for the cold winter months.



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7 Important HVAC Maintenance Tips for Pet Owners

pet hairThere are few things more fulfilling than the love and loyalty of a pet. There are many health benefits to pet ownership, including lower blood pressure, less anxiety, and longer life expectancy. However, owning a pet can be a big responsibility.

While there are many advantages to owning a pet, keeping one in your home can also be a lot of work. Keeping our furry friends safe can take some effort. Also, keeping the hair and pet dander from taking over your home can seem like a full-time job.

Your HVAC system plays an important role in keeping your family, including your pets, comfortable and happy. When it comes to maintaining your HVAC system, there are some special steps pet owners need to make to keep their pets safe and their system running smoothly.

Replace HVAC Filters Regularly

If you have a pet, you may need to replace your HVAC filters more frequently. Pets shed hair and pesky dander all over your floors and furniture. That hair and dander also makes its way into your filter. As hair and dander build up on your filter, it can restrict air flow, causing your HVAC unit to run less efficiently. The result is more energy consumption and a higher utility bill.

Be sure to check your filter frequently and replace when necessary. If you find you need to replace your filter often, consider switching to a reusable filter. Reusable filters can be easily cleaned with a simple garden hose and then reinstalled until they need to be cleaned again.

If you or other members of your family suffer from pet allergies, you should consider upgrading your filter to one with a high MERV rating. A filter with a MERV rating of 8 or higher is often recommended for homes with pets. These filters are more effective at filtering airborne allergens.

If you have questions about which filter to use, a qualified HVAC professional can advise you on the best filter for your system and situation.

Keep Your Home Clean

One way to prevent your filters from getting clogged with pet hair, is to keep regularly clean your house. Simply vacuuming, sweeping, and dusting will help keep pet hair from settling in your vents or collecting in your filter.

Bathe and Groom Your Pet

One important way to control pet dander is to brush and bathe your pet regularly. This will help prevent your pet from scattering hair, dirt, and dander throughout your home. If you don’t want to make a weekly trip to the groomer, consider investing in a good pet brush. Brushes specifically designed for pets will help keep shedding under control.

Schedule Regular HVAC Maintenance

No matter how diligent you are about cleaning and pet hair, some will inevitable find its way into your system. It is important to have a technician perform regular cleaning and maintenance to keep your system running efficiently.

Also, have your technician regularly inspect your system duct work. If there has been significant accumulation of hair and dirt in your ducts, a thorough duct cleaning may be warranted.

Get Rid of Exposed Wires

While your technician performs regular maintenance on your HVAC system, have him take care of any exposed wires. Make sure he secures any dangling or exposed wires to protect them from curious pets.

Fence In Your Condenser Unit

If your pets are often left unattended in your yard, it is particularly important to fence off your outside unit. Make sure any barrier you install allows sufficient airflow around the condenser unit, but protects your system from potential pet damage. Claws and urine could potentially cause damage to the fins or other sensitive parts of your system.

Adjust Your Thermostat

It may be tempting to keep your thermostat set at a comfortable 72 degrees to keep Rover or Kitty comfortable when you are away. However, pets are safe and happy with a much wider temperature range than their human companions. You can save money and energy by adjusting your thermostat when only your pet is at home.


Following these important tips will help keeps your pets safe, extend the life of your HVAC system, and save you money. If you are considering regular system maintenance, special duct cleaning, or need help choosing a filter or programmable thermostat, be sure to contact your local HVAC professionals.

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Choosing the Right HVAC Company

licensed havac technicianWhether you need to schedule routine maintenance or you need emergency repairs, finding the right HVAC company to do the job is of utmost importance. Just because a company has prominent billboards around town, is popular with your neighbors, or offers low-cost services doesn’t mean they are the best choice for your specific needs.

To make sure you get your money’s worth, and that the job is done right, you need to do some homework. To ensure you find the best HVAC contractor for your needs, we have put together a brief guide to help you cover all your bases.

Check the Company’s Credentials

You should consider this a universal law. Whether you are hiring a lawyer, a plumber or an HVAC technician, ask to see their credentials.

