Unless the price of energy goes up or one winter is considerably colder than the last, your heating bills should not suddenly sky rocket compared to the previous year. If they have gone up significantly this winter, there's likely something sinister going on with your heating system and it's in your best interest to figure out what it is so you don't keep overpaying. Here's a look at some of the most common causes of suddenly high heating bills.
A Dirty Furnace
If your furnace's heat exchanger or burner gets dirty, this can greatly reduce the furnace's efficiency. Dirt can accumulate if you forget to change the air filter for a long time or if you do something dusty in your basement, like sand down wood.
You can sometimes tell whether your furnace's burner and heat exchanger are dirty just by looking at it. Take the top off the front, and take a look. If you see dirt or if you see an orange flame, your furnace is dirty. The orange flame indicates the furnace is not burning hot enough. The flame should be blue or white.
To clean your furnace, turn the gas supply off. Then, remove the cover, and use a damp cloth to wipe off the burner and any other areas that are dirty. Let the furnace dry for several hours before turning the gas back on.
A Dirty Filter
Regardless of whether the furnace itself is dirty, you should change the air filter. A dirty air filter can force your furnace to work harder to push air through it, increasing your energy bill. Plus, it can allow dirt to accumulate in the furnace itself, further reducing efficiency. A new filter only costs a dollar or two, so it's worth your while to replace it—and then keep replacing it each month or two going forward. A dirty filter alone probably is not responsible for your skyrocketing energy bills, but it could be a part of it.
A Faulty Thermostat
Sometimes thermostats can go out of calibration. In other words, your thermostat may "think" the room is 60 degrees and keep triggering the furnace to turn on, even though the room is actually 70 degrees.
To tell whether a faulty thermostat is to blame, bring another thermometer into your home. Hold it near your thermostat, and see if it reads the same temperature as the thermostat. If the temperatures are radically different, try changing the battery in your thermostat and see if that fixes the problem. If it does not, you'll need to contact your HVAC contractor and have them replace the thermostat.
If one of your air ducts is blocked, certain rooms may stay cooler than others. This may trigger your heat to kick back on more often even though the rest of the home is an ideal temperature. Air ducts can become blocked with birds' nests, squirrel nests, cat toys, and even balls of dog hair.
To tell whether your air ducts are blocked, turn the heat on and then walk in front of each of your vents. Make sure each vent is opened. If you walk in front of one and do not feel air coming out of it, that means that the duct leading to that vent is blocked. Call your HVAC company; they have the right equipment to reach down into the duct and remove the blockage.
If your energy bills suddenly increased this winter, don' just shrug your shoulders and ignore the issue. Chances are, one of the problems above is to blame—and if you don't fix it soon, you'll be dealing with a broken furnace on top of higher bills. To learn more about lowering your heating bills, contact services like Moore Heating & Air Conditioning Inc.