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Cooler temperatures are setting in all across the United States. As your thermostat kicks in to combat the winter chill, how can you balance the efficiency of your home’s heating system and the comfort of you and your family?
Aprilaire is here to answer some of the most common questions about heating your home in winter and optimizing your Indoor Air Quality.
What should I know before turning on my heating systems this winter?
If you haven’t serviced your heating system since last year, you’ll want to tackle a few tasks before turning on the heat.
Start with the air filters. Traditional 1” filters should be replaced every 1–3 months, while Aprilaire air filters should be replaced every 6–12 months.
If you have a wood or pellet stove that requires a chimney, make sure to check the vent and clean out any debris from the previous year. When using a fireplace, consider the type of fuel you’re burning and how well the area is ventilated. Consult your instruction manual for more information on cleaning and maintenance.
Additionally, make sure to check that your carbon monoxide detectors are working.
What’s the optimal indoor temperature during the winter?
This is largely a matter of your own personal preferences for temperature, but a common winter setting is 68°F. If you’re comfortable wearing more layers while you’re relaxing in your home, you can keep the thermostat a few degrees lower to save on energy costs.
If you have an Aprilaire programmable thermostat, set it to the lowest comfortable temperature in the winter and lower the setpoint when you’re sleeping or away from home. The U.S. Department of Energy says you can save as much as 10% a year on heating by turning your thermostat down 7°–10°F from its normal setting for 8 hours a day.
How can I check the insulation of my home and ensure I’m not losing heat?
For a thorough inspection of your home’s insulation, you’ll want a trained technician to take a look. Generally, older homes will be more likely to need improvements. The U.S. Department of Energy has some tips for the process.
One area where you may be losing heat is through drafty windows and doors. On chilly days, feel around your exterior windows and doors for a draft to see if added weather stripping could be useful. Don’t forget about doors to unheated garages and pet doors.
Two easy options for sealing non-moving areas like window frames are silicone caulking and foam sealant.
How does relative humidity (RH) impact comfort levels in the winter?
Keeping the relative humidity in your home between 40–60 percent during the winter has several benefits.
First, it helps you stay healthy during the cold and flu season, as viruses thrive in excessively dry conditions. Plus, your sinuses and mucus membranes are better equipped to fight off intruders when they’re properly hydrated and not dried out by the combination of low winter humidity and indoor heating systems.
Next, controlling humidity can protect the woodwork and paint in your home. Dry conditions can cause wood to split and paint to chip, but a consistent RH will help preserve these features year after year.
The third major benefit is that a healthy RH can ease the burden on your heating system. Moist air holds heat better than dry air, meaning you can keep your thermostat a few degrees lower and still feel comfortable in the winter. An Aprilaire whole-home humidifier makes it easy to get these benefits in every room of your home.
Is the heated air in my home filtered to remove contaminants and allergens?
Aprilaire Healthy Air Hero Paul Samek of Luxury Heating Company has some perspective on filtering the air in your home while your heating systems are engaged:
“Within the standard HVAC system, the fan only runs when the system is in heating or cooling mode. With a new HVAC system, whether it’s a gas furnace or an electric air handler, most have a true ECM motor that is going to continuously be filtering the air, regardless of whether it’s heating or cooling or not. Coupling that with a ventilation system and an Aprilaire media air cleaner, it’s going to not only continuously be moving the air throughout the house and throughout the system, but it’s also going to be cleaning it—not just recycling it.”
Find more tips from Paul here.