When considering an HVAC company, first ask to see a copy of their business license, insurance information, and any other certifications they may have. Just because the company has a radio commercial and is driving around with an official looking logo on the side of their commercial van doesn’t mean they have the experience or background to work on your HVAC system.

Your HVAC system is a complicated piece of machinery and there is an amount of danger that comes with working on it. A lot could go wrong. If a technician has proof of pertinent licenses and certifications, you know that person has been properly trained.

Each state has different licensing requirements, so you should check your state’s  professional licensing department for details on local regulations, as well as the current status of a company’s license.

Check the Technician’s Level of Training and Experience

The next step is to ask the prospective technician about his or her level of training. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Does the technician have training from a vocational school? Is he or she familiar with the latest advances in HVAC technology, EPA regulations, and standard maintenance and repair?

What about your current HVAC system? Is the technician familiar with that brand or model?

If you are in the market for a new unit, you will want to make sure your prospective company is qualified to service and install the brand you want.

Be Sure to Get an Estimate

Before any company begins to service your HVAC system, make sure you get an estimate before the work begins. You don’t want any surprises after work has started.

Make sure the estimate includes all the anticipated work and includes all necessary parts and labor.

Don’t settle for a verbal agreement. Get it in writing. Carefully read over the estimate and ask for clarification for any terms you don’t understand. And then when you’ve agreed on the estimate, have it signed by both parties, you and the contractor.

Normally, you should not have to pay for the entire job up front. While a deposit may be required for large, expensive projects, most companies will not require the entire bill be paid until the work has been completed. This will protect you and helps ensure the work is done completely and professionally, and that you are getting what you pay for.

Check the Online Reviews

There are no secrets in the business world. Most companies, unless they are very new, will have customer reviews somewhere on the internet. There is no better indicator of a company’s level of service than its customer reviews.

Check websites like and Angie’s List. Also, look to see if there is a customer review page on the company’s website. Browse through the company’s social media pages to see if there is positive customer feedback.

Another step is to check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any major complaints about the company in the past.


When it comes to HVAC installation, repair, or maintenance, it is important to hire a reputable and qualified professional. Follow these tips and you’ll know exactly what type of HVAC company you are hiring to do the job.

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Understanding Furnace Energy Efficiency (AFUE)

AFUEIf you are considering buying a new furnace, the first step is to understand your options. If you’ve done any shopping or product comparisons, you have probably noticed that different furnace options have different AFUE ratings.

AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. This rating is basically a measure of how efficiently a furnace operates. Since efficiency affects your home’s impact on the environment as well as its impact on your bank account, it is important to understand the AFUE rating of any furnace you consider purchasing.

How to Determine the AFUE Rating

All new furnaces are required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to display their official AFUE rating. You should easily find this rating on the side of your furnace.

The AFUE rating is a ratio that represents the amount of heat produced by the furnace compared to how much fossil fuel energy it consumes. If you like math, there is a simple equation to compute this ratio:

AFUE = (Total heat output) / (Total energy consumed)

If you plug in the proper numbers and do the math, you will end up with a percentage. If your furnace has an AFUE of 90 percent, this means the furnace uses 90 percent of the fuel it consumes is converted into usable heat for your home. The other ten percent escapes through exhaust or up the chimney.

Obviously, the higher the AFUE rating, the more energy efficient the furnace will be. Any furnace with an efficiency rating of 90% or higher is considered high-efficiency.

Replacing Your Furnace

If you currently have an older furnace in your home, it probably has an efficiency rating that falls somewhere between 56 and 70 percent. This means a large portion of the fuel used to heat your home is being wasted. It’s like throwing money out the window.

Modern heating systems can reach efficiencies of up to 98.5 percent, converting nearly all the energy consumed into actually heating your home.

Upgrading your old, inefficient furnace and replacing it with a high-efficiency heating system could potentially cut your fuel bills (and your carbon footprint) in half.

Consider the Type of Fuel

When shopping for a new furnace for your home it important to make sure you are comparing apples to apples. When comparing energy costs, AFUE rating should only be directly compared to systems that use the same type of fuel.

