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Get the Best out of Your Home Heating Equipment

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With the heating season coming up quick, this is a good time to assess your home heating equipment to make sure it’s in good working order. By maintaining your equipment, you’ll ensure that your stove, boiler, furnace, mini-split, or other heating unit performs as efficiently as possible. Here are some tips to help you get ready for the cold weather:


In General:

  • Have your system inspected at least once a year, ideally before the coming heating season.
  • All combustion creates fumes or smoke—if you notice escaping smoke or fumes, make an appointment with your heating contractor immediately.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working and install carbon monoxide alarms.


Wood or Pellet Stoves:

  • The best way to burn off volatile gases and improve air quality is to burn small, hot fires. You can do this by building your fire with paper and kindling and slowly adding larger logs. If you have a stack thermometer installed on your flue, note the heat of the stack and try to keep it between 300 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Burn only hardwood (maple, oak, etc.), which burns hotter and longer than softwoods and results in less creosote buildup.


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Central Pellet Boiler:

  • Keep your stove clean by removing the ash from the burn chamber and the ash pan, scraping the soot off of the burn pot and heat exchangers.
  • Clean the auger tube when the fuel hopper is empty.


Oil or Gas Furnace or Boiler:

  • Make sure your pilot light stays lit. You can usually find directions for lighting the pilot on the access panel. If you can’t do it on your own, contact a heating contractor for help.
  • Check or replace your air filter monthly (or as recommended). Doing this will save your system from overworking and will lengthen the lifespan of your equipment.
  • Inspect your blower motor, to ensure that air is moving through the heat exchanger to distribute warm air through your home. The blower is located where the air filter is, making it easy to combine these two tasks. If it is not functioning correctly, work with a heating contractor.


Mini-Split/Heat Pump:

  • If you turn off the circuit breakers to your mini-split or heat pump in summer, make sure they’re turned back on before you begin using it again.
  • Clean your filter, brushing thoroughly monthly (or at least every three months) when it is in use.
  • Inspect the compressor to make sure it is clear of leaves, grass, or other debris. You should do this every spring as well and, if possible, cover it for the summer.


The cleanest, safest heating is the heating you avoid. In addition to the above advice, try these tactics to prepare your home for better energy efficiency:

  • Get a professional energy audit to reduce the heating (and even cooling) loads in your home.
  • Air seal and insulate your home adequately to protect your home from as much heat loss as possible.
  • Set your programmable thermostat low when you’re not at home, and when you’re sleeping, (for best efficiency, don’t allow the heat to fluctuate more than five degrees).
  • Open shades or curtains on south-facing windows during the day to collect warmth from the sun and close them at night to keep out the cold.

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About Laurie Fielder

Laurie directs VSECU’s VGreen energy savings loan program. Previously, she worked for the weatherization program at the Central Vermont Community Action Council (now Capstone), and for a successful residential solar installer. She enjoys helping Vermonters learn about efficiency and renewable financing options that maximize the savings of these smart investments. She lives in Woodbury with her family and enjoys the outdoors, walking the dog, and tackling home improvement projects.
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