Most of the homeowners in the Bay Area have probably had their furnace running for a few weeks now. This is about the time when the first heating bill arrives for the season. Obviously the amount will correlate to the size of the home and usage pattern. But it is worth spending some time reviewing if you feel it is excessive for the size of your home. In general if the bill is over $200 there may be opportunity to save that will have a quick payback.
There are a couple places to trim your heating bill. Firstly, if you are not using a programmable thermostat you should strongly consider it. Sometimes a furnace is left on when the house is not occupied or when it is not required to be heated. Those can be avoided if a digital programmable thermostat is set up properly. It is relatively inexpensive as a basic thermostat can be had for less than $50 from Home Depot.
Secondly, if your ducts were installed over 20 years ago you should have it checked for leakage. California Energy Commission have done a study indicating that the average leakage rate for older homes is around 30%. That means $0.3 of each dollar is spent heating or cooling your crawlspace/attic. That can be reduced greatly if the system is properly sealed. A duct leakage test can be done to analyze your current status. PG&E also has rebates from $350-$600 to encouraged homeowners to seal their ducts. In certain situations the rebate may be enough to cover the cost of sealing.
Thirdly, if your furnace is over 15-20 years old it may also be a source of inefficiency. There are modern furnaces that are rated at over 95% AFUE. A 20-30 year old furnace is probably running at 60-75% so a significant saving will be seen if it is replaced.
Next time we will discuss more about duct leakage and duct sealing.