3 Reasons Why Your Furnace is Not Blowing Hot Air

technician repairing home furnaceWith winter weather in full swing in Boston, it’s safe to assume you’re relying on your furnace to keep you warm.

While you expect your furnace to provide efficient service, you never know when something could go wrong. For example, just as you’re settling into bed for the evening, you realize that your furnace is not blowing hot air.

A furnace blowing cold air is a big problem, so it’s important to pinpoint the issue and resolve the problem as soon as possible. Here are three of the most common reasons for this:

1.  An Issue with Your Thermostat

If you have an issue with your furnace blowing hot air, this is typically the type that you want. You can solve many thermostat related issues on your own, including the following:[i]

  • The thermostat is set to cool: Maybe someone in your house, such as a child, did this by mistake. Or maybe you clicked the wrong button when attempting to turn up or down the heat. Either way, make sure your thermostat is set to heat.
  • The fan is set to “on” instead of “auto”: Your furnace is not designed to blow an unlimited amount of hot air. At some point, the fan will begin to blow cold air. Since you don’t want your furnace blowing cold air during down time, be sure it’s set to “auto.”
  • Low or dead battery: If you have a digital thermostat, it’ll tell you when the battery is low. If you neglect to swap it out for a fresh battery, it can cause problems regarding how your furnace operates.

If your furnace is blowing hot air, your thermostat is the first thing you should check. You may find a simple solution to your problem.

2.  Clogged Furnace Filter

When was the last time you changed your furnace filter? If you can’t remember, there’s a good chance it’s been too long. And if your furnace isn’t blowing hot air, this could be the culprit.

A furnace filter is designed to protect the unit from debris, such as allergens, dust, and hair (and that’s just the start).[ii] Without this, your blower fan would come in contact with all types of materials that could impact performance and shorten its lifespan.

An old, dirty filter is unable to do its job as intended, which can result in stress on your unit. And too much stress can cause the burner to overheat, which will result in it blowing cool air into your home.

Fortunately, this is an easy problem to fix, as long as the old filter didn’t cause any damage to the furnace itself. All you have to do is swap out the old filter for a new one and restart your furnace. After a few minutes, you should once again experience a steady flow of hot air throughout your home’s ducts.

3.  Burner Related Issues

There are many parts of a furnace, with the burner among the most important. Since it’s vulnerable to dirt and debris, there’s a chance a clog could prevent fuel from reaching it.

If this happens, your fan will still blow, however, cold air will come from your ducts.

This isn’t a DIY fix, as your safety and the well-being of your burner is at risk. It’s best to call in a professional who can diagnose the problem, clean the burner, or replace it if necessary.

Need Furnace Maintenance?

At Boston Standard Company, the last thing we want to hear is that your furnace is not blowing hot air during the cold winter months. But if you run into this problem – or any other – don’t hesitate to contact us.

We can visit your home, troubleshoot for the issues above (among others), and provide a timely and cost-effective solution.

Sources:
[i] https://www.familyhandyman.com/heating-cooling/furnace-repair/simple-furnace-fixes/
[ii] https://globalnews.ca/news/1621011/what-you-need-to-know-about-furnace-filters/

Why Pipes Freeze During the Winter Months

frozen exterior pipeEven during a mild Boston winter, you should still expect temperatures to reach well below freezing. And when that happens, it’s critical to take extra care of your home.

Water expands as it freezes, thus putting additional stress on the pipes that contain it. Furthermore, frozen pipes can limit the ability to access water in certain parts of your home. Not to mention the fact that it increases the risk of a pipe bursting, which can cause widespread damage to your home and property.

While there is no surefire way to protect against frozen pipes in your home, knowledge of why this happens can help prevent trouble. Here are the types of pipes that are most likely to freeze[i]:

  • Those that run along an exterior wall
  • Those that have no insulation
  • Those that are located in unheated parts of your home, such as an attic and unfinished basement

If you know of any pipes in your home that fit into one or more of these categories, take action to help protect against freezing.

