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Home Heating Efficiency Tips

Home Heating Efficiency Tips - Ann Arbor, MI - Clean Sweeps of MichiganKeeping their homes warm and comfortable is a major priority for most homeowners during the cold months of winter. For many, this heat comes from furnaces, fireplaces, or other fuel burning appliances. Unfortunately, if not used correctly these appliances may run inefficiently, resulting in a loss of heat and energy. Likewise, heat may be unintentionally lost in other areas of the home, even to the point of allowing cold air in.

There are several steps homeowners can take to help their homes heat more efficiently and to reduce a loss of heat and energy. By following manufacturer’s instructions for care and maintenance on heating appliances and utilizing tips for minimizing heat loss, homeowners can keep their homes warm and their heating costs low all winter long.

Insulate windows and doors

Most people have been in homes where there air in front of the windows is considerably colder than the rest of the house. The Energy Information Administration estimates that as much as one third of a home’s heat loss occurs around windows and doors. There are several things homeowners can do to combat this energy loss.

Drapes and curtains: Drapes and curtains covering windows can serve more than just a decorative purpose. When thick draperies are hung over windows, they can minimize drafts and reduce heat loss by as much as 25%.
Caulking: As homes age and settle, small cracks or gaps may develop around window frames. These holes can let cold air in while allowing warm air to escape. Applying caulk around a window frame seals these gaps; weather stripping is recommended for use around a window’s moveable parts. According to the US Department of Energy, the cost of weather stripping or caulking can be recouped through utility savings in as little as one year.

Install a programmable thermostat

While programmable or digital thermostats are the norm in most new homes, older homes may not have them. By installing a programmable thermostat, homeowners can control the exact temperature of their home, some even adjusting to half-degrees. Many models also come with timers, allowing the thermostat to automatically raise or lower the temperature throughout the day. Doing this reduces energy costs as the temperature can be set lower during the day when no one is home so the heater does not run, only to be raised again in the afternoon and evening.

Consider wood or pellet heating

To reduce energy costs, consider using a wood or pellet burning appliance as a supplemental heater. With major advances in energy efficiency, these fuel burning appliances are able to produce large amounts of heat with minimal emissions. Using a pellet or wood stove for zone heating – or only heating a specific area of a home – reduces overall utility costs.

Likewise, larger wood or pellet stoves may be able to be used to heat an entire home, eliminating the need for a furnace or boiler. A 1,300 square foot home will need a unit that produces around 42,000 BTU, while a larger, 2,000 square foot home will need upwards of 60,000 BTU. When selecting a unit, however, it is extremely important to select the right size; a unit that is too small will not produce enough heat, whereas a unit that is too large may overheat the house, making it equally uncomfortable. Because of this, it is best to work with a reputable dealer when selecting a wood or pellet stove.

If you have questions about how to increase your home’s heating efficiency, contact the experts at Clean Sweeps of Michigan today!

How to Turn your Inefficient Fireplace into an Efficient Alternative Heat Source

efficient_fireplace_clean_sweeps_of_MI_ann_arbor_MIAccording to the National Association of Homebuilders fireplaces are one of the top three features new home buyers look for in a home. A warm, crackling fire is a welcoming and inviting addition to any living space during the cold months of winter. What many homeowners fair to realize, however, is that their fireplace may actually be losing more energy than it is creating.

As fireplaces and chimneys age, they may become more inefficient. As the warm air from a fire rises, cold air from outside can flow in, filling the room and negating the effects of the fire. Thankfully, there are several products available to homeowners to help improve the efficiency of their fireplaces, making them excellent sources of warmth all winter.

Fireplace inserts 

For many homeowners with traditional, wood burning fireplaces, a fireplace insert represents a low maintenance, high efficiency replacement option. Fireplace inserts are glass-fronted fireproof boxes that create a closed combustion system, trapping the hot air created by a fire before it can escape up a chimney. Inserts are able to efficiently heat a room, especially with the addition of a fireplace blower.

While fireplace inserts have traditionally been exclusively gas, they can now be powered by several different fuel sources including electricity, wood, pellets, or coal. This wider variety of choices gives homeowners the ability to choose an insert to better meet their needs. Although inserts are considered to be the most energy efficient choice for fireplaces, only inserts approved by the Environmental Protection Agency should be installed in residential homes. The EPA designation ensures that the fireplace insert has undergone rigorous testing regarding both its safety and efficiency.


Dampers, or the metal plate that separates a fireplace from the rest of the chimney, are designed to have a snug, airtight seal. Over time, dampers may lose their original seal, allowing cold air or moisture to enter a house through the chimney. Because they are exposed to both hot and cold air – as well as the elements – it is recommended that dampers should only be repaired or replaced by licensed professionals.

While closed dampers can prevent unwanted cold air from entering a room, dampers should always be left open when a fireplace is in use. Doing this prevents smoke and other harmful gasses from entering the home, allowing them to travel safely up the chimney instead.


Sometimes seen as only decorative, firebacks are large metal pieces placed at the back of a firebox. The primary purpose of a fireback is to reflect heat back into the room, preventing warm air from travelling up the chimney and out of the room. In addition, firebacks protect the fireplace masonry from damage from long-term exposure to fire and heat. Because of the ease of installation and the number of different styles they are available in, adding a fireback is a fast and easy way to improve the efficiency of an existing fireplace without undertaking a major remodel.

Fireplace doors 

Professionally fitted fireplace doors are an attractive, decorative way to seal their fireplace when not in use. Like firebacks, fireplace doors are available in a number of different styles and finishes, giving homeowners the ability to choose a style that fits their décor and budget.

Similar to the damper, fireplace doors should always remain open while the fireplace is in use. The primary way they improve efficiency is through a combination of preventing cold air from entering and warm air from leaving when the fireplace is not in use.

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