In the winter, we intuitively understand that the colder it gets, the harder a heating system must work. Additionally, it’ll cost more to heat your building an additional 3 degrees regardless of the outside temperature, so more aggressive thermostat setpoints also increase expenses. But outside of those main cost drivers, there are some lesser known factors which may cause your energy bills to rise. Let’s explore.
The efficiency of HVAC systems has improved markedly over the last decade, meaning they expend less energy to produce heat than their predecessors. If your system is more than ten years old, it may be time to analyze the cost/benefit of an upgrade.
The insulation of your building and your building occupants can contribute to excessive heating needs. A lack of proper building insulation means heat can escape through the walls more rapidly, making your system work harder to maintain a setpoint. Additionally, if the occupants are poorly insulated (i.e. not dressing with layers), you’ll require a higher setpoint to keep them comfortable. While it’s not always financially practical to address a building’s insulation, it’s very easy to ask your occupants to wear a cardigan!
Not Sticking to a Schedule
Unless your building is occupied 24/7, you probably don’t want your heater running around the clock. Whether you use a building management system or a smart thermostat (ahem, ENASTAT), set a schedule so your setpoint is less aggressive during unoccupied hours. Just dropping the setpoint a few degrees can result in material savings.
Hot air from a forced air heating system is less dense than the ambient air, so it will rise. (We don’t make the rules, but physics certainly does.) And because your thermostat is typically located at occupant height (where you want the heat in the first place), the system must run continually to “stack” the heat. This can result in a wide disparity of ceiling to floor temperature. The easiest way to address this — and save some money — is to use large diameter ceiling fans to slowly recirculate the hot air trapped at the ceiling throughout the space (without creating an unwelcome breeze).
Blinds and window treatments are useful in blocking the sun during the summer (when you want less heat in the building), but keep them open on sunny days in the winter and take advantage of the radiant heat. Just don’t forget to close them at night and take advantage of the insulation value they provide.
Once you’ve taken advantage of these less-obvious considerations, talk to your service technician and make sure there aren’t other factors driving up your energy costs. It’s always a good idea to have your system inspected between heating and cooling season to make sure it’s operating to its best ability. Happy heating!