AFUE rating can vary greatly between models. However, most furnaces that use electricity as their main fuel source generally have an AFUE rating above 95 percent. However, this doesn’t automatically indicate that specific electric furnace will produce lower energy costs. While the electric furnace may use most of the energy it consumes to heat the inside of your home, in some areas, electricity costs more than natural gas. In this case, a furnace with a lower AFUE rating that runs on natural gas could save you more money than an electric furnace with a higher rating.

Before You Replace Your Furnace

Before you purchase a new furnace, you should first improve the energy efficiency of your home. Consider upgrading insulation and sealing leaks around windows, foundations, and doors. This will help keep the heat produced by your furnace from leaking out.

Improving the energy efficiency of your home could make it easier for a smaller unit to heat your home. This could save you money.

A furnace that is properly sized for your home’s needs will run most efficiently. Make sure you choose a dependable unit with a good warranty. If you are in the market for a furnace upgrade, get in touch with your local HVAC professionals. They will help you make an informed decision and help you find the right model for your needs.

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Tips for Building a Proper Fireplace Fire

fireplace fireWith winter in full swing, many of us are dealing with bitter cold weather and snow accumulation. When the outdoor temperatures are frigid, there is nothing more inviting than a warm and relaxing fireplace fire. The glow of a hearth fire not only helps add some extra warmth to a room, it also makes it feel instantly more cozy and relaxing.

While just about anyone can toss some wood in the fireplace, light up a match, and start a small fire, it takes skill to produce a safe, long-lasting, fire that will help warm a room and its occupants.

How to Build a Safe and Warm Fireplace Fire

Each year, an average of 22,300 home fires are caused by a poorly maintained fireplace fire or chimney structure. Here are a few important tips to help you ensure the safety of your home and family, while enjoying the soft warmth of a proper fireplace fire.

Keep Your Chimney Clean and Free from Obstructions

As you are thinking about basking in the warmth of your fireplace, you probably aren’t considering the condition of your chimney. While your chimney may add attractive architectural interest to the exterior of your home, its real job is to carry dangerous smoke and gases safely out of your home. Before you light those first winter fires, you’ll want check the condition of your chimney, or you may not be enjoying that fireplace fire for long.

It is important to have your chimney professionally cleaned before you light a fire in your home’s fireplace. This is the first and most important step in building a safe fireplace fire.

Chimneys can quickly build up with birds’ nests and windblown debris, as well as tar-like creosote from previous fires. A qualified chimney sweep will clear away any chimney obstructions so you can build your fireplace fire without worry.

Gather the Proper Supplies

There is a recipe for starting a proper fireplace fire, and it is important to have all the ingredients readily at hand before you get started. Here is what you are going to need to build a proper fireplace fire.

  • Seasoned hardwood logs in varying lengths and diameters.(To build a safe fire, you want to choose well-seasoned wood that has been split for a minimum of six months – one year and stored in a covered and elevated location.)
  • Kindling (Smaller branches and twigs)
  • Newspaper (Not the glossy kind common in advertisements)
  • Fireplace grate
  • Fireplace screen
  • Fireplace tools (including poker, tongs, shovel, and brush)
  • Long matches or long-handled lighter

Open the Damper

This is an important step. If you neglect to open the chimney damper before you light your fire, you home will quickly fill with wood smoke. The damper may be difficult to open if it has been sitting unused for several months. However, a proper chimney cleaning should include an inspection of your damper for safety purposes.

Position Your Logs

There are several effective methods for stacking logs, including the log cabin and teepee configurations. However, for a fireplace fire, the simplest method is to use an “upside down” stacking design.

Start by lining a few larger logs across your fireplace grate. Next, add one or more layers of logs that are smaller in diameter. Make sure each layer is stacked perpendicular to the layer below, using progressively smaller logs for each level.

On the top layer, pile small twigs and sticks for kindling and top with some crumpled newspaper.

Start the Fire

After you have finished stacking your materials, use a long match or lighter to light the newspaper and small kindling. Put your fireplace screen in place, and then sit back and enjoy.