How to Protect Your Pipes from Freezing

Rather than cross your fingers and hope for the best, there are ways to protect your pipes from freezing. Here are four of the best[ii]:

  • Turn up the heat: Yes, it’ll increase your energy bill, but it’ll also lessen the likelihood of your pipes freezing. Along with this, make sure air is able to flow freely around pipes that are most likely to freeze. For example, don’t stack boxes and bins around pipes in your basement and attic.
  • Let your faucet drip: If you’re concerned about a particular pipe freezing, open the faucet associated with it to allow for a slow drip. This keeps the water flowing, thus reducing the risk of freezing. It also eliminates pressure in the pipe, which protects against bursting.
  • Add insulation (or more insulation): Focus on pipes located in parts of your home without insulation. This is most likely in your attic, unfinished basement, crawl space, and underneath sinks. Adding insulation will keep the heat in and the cold out. You can also apply heating tape directly to the pipe to keep it warm.
  • Keep your doors open: Don’t close off your home during the winter months, as this reduces the ability for warm air to travel throughout. Along with turning up your heat (see above), open your interior doors. It’s particularly important that you don’t close off areas that are generally colder.

What to do About a Frozen Pipe

If you come across a frozen pipe, there are things you should and shouldn’t do.

Above all else, contact a licensed plumber to schedule an immediate appointment. Not only can they solve your problem, but they can also provide tips on how to avoid the same situation in the future.

In the meantime, do the following[iii]:

  • Leave your faucet on
  • Don’t attempt to use a flame to thaw a frozen pipe
  • Do attempt to use a hair dryer to slowly warm the pipe and thaw out the frozen portion

Tip: if a frozen pipe bursts, immediately turn off the water at the main shutoff valve. Doing so will minimize damage.

If you’re dealing with frozen pipes or want to protect against this, contact us for professional guidance. We can help put this concern to rest once and for all.

Sources:
[i] https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/winter-storm/frozen-pipes.html
[ii] https://www.thebalancesmb.com/stop-freezing-pipes-2124982
[iii] https://www.statefarm.com/simple-insights/residence/dont-let-pipes-freeze-and-steps-to-take-if-they-do

Winter HVAC Maintenance Tips

man changing ac filterWith the fall season in the past, it’s time to turn your attention to the winter months and everything it’ll bring your way. As a homeowner, this means preparing your property – inside and out – for colder temperatures, snow, and ice.

Just the same as your fall furnace maintenance schedule, there are several tips you can follow during the winter months to ensure that your HVAC system runs efficiently.

Replace Your Furnace Filter

As a general rule of thumb, replace your filter every three months (or more if it’s dirty). Even if the packaging tells you the filter will last six months or longer, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

A clogged furnace filter can impact performance while also taking a toll on the internal mechanics of your unit. Subsequently, your furnace will work harder to keep your home warm, while also being subjected to additional strain.

There are many types of furnace filters – ranging in size, type, and MERV rating – so do your homework before making a selection.[i]

Clean Your Air Ducts

When was the last time you cleaned your air ducts? If you can’t remember, it’s probably been too long.

By doing this, you prevent blockages that have the potential to impact how much warm air reaches your living space. It also cuts down on the amount of dust and debris circulated through your home.

With so many benefits of cleaning your air ducts, it makes sense to do so at the start of every winter season.[ii] You’ll be glad that you did as the temperatures drop and your furnace works harder to warm your home.

Inspect Your Thermostat

You pay so much attention to your actual furnace that you overlook the importance of maintaining your thermostat.

Have you recently changed the batteries in your thermostat? Is your Wi-Fi thermostat operating as intended?

Even if your furnace is in good working condition, it won’t do anything without a properly functioning thermostat.

Protect Your Air Conditioner Unit

While it’s a matter of preference, covering your outdoor air conditioner unit protects it against the harsh winter climate, which includes heavy snow and ice for those who live in and around the Boston area.

Furthermore, it also protects your unit against the build-up of debris, such as tree branches and leaves that will make its way to the ground as inclement weather moves into the area.

Are You Ready for Another Cold Boston Winter?

