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Clean Furnace Air Ducts, Filter to Cut Power Costs

February 24, 2001|LYNN O'DELL

Electric bills are rising, and people are looking for ways to cut consumption and costs. This is the seventh in a series of energy-saving tips. Previous articles can be accessed at


Does it seem like your furnace just doesn't pump out hot air like it used to?

Could be cat hair. Could be dust.

Could be time for a tuneup.

"It'll pay for itself in energy savings," said Jennifer Thorne, co-author of the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The book, updated in 1999, can be ordered through bookstores or online at (go to publications) for $8.95.

Heating takes the biggest bite out of home energy bills. Gas and electric bills go up when gas heaters go on because electricity powers the pumps and fans that push the air around.

Professional cleaning and tuning, which generally costs $100 to $150, can save up to 10% in energy costs, according to the ACEEE, which recommends checking furnace filters every month in the winter, changing or cleaning them as needed.

A clogged filter is what technicians usually find during tuneups, which are recommended every two to three years for natural gas forced-air furnaces, said Paul Biard of P&M Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning in Santa Ana.

Dust blocks the airflow, forcing the blower to work harder and raising electric bills in the process. And blower failure could result.

Consider a new furnace if yours is more than 15 years old and it breaks down, said Biard, who says a gas furnace for a 2,000-square-foot house would cost $1,300 to $1,800, installed. A new, high-efficiency furnace could save as much as 30% in energy costs, Biard said.

And that's nothing to sneeze at.

* Send your questions or suggestions regarding energy use to Home Design, Los Angeles Times, Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626; or send e-mail to Please include your name and phone number.

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