One of the advantages of the “upside down” structure is the newspaper and kindling ignite first. As they burn, the hot embers fall down into the structure and catch the larger piece of wood on fire.

This style of structure also works to provide a good flow of oxygen to the lower embers. This allows the fire to burn longer. Once the fire is going, it requires minimal poking, adjusting, or other maintenance. This gives you more time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the warmth of your fireplace fire.

Put the Fire Out

After you are finished enjoying your fireplace fire, you need to make sure that the fire is completely extinguished. If you plan on spending the night at home, you may decide to wait until the fire burns out on its own. However, before you go to bed and leave the fireplace unattended, make sure the fire is completely out. You can place your hand over the ash to feel if there is any residual heat emanating. If you still feel warmth, you will need to further extinguish the ashes. There is always a chance that a smoldering ember could reignite after you’ve gone to bed, causing a fire hazard.

If you don’t have time to wait for the fire in your fireplace to burn out on its own, you can use your fireplace tools to help speed the process. Use your poker and shovel to spread the smoldering embers. Stir up the ash to cover and smother any glowing logs or other embers. If you need to speed up the process even more, you can sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda over the embers to help smother them.


A warm roaring fire in your fireplace is a relaxing way to feel toasty on a cold winter’s night. However, a fireplace fire is no substitute for a functioning home heating system. The comfort and convenience of a well-maintained heating system is the best way to keep your home and family warm during the cold months of winter. If you need assistance keeping your home warm, contact your local HVAC professionals for routine or emergency maintenance.

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Large and Small Ways to Control your Heating Bill

save moneyAs we hunker down and brace ourselves for the coldest months of the year, conscientious homeowners are probably thinking about how they can reduce their heating bill. The cost of keeping your home cozy and warm can be an expensive endeavor. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways, both large and small, that you can trim some of that expense without sacrificing comfort.

Whether you need a few simple and easy ways to reduce your heating bill or if you want to pull out all the stops and make big changes, you will find something helpful in the action steps listed below.

Baby Steps to Reducing Your Heating Bill

Even if you don’t have the time or money to make big changes to heating system, there are still small changes that will save you money.

  1. Turn down your thermostat setting. This is the easiest and fastest way to start saving money on your heating expenses. By turning your thermostat down just a few degrees, you can save big on your next bill. As a general rule of thumb, for every degree you turn down your thermostat (and leave it there) you save between 1 and 3 percent of your heating bill.

    So throw on a nice warm sweater if you have to, but turn down that thermostat to start saving money.

  2. Use the warmth of the sun. Only a fool would turn down free heat. If you have windows that face the midday sun, open up the blinds and let in the natural warmth of the sun.

  3. Don’t be afraid to use a space heater. Space heaters are designed to heat small spaces. While space heaters have a reputation for being expensive to run, used correctly they can save you money on your heating bill. If you know that you will be in one area of your home, you can add some extra heat to that area with a space heater. Meanwhile, go ahead and turn down the thermostat a few degrees. Unoccupied areas of your home may be cooler, but the room you are in will still be warm and cozy.

    Using a space heater occasionally will keep you from having to maintain a comfortable temperature in the entire home when it isn’t necessary.

  4. Use an electric blanket. By using an energy efficient electric blanket, you will feel more comfortable sleeping at a cooler temperature setting. You may even decide to use the blanket to warm your bed by turning it on 15 minutes before bedtime. Then you can turn it off and still feel warm and comfortable as you fall asleep without raising your electric bill.

Larger Steps to Reduce Your Heating Bill

  1. Seal your home’s drafts. You can easily places where cold winter air enters your home by using a handheld draft detector. If you don’t have access to one of these handy devices, you can use your hand or even a candle.

    Once you’ve located any draft sources, take steps to seal them. Use caulk on leaky windows and weather stripping on gaps around doors.

  2. Get a tune-up for your furnace. Regular cleaning and equipment adjustments can make a huge difference in how your heating system runs. By scheduling a regular annual furnace tune-up, your heating system will run more efficiently. This is also the best way to catch potential problems before they turn into expensive repairs.