The winter months in Boston are harsh enough to chase you indoors. However, if your home isn’t warm, you won’t find yourself seeking shelter there for long.

If you have any questions about the above winter HVAC maintenance tips, contact us for guidance. And if you need any help preparing your system for the months to come, we’re more than happy to visit your home.

It’s the steps you take upfront that will help keep you warm this winter and reduce the likelihood of something going wrong with your furnace.

Sources:

[i] https://projects.truevalue.com/maintenance_and_repair/cooling_and_heating/how-to-choose-the-best-furnace-filter.aspx
[ii] https://nadca.com/homeowners/why-clean-air-ducts

How to Winter Proof Your Plumbing System

winter proofing your plumbingWith the average high temperature in Boston falling to 36 degrees in January, it’s critical to protect yourself and your home.

Even if you’ve never done so in the past, there are some key steps you can take to winter proof your plumbing system before the next cold cycle hits.

If you’re unsure of how to winter proof your plumbing system, here are five things you can do:

Drain Your Outdoor Faucet

Due to their location in the elements, outdoor water faucets are particularly vulnerable to the cold. So, it’s a must that you take these steps:

  • Close the shut-off valve inside your home
  • Disconnect your hose
  • Drain the faucet of all water

Taking these steps lessens the likelihood of water remaining in your pipe, freezing, expanding, and causing it to burst.

It only takes a couple of minutes to do this, and taking action could save you thousands of dollars in damage to your home.

Insulate Your Pipes

This is an inexpensive way to protect your pipes and valves from extreme cold. Pay close attention to any pipes that are in colder areas of your home, such as your basement, garage, or attic.

Seal any gaps or cracks that allow cold air to reach your pipes, while also eliminating the source of the air (such as an open window).

Tip: open cabinet doors under any sink that is positioned on an outside wall, such as in your kitchen or bathroom. This helps promote warm air circulation around the pipes.[i]

Let Your Faucets Drip

It sounds like a waste of water, but it’s actually a great way to keep your pipes from freezing when the temperature dips below freezing.

Find all the faucets along exterior walls in your home and turn them on to create a slight, yet steady drip.[ii]

This eliminates any pressure between the faucet and ice, thus reducing the risk of the pipe bursting.

Run Water Regularly

When was the last time you turned on the water in your basement sink? Do you remember the last time you took a shower or flushed the toilet in the guest bathroom?

It’s possible there are pipes and water valves in your home that you only use every now and again. While it’s okay to ignore these during the warm summer months, don’t make this mistake over the winter.

Running water through every valve helps prevent freezing, so make it a habit to regularly do this.

Protect Your Water Heater

Freeze damage can occur if standing water inside your water heater turns to ice. As the water expands and contracts, as a result of the freezing, it can damage the internal components while increasing the risk of a leak.

Here are some tips to protect against this:

  • Insulate the pipes leading to your water heater
  • Check the area around your water heater for cold air leaks, such as foundation cracks and windows
  • Maintain a reliable power source
  • With the gas off to the heater, run a steady flow of water through it overnight

Today’s water heaters are designed to avoid freezing, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

Do you have questions or concerns about winter proofing your plumbing system? If so, read our two-part series for more tips and advice (part 1, part 2).

And of course, don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule an appointment. We can pinpoint potential problems before they turn into something much more serious!

Sources:

[i] https://todayshomeowner.com/video/how-to-insulate-water-pipes-to-prevent-freezing/
[ii] https://www.consumerreports.org/home-maintenance-repairs/how-to-keep-pipes-from-freezing/

5 Common Winter Time Furnace Problems

repairing a furnaceAs a Boston resident, there’s no hiding from cold temperatures, snow, and ice during the winter months. It’s inevitable, so the best thing you can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

While the cold weather is sure to impact you when you venture outdoors, you can always head home to warm up. But that only holds true if your furnace is in good working order.

