It only takes one day running an inefficient furnace during a frigid winter day to make you wonder how you can improve your indoor environment. Although some furnaces can be past the point of efficiency enhancement, there are some steps that homeowners can take to greatly affect the temperatures and heat up times in your home.

When it is time to replace a furnace, the below steps may not help too much, and a total replacement will be your only option for improvement. However, if your furnace has a lot of life left in it, then you can support its quality of life and longevity by employing some of the tactics detailed below.

1. Regularly Replace the Air Filter.

The best and easiest way to support the efficiency of your furnace is to regularly replace the air filters. Sometimes this simple step is lost to the busyness of life, however, it is essential for maintaining the health of your HVAC system. A dirty filter not only loses its ability to filter particles from the air but also becomes too clogged to allow for proper airflow through the system. Even filters that don’t look very dirty to the naked eye could be harboring enough debris and particles to significantly affect the efficiency of your furnace.

An air filter should be changed every couple of months. If you have pets or suffer from allergies, you may need to perform this duty more often. When choosing a new air filter for your furnace, remember to purchase the correct size so it covers the entire air return duct opening in your HVAC.

When shopping for a new air filter, you may quickly realize some are more expensive than others. Generally, the more expensive means the higher MERV rating it has, which means the more particles and smaller particles it will filter from your air. If you want bacteria, smoke, viruses, and allergens filtered out of your indoor air to improve your indoor air quality that much more, then choose a MERV rating between 13 and 15. Any more than this and the filter could create too much air resistance and strain for your residential HVAC unit.

2. Repair and Clean Ductwork.

Gaps and holes in the ductwork can also significantly decrease the efficiency of your furnace. Warm air may escape through these breaches in the structure before it ever reaches your vents to warm your rooms. Not only does this waste warm air, but it also makes your furnace work harder and longer to heat your home. Small holes in your ducts can decrease your furnace’s efficiency by 30% in some cases, which can lead to much higher energy bills from month to month.

Openings can also introduce dust, dirt, and other debris to your system, which defeats the purpose of regularly replacing your air filter. If you have never had your ducts inspected or cleaned, now is the time to contact a licensed professional. Look for furnace repair near me for a qualified technician to come repair and clean your ducts and experience the benefits of a more efficient furnace in no time.

3. Perform an Annual Tune-Up.

A furnace will lose efficiency every year, but a regular furnace tune-up will significantly slow this process. A professional technician will inspect the unit, clean dirty mechanics for optimal functionality, and check for any needed minor repairs to keep your furnace running as well as possible. Not only will this help improve the efficiency of your furnace, but it will enable you to stay ahead of any needed furnace repair and prevent untimely breakdowns in the middle of winter.

4. Invest in a Programmable Thermostat.

Constantly adjusting the thermostat can reduce the overall efficiency of your furnace. If it is regularly kicking back on or trying to overcome a huge temperature difference from when it was off, then you may benefit from a programmable thermostat. Some smart thermostats allow you to set temperatures for all different times throughout the week, include phone app controls, and show you at what temperatures your furnace is being most efficient.

5. Use a Fan for Air Circulation.

Your fan may see a lot of action in the summer when it is hot, but you can also use a fan to your advantage in the winter. Hot air rises and can become trapped near the top of vaulted ceilings. Running a fan in reverse in these spaces can push that hot air downward, keeping the space nice and cozy, and reducing the need for your furnace to kick on as much.

6. Replace Windows.

Old windows can leak a high percentage of your home’s heat, requiring your furnace to work harder to keep your home warm. Window installation can be pricey, but it may be worth it for the long-term payoff. If a replacement is out of the question, you can also invest in thick curtains to keep the heat in at night and re-caulk the frame of the windows to prevent icy drafts and heat loss.

7. Check Garage Door for Gaps.

Another part of the house that is prone to chills is the garage. This fairly large section of your home may be sucking out more heat than you think. Investing in high-quality insulation around this structure may help, but you also want to make sure there aren’t any gaps around your garage doors.

When the garage door is shut, look for light shining through or cold drafts, and then seal those sections with new weather stripping or another repair technique. The same goes for the door leading from the house to the garage and any extra side doors as well. When the main garage door is shut, it should touch all the way to the ground. If it doesn’t then you may need to recalibrate its track and rollers.

8. Maintain Humidity Levels in Home.

Humid air transfers heat better than dry air. Too low of humidity in your home and your furnace may have to work harder to keep your home at your desired temperature. Humidity in your home should be between 30% and 50% to maintain a healthy indoor environment. The air tends to be drier in the winter, so you may need to use a humidifier to raise the humidity in your home.

You can tell that your home lacks enough humidity if your throat is often sore, you develop a cough or other breathing difficulties, or your wood door frames and floors shrink and creak in the winter. If your home has too much humidity, you may suffer from more dust mite allergies, condensation will form on the inside of your windows, you may see mold growth around your home, and you may constantly feel sweaty and sticky. A smart thermostat can also detect humidity in your home. You can ask a professional technician about humidifiers and dehumidifiers for your HVAC system if your home perpetually experiences humidity issues.

A furnace is a sizeable investment and one that will last for up to 20 years if well-maintained. You want it running as efficiently as possible for as long as possible for the investment to pay off. Hopefully, the above tips can help you feel warmer this winter and help you see a reduction in your energy bills from month to month. If your furnace is still having trouble keeping up with your demands, or your energy bills are so high that you are afraid to run your furnace in the winter, then it may be time for a complete replacement.