  3. Replace your attic insulation. Think of your attic insulation as a cozy blanket that helps hole warmth inside your home. Quality attic insulation is your home’s best defense against unnecessary heat loss.

    Over time, insulation breaks down and compresses, causing a loss in insulation volume. If your insulation is older than 10 years old, it may be time for replacement. If your attic insulation has settled and measures less than 12 inches thick, it is time replace or add to the existing insulation.

  4. Order a home energy audit. A home energy audit is an extensive test that produces a detailed report. Using the latest technology, a home heating professional will search for air leaks as well as any other sources of inefficiency and help you determine steps to maximize your home’s energy efficiency.

  5. Upgrade your heating system. If your furnace is more than 10 years old, it may be time to consider replacement. A newer system is probably the best way to achieve big savings on your heating bill. Be sure to talk to an HVAC professional about which options will work best for you.


Winter heating bills don’t have to be frightening. Whether you want to make big changes or take small actions, there are ways you can control your heating bill. If you have questions or need help implementing any of these strategies, contact your local HVAC expert for more information.

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How to Light a Gas Furnace Pilot Light

pilot lightWintertime is when your furnace works hardest, so it isn’t unusual for an older furnace to show its age this time of year. One of the most common problems with an aging furnace is the pilot light going out. Depending on the source of this problem, it could be a recurring issue or a one time thing.

If your pilot light goes out in the middle of harsh winter weather, it can be an uncomfortable problem. Thankfully, re-lighting a pilot light is a relatively simple task.

What is a Gas Furnace Pilot Light?

On a typical gas furnace, the pilot light is a small flame that acts as an ignition source. While gas is the fuel source for your furnace, it is the pilot light that ignites the gas to create the heat necessary to warm your home.

For some solder furnaces, a small breeze or draft of air can be enough to extinguish this tiny but necessary flame. Once the pilot light blows out, it will not reignite on its own.

How to Relight a Gas Furnace Pilot Light

Since some pilot lights can blow out fairly easily, relighting it can be a frequent issue, but the procedure to fix it is easy to learn.

  1. Locate the instructions label on your furnace.

Most furnaces, even older models, have a label with specific relighting instructions. However, these instructions can sometimes be difficult to read either due to fading or low light conditions. Having a flashlight with you will make reading these instructions easier. However, if your instructions label is missing or too faded to read, keep these alternate instructions handy for future use.

  1. Locate the Pilot Light and Switches.

Near the bottom of your gas furnace you should see a switch. This switch is typically labeled with the word “pilot.” It may also have the words “on” and “” off.” Before you attempt to relight your furnace’s pilot light, turn this switch to “off” and wait at least five minutes.

This waiting period allows any lingering gas to dissipate from the area around your furnace. Handling an open flame when there is gas in the air could cause a fire and subsequent personal injury or damage to your home.

  1. Locate the Reset Button

While you wait, look for a reset button, switch, or knob. The reset button is usually located near the pilot switch. If you have trouble locating it, refer to your owner’s manual for help.

  1. Light the Pilot Light

Once enough time has passed for any lingering gas to dissipate, it is safe to light your furnace pilot light. Turn the switch to “pilot.” As you hold the reset button, bring a flame close to the pilot light opening. Once the light is back on, you can release the reset button.

Make sure you use a long handled lighter to relight your pilot light. This keeps your hand away from the flame and the pilot light so that you are not burned when the pilot light reignites.

Safety Guidelines

While relighting your gas furnace pilot light is simple and easy, it is important to follow instructions to avoid burning yourself or your whole house.