Regardless of the type, age, or condition of your furnace, something can go wrong [i] when you least expect it. Here are five common winter furnace problems that could throw you for a curve in the months to come:

1.  Furnace Won’t Kick On

All you want is for your furnace to kick on so you can get warm (and stay warm), but it’s not cooperating. There are many potential issues, some of which are more serious and complex than others:

  • Faulty pilot light igniter or sensor
  • Dirty air filter
  • Malfunctioning thermostat
  • Electrical problem
  • Closed gas supply

If your issue is as basic as a closed gas supply, you can simply turn it on and enjoy the warmth. However, if it’s more complex, such as an electrical short within the unit, it’s best to consult with a professional.

2.  Furnace Won’t Blow Hot Air

There is no shortage of potential reasons for a furnace not blowing hot air. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Not enough gas making its way to the furnace
  • Pilot light is out
  • Dirty flame sensor
  • Clogged condensate line
  • Damaged heating ducts
  • Furnace that is too small for the size of your home (be careful of this when replacing your furnace)

In some cases, your issue can result from two or more of the above, which adds another layer of challenges to the repair process.

3.  Furnace Isn’t Blowing Enough Air

This is typically the result of a dirty air filter. If you don’t change you filter as recommended by the manufacturer, it could clog to the point of not allowing enough air to pass through.

Many homeowners run into this issue during the winter months because they neglected to change their air filter during the summer season. Remember, your air conditioner uses the filter in the same manner as your furnace.

It only takes a few seconds to swap out a dirty filter for a clean one.

4.  Furnace Won’t Turn Off

A furnace that won’t turn off is better than one that won’t turn on, right?

While this makes sense during the cold winter months, it’s still a serious issue that requires your immediate attention.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Pinpoint what’s happening: there’s a difference between the furnace failing to shut down and the air handler not turning off.
  • Feel the air: if the air coming from your vents is cold, your air handler is working but your furnace isn’t running. In this case, check that your thermostat is set to AUTO. Conversely, if the air is hot, your furnace is working but the burners aren’t turning off as designed.
  • Inspect the furnace: if everything checks out with your thermostat, the problem is likely a pilot light that has gone out or a defect in the fan’s relay switch.

With so many potential issues, it’s best to consult with a professional HVAC company.

5.  Clogged Condensate Line

Condensation is associated with more than your air conditioning unit. Most of today’s high efficiency furnaces produce water, which is drained from the system via a tube. [ii]

Over time, the tubing has the potential to clog, which can result in your furnace shutting off unexpectedly or not heating your home efficiently.

Fortunately, you can fix this issue by clearing the clog or simply replacing the old tubing.

Furnace Troubleshooting Experts

As a resident of Boston, it’s important to have a plan in place for staying warm throughout the winter.

If your furnace gives you trouble, don’t hesitate to contact us. We can visit your home, troubleshoot the issue, and ensure that everything is in good working order before leaving. It’s our goal to keep you warm this winter season!

[i] https://www.hometips.com/repair-fix/furnace-problems.html
[ii] https://www.familyhandyman.com/heating-cooling/do-your-own-furnace-maintenance-this-winter/

The dirtiest part of your bathroom

The dirtiest part of your bathroomToilets take a lot of abuse, and some people are phobic about touching them – especially those in public restrooms. Your bathroom (heck, any bathroom!) has a bad reputation for being dirty, and frankly, it’s well deserved. Yes, your bathroom is dirty, but it’s not entirely your toilet’s fault! Your bathroom habits can make a bad situation worse. Much worse.

Here’s what’s hanging around in your loo and what you can do about it.

Mold

Ah, mold. No one likes mold. It stinks. It stains. It can make you sick. Some molds can kill you. (On the other hand, penicillin – also a mold – can save your life.) It’s hard to get rid of. There’s not much to like about mold. Mold can thrive on porous surfaces, like grout, wood and plaster.

Mold is a fungus, so it reproduces by way of spores. Spores can remain dormant until they find conditions they like. Because your bathroom is a wet space, your battle with mold will pretty much never end. Ventilation is a good antidote to mold. Mold loves water, so if you can keep your bathroom dry, you can cut down significantly on any mold growth there.

Leaks of any kind will contribute to and support mold growth. Always address leaks immediately, whether they’re from the sink, toilet or bathtub.

