Home Heating 101
Answers to your most common questions on keeping your house warm this winter.

Home Heating 101

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Home heating is on everyone’s mind this time of year. How can I best prepare my home and furnace for the winter months? Where do I start if I think I need to update my heating system? What temperature should I set my thermostat at to save the most energy and still be comfortable? We reached out to area home heating experts to get their advice. Below, Cam Schock from Climate Control shares his recommendations.

What are some basic things homeowners should do every winter to prepare for heating their home and make sure their furnace can operate smoothly?
Get your home ready for winter first. Seal up areas that leak outside air and make sure anything with water is protected from freezing. Your furnace has many moving parts and electrical components. Annual maintenance by a heating professional is critical to ensuring your furnace will provide reliable heat for your home all winter long.

Is there a specific temperature to set my thermostat to be the most energy-efficient in the winter?

We always advocate setting the thermostat at a temperature that makes you comfortable. The lower the setting, the less energy it takes to keep it there, but lowering it too far will be unpleasant. Set it at a point that is a good balance for you. Everyone’s preference is a little bit different.

If someone leaves home for an extended time (say a week or more), what temperature should they keep their home at while they’re away?
When it comes to being gone for a long period of time, you can save energy by lowering your thermostat setting. In most homes, you can lower it to 60 degrees Fahrenheit or lower without any issues. If a home has unheated crawl spaces or basement areas where there are water lines, don’t turn it down low enough that those areas can freeze. In homes where that isn’t a concern, 50 degrees Fahrenheit isn’t a problem.

What type of insulation is best for keeping a house warm in the winter?
All insulation has different R-values based on how it’s installed and how thick it is. Different types of insulation work better in different areas of your home, so consulting with a good contractor is the best way to determine what is best for your specific needs. There isn’t one type that is best for all areas.
Are there any signs that it might be time to update my old heating system?
Many times you can tell by just looking at a furnace. Is there rust or corrosion inside or around the furnace? Is it leaking water? Does it always operate the same every time it starts up? All these things are signs of a furnace being worn out or poorly maintained. The national average life expectancy for a furnace is about 16 years.

If I need to install a new furnace or heating system, what are my first steps?
Check reviews of your local heating professionals. Contact one that is experienced and will be in business for the life of your furnace. Let them know what is important to you with your new heating system. Now is the best time to address any issue you have with comfort or efficiency in your home. The average person only installs one new heating and cooling system in their lifetime, so get it right. If you have issues with your furnace after installation, you will need that heating professional to take care of it. If the installer isn’t in business or available when you have an issue, it doesn’t matter what the warranty was when you bought it. The manufacturer of the furnace doesn’t come out to fix it. Your installer does. Every warranty is only as good as the company that will stand behind it.

If my furnace would go out, what should I do?
The first thing is, don’t panic. Even on the coldest of days, it takes well over 24 hours without heat before there is any risk of damage to the home. Contact a heating professional and see about getting it repaired. Then, grab an extra blanket or put on some warmer clothes until it is fixed. If you have any other heat sources in the home, such as a fireplace or an electric heater, turn them on as you like. Let the blower on your furnace run continuously to move the heat around the home to all areas, even the ones without a heat source.

What are the most common types of heating systems and the pros and cons of each?
The most common heating system in our area is a furnace and air conditioner using ducting to blow it throughout the home. This is usually the lowest cost to install to get both heating and cooling in your home.

The next most common is a hot water boiler heating system with radiators throughout the home. This provides a higher level of comfort but costs more to install and doesn’t provide a way to do air conditioning. You have to have another entire system to do the cooling. This option offers higher levels of comfort and efficiency when designed and installed properly.

There are many more types of heating and cooling systems available, all with advantages and disadvantages. The options are endless. Contacting a high-quality heating professional is the best way to walk through all the options to find which ones fit your needs the best. Finding the balance between cost and comfort for each home is the goal when looking at different types of systems.

Are all thermostats the same? How do I know I have a good one?
Thermostat options are growing so fast in the industry right now due to technology and the connected home. The single most important thing in choosing a thermostat is to get one that fits how involved you want to be in operating it. Do you want to set it and forget it, or do you want to use voice commands to adjust it from wherever you are in the world at any time of the day? Every option in between is available now, so think about what is most important to you in operating it and then choose a thermostat that fits those needs. Getting a thermostat that is too complicated is a frequent complaint from homeowners. You know you have a good one if you know how to operate it. Unless it is a really cheap one, they will all work.

Is there anything else Aberdeen homeowners should know about heating their house in the winter?
Often, the heating and cooling system in your car can keep you more comfortable than your home. Think about it. New vehicles have two temperature controls just for the front seats, then add in rear-seat controls, heated seats, cooled seats, and heated steering wheels. This is all in a tiny space! Now you get out of your car and walk into your home. The vast majority of homes have one thermostat for the entire house, and it’s usually located in a hallway. Who hangs out in the hallway?

See where I’m going? You spend much more time in your home, especially now. There is no reason your home shouldn’t be the most comfortable place to be in your life and the safest for your family. //Jenny Roth with contributions by Cam Schock of Climate Control