  • Never attempt to light the pilot light without first turning it off. If your pilot light has been out for some time, your furnace has been continuously running gas which accumulates in the area around your furnace. Even a tiny lighted flame near natural gas can cause a large amount of damage to you and your home. Even if you are in a hurry, you should never skip this step. 
  • Always use a long match or long-handle lighter to light your pilot light. This will put enough distance between you and the igniting pilot light to prevent painful burns. 
  • If you have followed the above steps repeatedly and your pilot light will not ignite, it is time to call in a professional. If the pilot light will not remain lit after you release the reset button, there may be something seriously wrong with your furnace. Contact your local heating professionals for diagnosis, repair, or replacement. 
  • You should never attempt to fix a broken furnace yourself. Gas can be dangerous, even when it isn’t burning. For your safety and the safety of your home, furnace repairs are best left to qualified professional technicians. 
  • If you have to relight your pilot light frequently, it may be a sign that your furnace is failing. You should consider replacing or updating your home heating system.


Lighting your gas furnace pilot light isn’t a task that you need to often perform, but knowing how is a useful skill. Relighting your pilot light is a cinch when you know how. Follow these simple steps and your home will warm and cozy in no time at all.

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Dealing With Dry Winter Air

dry air As winter sets in and the temperatures fall, so do humidity levels. It is annoying, and probably something we take for granted, but as the weather outside gets colder, the air inside gets drier.

We easily see the effects of dry winter air in irritating static electricity. However, the trouble low humidity levels cause stretch well beyond clinging clothes and the ability for kids to shock each other.

The Effects of Dry Winter Air

One of the major effects of dry winter air is a cooler feel to the indoor temperature. The optimum humidity for comfort is around 40 percent. When the relative humidity is below that level, you may be tempted to turn your thermostat up a few degrees to feel warmer.  And for every degree you bump up the thermostat, you’ll see a 4 percent increase in your heating bill.

But your bank account isn’t the only place you’ll feel the negative effects of dry winter air. Low humidity levels can also have a negative impact on your family’s health. Some of the adverse effects of extremely dry indoor air include:

  • Irritation to the body’s mucous membrane. We feel this as dryness and itching of the eyes, nose, and throat.
  • Lowered immunity. The mucous membrane is the body’s first line of defense against infection. When the mucous membrane thins due to dry air exposure, you become more susceptible to colds, the flu, and other illnesses.
  • Asthma. Dry air can make asthma flare-ups more frequent and severe.
  • Skin irritation. Dry and scaly skin, especially on the hands and feet, can become severe, causing them to crack and bleed.

Long-lasting low humidity can also have a negative impact on your home. A few of the effects dry air can have on your home include:

  • Flaking or peeling paint.
  • Cracks in wooden surfaces, including floors, walls, ceilings, cabinets, and furniture.
  • Excessive static electricity can cause damage to sensitive electronic devices.


Dealing with Dry Winter Air

Winter air is naturally dry because as outdoor temperatures fall, the air contracts. Because the air molecules are more compact, the air has less capacity to hold moisture. This dry air gets inside your home through open doors and windows and causes your home’s relative humidity to fall.

But dry indoor air doesn’t have to be inevitable. There are steps you can take to restore relative humidity to a comfortable level and help protect your home’s interior and your family’s health.

Sealing Gaps and Cracks

First, seal cracks and gaps around doors and windows. Adding weather stripping to tighten door seals and caulk to seal cracks around windows, will go a long way to keeping dry winter air outdoors.

Other Small Ways to Increase Humidity

You can also add moisture to the air by allowing water to sit and evaporate into the air after you take a bath or shower. You can also leave bowls of water out to provide moisture as the water evaporates. Add a few drops of essential oil to the water to give a nice scent to the air in your home. Cooking on the stove can even help increase indoor humidity levels.

Add a Whole House Humidifier

One of the best ways to maintain comfortable humidity in your home is to have a whole house humidifier. A whole house humidifier works with your existing heating system to add moisture to the air inside your home.

Once installed by a qualified HVAC technician, a whole house humidifier brings water vapor into the duct system through a distribution tray. In this way, it helps adjust the indoor humidity level. You can monitor and control the level of humidity with simple adjustments to your thermostat.

For more information about how a whole house humidifier can work for you, contact your local HVAC professionals.


Dry winter air is a serious concern that should not be ignored. However, there are steps you can take to maintain humidity and protect your home and your family. Follow these steps and be comfortable all winter long.

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