If you have carpeting in your bathroom, you’re going to get mold growth there. If possible, remove carpeting and replace it with a hard surface flooring material – preferably a non-porous one. Wash the window curtains, shower curtains and rugs regularly, and use a small amount of bleach in the wash to kill any volunteer growth. At the minimum, clean your bathroom once per week and more frequently if it’s heavily used.

Important side note about mold: Many varieties of mold are black in color, but that doesn’t mean they’re “black mold.” Stachybotrys chartarum is the bad actor known as “black mold.” The black stuff that appears in your bathroom around the shower is probably Alternaria. Alternaria’s not totally harmless, since it can aggravate asthma and cause allergic reactions. The good news is that even though it’s black and it’s mold, it’s not black mold. A mild bleach solution will kill Alternaria. So will vinegar. Drying your bathroom walls and ventilating the bathroom after taking a shower will also discourage Alternaria from growing.

Mildew

Mildew is actually white, so if something is growing in your bathroom that has a color other than white, it’s not mildew. It’s probably a mold of some kind. Mildew is also a fungus, so the same attack strategy for mold will work on mildew.

Yeast

Another member of the fungus crowd. Vinegar or bleach will do the deed on yeast, but so will hot water – 122°F or better. (That’s a scalding temperature, so your water heater might not be of help here.)

Bacteria

Coliforms: Coliforms are fecal bacteria. Yes, they originate in poop. It’s entirely possible that you have more fecal bacteria on your toothbrush holder than you do on your toilet seat. How could that even be?

First, coliforms can’t really survive well outside the human body, so most of the coliforms in your bathroom will be dead. (Good.) Coliform bacteria gets aerosolized and distributed around your bathroom when you flush the toilet with the lid open. Second, it accumulates on your toothbrush holder when you don’t clean that regularly. Quick fix: close the lid when you flush the toilet and clean your toothbrush holder more often.

Staph: Common, and likes to hang out around the toilet and on faucet handles. Your bathroom could also harbor streptococcus, E. coli, Pseudomonas, etc. A disinfectant cleaner like Lysol will kill the overwhelming majority (99.9%) of these lowlifes.

“Pink mold:” “Pink mold” is not mold. It’s actually a bacteria also known as Serratia marcescens. It feeds on soap scum and shampoo residue, which is why it likes your bathtub so much. This bacteria has the chops to make you sick, so getting rid of it is a good idea. Avoid direct contact with it, but a good detergent or spray cleaner should neutralize it. Remove any buildup of soap residues by cleaning the bathtub regularly to inhibit the growth of this bacteria.

As plumbers, we don’t clean bathrooms (except our own), but we can help you address leaks and other plumbing problems. Call the plumbing experts at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911. We’ll help you find and eliminate water leaks and other plumbing problems!

Photo Credit: Tony Webster, via Flickr

New Lead Free Plumbing Alloy Could Get The Lead Out

New Lead Free Plumbing Alloy Could Get The Lead OutResearchers at Purdue University say they’ve developed a new plumbing alloy that can eliminate the use of lead in plumbing fixtures. The alloy is a manganese and copper blend that is stronger and easier to mold than current lead free plumbing alternatives.

One reason the new combination is so interesting is that both copper and manganese solidify at the same temperature. Typically, different metals harden at different temperatures, which can allow the resulting alloy to become porous, and interfere with strength and other properties. Since copper and manganese solidify at the same temperature, they behave more like a pure metal. Initial testing shows that the new alloy does not develop porous qualities like other alloys can.

The idea of using lead free alloys in plumbing is not new. Since the late-70’s, the plumbing industry has made a major effort to reduce or eliminate the use of lead -even in small amounts. Lead-free solder, lead free pipes and lead-free fixtures are standard today, however some lead can still leech into water systems.

Brass – a common plumbing material for fixtures and valves – can contain lead, which can leech into standing water. Old plumbing solder was typically a mixture of tin and lead. As plumbing joints age and deteriorate, lead from old solder can also enter the water supply.

