When your're choosing a fuel source for your home heating system, start with available fuels in your region, because not all fuels are available everywhere and some are cleaner and more efficient than others. Based on your chosen fuel—natural gas, fuel oil, light propane gas, and kerosene are the most common—you can figure out how much heat a gallon will give you and how efficient that fuel is likely to be. Called the standard heat value, the amount of heat a fuel can produce per gallon or cubic foot is measured and reported in Btu (British thermal units). The higher the Btu produced, the more efficiently the fuel burns and the greater its heat value. Fuel oil, for example, has a heat value of 135,000 Btu/gal., while liquid propane gas produces 91,000 Btu/gal. Next you need to plug that information into the furnace selected. How many Btu/hour the furnace or boiler releases determines its output and will help to decide how much furnace you need to heat your space to the desired temperature. This is how the pros size and evaluate your heating needs. Following these formulas, you can plot out your energy usage, optimal furnace size, and desired output, too.
Remember to clean or replace filters on furnaces once a month, or as needed.
Keep your furnace tuned and in top condition. Proper maintenance of your furnace can save 6 to 10 percent of your heating bill. Have a certified technician look at your furnace and make the necessary adjustments before the heating season starts.
Oil-fired boilers should be professionally cleaned and tuned once a year. Gas-fired equipment needs to be checked every other year.
Bigger is not always better! Too large a system costs more and operates inefficiently. Have a professional assess your needs and recommend the type and size of system you should purchase.
Insulation and air-sealing improvements to the shell of your home will always improve your comfort, regardless of the size and type of heating system installed. Weatherization may also allow the installation of a smaller, more economical heating system.
Check your delivery ticket to ensure that the amount of gallons delivered was mechanically printed on the ticket. Many states do not allow the gallonage amount to be handwritten, it must be mechanically printed on the ticket. Also, be sure to retain all your delivery slips and check to make sure the price per gallon appears on the ticket at time of delivery.
Determine the daily oil consumption by dividing the number of days between deliveries to determine the average amount of gallons used per day. A sudden increase in the amount of fuel used daily could mean a fraudulent delivery took place or the burner is malfunctioning.
If you own or are planning to install a high-efficiency gas furnace, ask a certified chimney sweep to check that the furnace is vented in accordance with the National Fuel Gas Code.
Have your duct system tested for air leaks. Many think that windows and doors are the major cause of a home's air leaks. But according to recent research by the Department of Energy, gaps, cracks and disconnections in the typical home's duct system are much more significant. The DOE states that the typical duct system loses 25 to 40 percent of the energy put out by the central furnace, heat or air conditioner. Leaks are usually the biggest problem.