Furnace Repair Helpful Hints for Homeowners
In the average American home, 53% of the annual energy bill goes toward heating and cooling the home; heating takes the lion-share of that cost. The furnace comes on and makes your home warm and comfortable; a few minutes later it comes on again, and again, and yet again. The furnace keeps coming on because of heat loss. Reducing heat loss is the key to keeping your house warm.
To make this discussion memorable, consider your home is very much like a balloon. Instead of air, your “home balloon” is filled with heat and our job is to keep the heat inside of the balloon. Heat escapes from the balloon in two ways:
Let’s look at each separately.
Furnace Repair: Stopping Leaks
The balloon illustration is not too far from the truth. The outside of your home is actually called a building envelope and it includes materials designed to prevent air leaks/heat loss. Between the siding and your interior wall is a wind block, a seamless barrier to the wind that can push through any gaps in building materials.
That leaves the obvious leak sites—windows and doors. There are times that we want “leaks,” especially when we want to move into and out of your “balloon.” Often, the installation of windows and doors leaves significant gaps, allowing the free movement of air.
One gap seems insignificant, but the combination of many small gaps is equivalent to a large gap in the wall. The gaps can be filled with a variety of materials, including caulk and weather-stripping foam.
On a windy day, bring a lit incense stick near the window trim, glass panes, and sills. Air movement will blow the smoke of the incense, locating gaps that need to be filled.
Weather-stripping around doors wears away with use, resulting in significant gaps around major openings. Repairing or replacing these gaps will make a difference.
The air moving inside the house might be felt as drafts, but a similar amount of (heated) air is moving outside the house. The balloon illustration fails here a bit since your home is not expanding with the incoming air.
Furnace Repair: Radiant Leaks
Heat also moves by radiation heat transfer—warm air gives up its energy to objects inside your home. This is a good thing when it warms your favorite recliner or you get into a room-temperature bed. It is a good thing when it keeps your skin warm. However, when it transfers heat to the wall, the heat will continue to move through the wall material to the outside of the house. Insulation has been installed during construction to create a thermal barrier, delaying radiation heat transfer.
Since insulation is rarely visible, it is often ignored. The entire building envelope, except for windows and doors, should be insulated; walls, ceiling, and floors. Some insulation material uses trapped air to reduce heat transfer and some insulation material inherently restricts heat transfer. Insulation efficiency is measured in R-value; a higher value indicates a higher efficiency.
Wall insulation is difficult to add or adjust after the interior finishes are applied. Install insulation with the best R-value during renovation or remodeling.
Examine crawlspaces under the home to ensure either the foundation wall/ceil plate or the floor is well insulated. Gravity will cause floor insulation to fall, so make sure to restore fallen insulation panels.
Attic insulation reduces the heat transfer through the ceiling. When attics are easily accessible, adding insulation can be a wise investment—since heat rises, most heat transfer happens through the ceiling. Adding the insulation with the best R-value will stem the most heat loss.