Another exciting property of the new alloy is that it is relatively inexpensive to make. Copper and manganese are both reasonably available materials. In production, the new alloy is comparable (or perhaps a little less expensive) than current lead free alternatives. The Purdue team will now look to scale up its production in test plumbing applications to learn more about it.

Removing lead from your plumbing system is important to your health and the health of your family. Lead is toxic in any quantity, and there is no safe or acceptable level of lead in a water system. Even systems that don’t contain lead pipes can still acquire lead particles – mainly from older fixtures and old, lead-based solder joints.

While it’s hard to believe, some homes also still have a water line that’s made of lead. You can see whether you have a lead line by looking at the pipe that connects your water meter to the municipal water supply. Lead is a soft, dull silver-colored metal. If you have a dull grey or silver colored water line attached to your meter, take a small flat-head screwdriver and try to scratch the surface of the pipe. You could also press the flat blade of the screwdriver into the pipe. If the screwdriver can scratch the pipe or make an impression, your water line is probably made of lead.

If you touch the pipe, wash your hands afterwards. You can only absorb lead by ingestion or inhalation. While you cannot absorb lead through your skin, touching the pipe can deposit lead particles or lead dust on your hands, which you can then ingest accidentally.

Replacing your lead water line with a safer material can remove an immediate health hazard and give you peace of mind. If you would like more information about replacing a lead water line, or removing lead from your home’s plumbing system, please give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to inspect your home’s plumbing system and identify potential lead hazards.

Photo Credit: Richard King, via Flickr

Plumbing as a career

Plumbing as a careerIf you’re looking for a career, a new career or a better career, consider plumbing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the plumbing industry is wide-open. Experts expect employment to grow by 16% 2016-2026. Better still, the median salary for a plumber in 2018 exceeded $25 per hour. Some plumbers even report making six-figure salaries.

Plumbing is a skilled trade, which means that you will spend time working with a licensed master plumber in an apprentice position while you learn. As an apprentice, your ultimate goal is to become a master plumber. That process can take several years because you’ll need to complete both classroom and on-the-job instruction. You’ll work as a journeyman plumber for awhile as you accumulate work experience. Once you’ve completed all of the journeyman training and work requirements, you can become a master plumber.

As a licensed plumber, you can work in a commercial setting, a residential setting or both. In addition to the sink-and-toilet plumbing you know, you could also work in highly specialized commercial settings, like power plants, hospitals, manufacturing facilities and water treatment plants. Plumbers also install gas lines and fire suppression systems.

Every year in Massachusetts, about 75% of high school graduates go on to college. For the other 25%, a plumbing apprenticeship pays you a good salary while you learn on the job. You can also put yourself in a position to have a stable, high-earning, high-demand career within just a few years.

If you’d like more information about how to get into a plumbing apprenticeship program, or you’d simply like more information about plumbing as a career, please give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to talk to you about job opportunities and the job training requirements for plumbing as a career.

Photo Credit: Natalie Wilkie, via Flickr

Life without indoor plumbing? Is that still a thing?

Life without indoor plumbing? Is that still a thing?According to a report earlier this month, nearly 25% of households in Russia lack indoor plumbing. While that’s hard to accept, it’s apparently true. The majority of the affected households are in rural areas. Only about 9% of urban-dwellers in Russia lack indoor sanitation.

It’s at this point we should mention that according to a recent American Communities Survey, 630,000 US households also lack an in-house outhouse. So what gives?

Historically speaking, indoor plumbing is a relatively new thing. By the 1930’s in the United States, new construction included indoor plumbing as a standard design element. Likewise, owners of many older homes retrofitted plumbing into these structures. However, Census data from that time show that in 1950, the indoor plumbing revolution had yet to reach about 25% of US homes.

Indoor plumbing – as defined by the Census Bureau, includes:

  • Toilet
  • Bathtub
  • Running water

If you’ve got at least these three, you’ve got the whole kit. Areas in the US that are still waiting for indoor plumbing include very rural areas, Native American reservations, Appalachia and Southern Texas. Here’s a surprise. According to the American Communities Survey, in 2017 more than 9,000 Massachusetts homes did not have complete plumbing facilities. Nearly 600 of these homes were in Suffolk County.

