Minnesota winters are tough on your home’s furnace. A poorly weatherized home compounds this stress, costs you extra money in heating bills and increases the likelihood of a breakdown and major repair bills. Fortunately, help is available for income-eligible homeowners.

In our last post, we learned that the furnace is responsible for 42 percent of the average household’s yearly energy consumption. Since this is a nationally-averaged figure, it’s safe to assume we come in higher here in Minnesota. In order to stay comfortable and keep heating costs to a minimum, you need your home to be properly weatherized. But short of feeling the breeze on your neck while sitting by that big picture window, how do you know how your home fares?

The best way to determine how your home stacks up is to have an energy audit performed. This service is performed by a professional who will look for opportunities to make your home more energy efficient by sealing air leaks, adding insulation and checking if the furnace is working properly. This can be especially beneficial for older homes, since most were not built with an eye toward energy efficiency.

A home energy audit involves infrared cameras to identify areas where cold air may be seeping inside. A blower door test is another common component – doors and windows are closed while a specialized sealed doorway fan is employed to determine the rate at which air leaks into the home and where this is taking place. Air entering too quickly indicates the need for better sealing of these areas, while air entering too slowly may indicate the need for additional ventilation in order to deter mold.

While such services can often be accessed through your energy provider at discounted rates, there are free such services available to income-eligible homeowners. In some circumstances, recommended upgrades and repairs for income-eligible homeowners can be obtained free of charge as well. Full information, including household income eligibility, is available from the Minnesota Commerce Department’s website. The Department’s list of service provider partners, which included several members of our Homeownership Advisors Network, is available online too.

As our weather shifts from crisp fall days to what we all know if just around the corner, it’s a good time to look into a home energy audit so you know you’re doing all you can to keep your heating bills low, and your furnace healthy.