Efficient way to cut heating/cooling bills

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Getting the details: Comfort specialist Rich Dykstra Jr. (left) goes over specifics about the Carrier line of furnaces and air conditioning units available at D.M. Dykstra/Nicor Home Solutions with customer Dr. Bernard Feldman at the business's Crestwood store. | Photo by Mary Compton

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Not every Chicago area resident saw their heating bills soar as they tried to keep their homes warm during this year’s unusually cold and snowy winter.

And not every Chicago-area resident will get hit with high electric bills this summer when the heat and humidity most likely will return.

Some homeowners are saving money on their energy bills year-round by installing high-efficiency furnaces and air conditioning units that act in tandem and internally to keep your house comfortable.

Scott Hamlyn, sales manager for D.M. Dykstra and Co./Nicor Home Solutions based in Crestwood, said individuals who bought a new system could have seen gas bills that were actually lower than last year because of the efficiency, while Nicor said the cold weather caused a 30 percent hike in rates over the winter months for its average residential customer.

“Depending on the furnace they had and the one they bought, a homeowner can save up to 50 percent,” he said.

Hamlyn said any furnace that has a 95 percent and above annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating is considered energy efficient. He said in 1992 the government mandated that furnaces be at least 78 percent efficient. Today, you can find furnaces with ratings ranging from 80 percent to 98 percent, he said.

“Even if a new furnace runs longer today with all its burners on, it will cost less to run than the older models,” Hamlyn said.

D. M. Dykstra and Co./Nicor Home Solutions is a dealer for Carrier products, whose Infinity furnace and air conditioning system not only has a high efficiency rating, it can also customize temperature, humidity and ventilation to provide a continuous comfortable environment, Hamlyn said.

“You don’t have to set anything. It does it automatically,” he said.

He said with some Carrier lines, the furnace and air conditioner have thermostats that can communicate with the dealer and can be controlled by WiFi or iPhone.

“The dealer could know if there’s a problem with a unit before the homeowner if it has a WiFi communicating signal. A fault code would come up. The dealer can then call the homeowner and say there was a problem,” Hamlyn said.

He said the Carrier Infinity gas furnace line has 61 stages of heat adjustment in one percent increments, starting at 40 percent of system capacity and going up to 100 percent.

“This provides the ability for the furnace to adjust to the temperature that the house needs to be at to be comfortable,” Hamlyn said.

“The Carrier Infinity Two-Stage Air Conditioner is like getting two air conditioners in one. When connected to a Carrier Infinity Furnace, the air conditioner runs at a lower capacity most of the summer, taking out up to 17 times more humidity at lower operating cost; then, when needed, it goes into high capacity to keep you cool on those really hot days.”

Furnaces and air conditioners will do their part to keep houses comfortable, but Hamlyn said it’s also important to have the proper amount of insulation and to close any leaks that could be bringing cold air in.

Hamlyn provided a few tips when looking to purchase a new furnace and/or air conditioning unit.

Make sure the installer sizes your house properly by looking at the heat load capacity. An improperly sized furnace and air conditioner will waste money.

A trained professional will conduct an energy audit which includes a blower door test, checking for air leakage infiltrating your home, and looking at levels of insulation in the attic.

Many energy improvements qualify for cash rebates from Nicor and the federal government.

You don’t have to buy a furnace and air conditioning unit together, but you may be able to qualify for extra rebates from Commonwealth Edison and Nicor Gas on selected systems, depending on their energy efficiency ratings. Some manufacturers also offer rebates.

Furnace installers don’t need to be licensed in Illinois, but you should look for North American Technician Excellence certified installers.

More information about D.M. Dykstra and Co./Nicor Home Solutions is at (708) 263-4210.