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Avoiding Common HVAC and Heating Mistakes During Winter

With the cold Utah winter upon us, homeowners throughout the state are looking to ensure their HVAC system is properly prepared to heat their spaces in the upcoming months. At My Buddy the Plumber, we're here to help -- we offer services ranging from furnace installation and repair to assistance with your thermostat and much more, allowing you to enter the winter with confidence in your home's warmth and comfort.

We're also here to provide tips and expertise to our clients as they maintain their own systems on a day-to-day basis, and this includes steering them clear of some of the most common heating-related mistakes we've seen made in the past. Here are a few of these errors, plus why they're the wrong move and how you can avoid them heading into the winter.
avoiding heating mistakes winter

Cranking the Thermostat to Heat the Home "Faster"

There's a mistaken assumption from some homeowners that if you crank the thermostat up to the highest possible temperature setting, the home will heat up faster. In reality, this is actually a much slower process and can even lead to your furnace failing in the long term.

In order for your heating system to work properly when it's cold outside, yours needs proper humidity throughout your space -- when it's so dry that you feel a constant need to drink water, you're in a healthy humidity zone. Turning the thermostat up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit or even higher encourages the unit to work overtime, driving this humidity level down and actually increasing your chances of encountering problems with condensation on windows and pipes -- not what you want when it's freezing outside!

In addition, this method risks adding stress and strain to the entire heating unit, raising your chances of a breakdown and needing costly repairs on short notice. And when you consider the simple reality that you don't even experience faster heating as a result, the proper approach here is clear.

Improper Window Attention

While the primary components of your HVAC system during heating season are items like the furnace, ducts and others, it's vital not to gloss over your windows as part of the equation. Windows exposed to the harsh winter elements will lead to drafty rooms and lower overall energy efficiency for your heating, meaning higher bills and less comfort.

The simplest task you have as a homeowner looking to save money on heating bills: Keeping windows closed and locked when you have your system on. That latter point is particularly important -- just closing the windows, but failing to lock them, will still result in drafty air and lost energy, so be sure to take the time to install your most recent locks before you're ready to turn on the HVAC system.

In addition, if your home's windows or older or you're still working with single-pane glass options that allow for significant heat loss, it's time to replace them. EnergyStar estimates that you can cut your heating bills by as much as 20 percent simply by installing double-pane windows, accounting for the increased quality of insulation and other components.

Heating an Empty Home

For those homes where everyone is gone during the day, whether for school, work or some combination therein, you might be using up a ton of unneeded energy and HVAC stress by heating your home when it's empty. The simplest fix: Program your thermostat to automatically lower the desired temperature whenever you're away or asleep during the day. This results in significant savings with very little difference, since most people aren't going to be aware of a shift from 68 degrees to 65 degrees -- and we're not even factoring in the additional benefit of reduced strain on your HVAC system.

This is one particular area that highlights the importance of utilizing a modern thermostat option, such as a programmable or smart thermostat. With a manual thermostat, one that requires in-person adjustment every single time, it's simply not feasible to save money in this manner. When your thermostat can be programmed in advance, on the other hand, you can set it to lower the temperature without any effort on your own part, enabling you to save big when you're not home or sleeping.

Leaving Exhaust Fans On Too Long

This is a bit of a detailed area, so bear with us. It's absolutely true that using exhaust fans in certain areas of your home, most notably in the bathroom or kitchen, is valuable -- it provides ventilation and stops mold or other contaminants from forming, and also may relieve poor odors in the bathroom.

However, you should know that these fans are cycling air outside the home. If you run them for too long during the winter period, you are bringing cold air into your home -- the exact opposite of what you want to be doing. Most importantly, this cycling of air will lead to a colder overall temperature in the room where they're located, meaning you'll have to increase the setting on your HVAC system or wait until it warms up again naturally before turning off these fans.

The ideal time to run your fans: Just after you've finished cooking or bathing, and shut off the venting process. This should only take a couple of minutes, and while it provides proper ventilation for mold and smells, it won't lead to an exterior air draft entering your home. Once a small amount of ventilation has been provided, turn the fans back off to maintain warm interior temperatures.

For more on how to avoid common heating mistakes made during the winter season, or to learn about any of our plumbing or HVAC services, speak to the pros at My Buddy the Plumber today.

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