Most people in the US today take indoor plumbing for granted, but ye Olde Outhouse has not yet been relegated to the history books anywhere in the world. Good sanitation makes for good, healthy communities, so taking care of your plumbing should be a priority.

Tips for taking care of your indoor plumbing

There are some major plumbing repairs that require a trained professional, but you can take a few simple actions to care for your plumbing. Regular maintenance can help limit your exposure to major plumbing failures.

  • Keep your drains running clean and clear.
  • Address leaks when you find them.
  • Check your fixtures regularly (sinks, tubs, toilets, faucets, water heaters) for leaks, cracks and wear
  • In the winter, keep your home’s temperature high enough to discourage frozen pipes
  • Drain your garden hoses and drain the bibs before winter!

When you do need a hand with your plumbing (or if you live in one of the 600 Suffolk County houses without plumbing), give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to help out!

Photo Credit: Mark Bray, via Flickr

Changing your habits can save money on energy bills*

Changing your habits can save money on energy bills**Your mileage may vary.

A recent study by researchers at the Australian National University showed that behavior has the potential to save 10%-25% on residential energy costs. Saving 10%-25% on energy costs sounds good, especially since the average Massachusetts household spends more than $2,500 on energy costs each year. That means optimizing your energy consumption could reduce your energy bills by $250-$625 per year.

Now, for the bad news. Another equally relevant Israeli study showed that providing people with a lot of personalized energy consumption data had no positive effect on their behavior.

At all.

In fact, study participants who had been given very detailed information about their energy consumption actually used more energy than those who just received general tips on how to reduce their utility bills. Those with the most information about their specific energy habits could have easily spotted costly consumption behaviors. Yet, the exact opposite outcome occurred, even after adjusting for external factors like weather changes and weather extremes.

It’s easy to focus on the “save money on energy bills” part of the headline here (especially when $625 is at stake), but it is harder to succeed at the “changing your habits” stuff. So, if knowledge can’t help you when it comes to changing your energy consumption patterns, is there a strategy that can work?

How to lower your energy bills

“Automating” energy-saving habits is one way to change your actual energy consumption. That would include using a programmable thermostat- which won’t forget to turn the heat or A/C down. Motion-sensing light switches and timers also ensure that the lights get turned off when they’re not in use. Today, lighting won’t account for much of your home’s electric bill, as long as you have switched to LED bulbs. (If you haven’t, switch!)

Another major behavior change involves your buying habits. When you have to replace an appliance, look for EnergyStar-compliant models. Likewise, using WaterSense-compliant faucets, showerheads and appliances can reduce your water consumption significantly. These appliances and fixtures will cost more up-front, but they will quickly repay you in the form of lowered operating costs. You may also need to reconsider replacing appliances that still work well, but consume a lot of energy. This situation can happen easily with freezers and refrigerators. By replacing energy-hogging major appliances even though they may still work, you can reduce your utility bill significantly.

Take the time to seal the drafts and gaps in your home’s “thermal envelope.” Improperly insulated and sealed gaps can leak a lot of air into (and out of) your home. Closing these gaps will reduce your winter heating bill and your summer cooling bill.

Consider using fans to cool your home at night. Typically, the temperature drops after the sun sets. Bringing naturally cooled air into your home with fans can reduce the temperature and save money. But there’s a big caveat here. The humidity is a major factor. If the humidity is high, you’re better off leaving cool-but-wet air outside. You’ll ultimately spend less to cool the drier air that’s already in your home.

Your heating and cooling equipment consume most of your energy

Finally, take the time to understand how much your heating and cooling systems actually cost to operate. It’s very tempting to let an older, less efficient system run. A new, high efficiency replacement could pay for itself in just a few years through sharply reduced operating costs. A newer, high-efficiency system can help you lock in savings, while your older less efficient model locks in your expenses.

If you’d like more information about reducing your heating and cooling costs, give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to show you how you can take advantage of rebates and tax incentives to lower your energy consumption affordably.

Photo Credit: Nan Palmero, via Flickr