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Originally published March 7, 2014 at 8:00 PM | Page modified March 16, 2014 at 11:25 PM

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Some cold facts on furnaces

Here are some tips if you’re furnace shopping or just looking for ways to lower your energy bill.

The Sacramento Bee

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Chilly temperatures prompt thoughts of staying warm — and maybe replacing that old furnace.

If you’re furnace shopping, look for energy efficiency. The more efficient the furnace, the lower your energy bill will be.

Furnaces with the Energy Star label have a rating of 90 AFUE (annual fuel-utilization efficiency) or higher. An AFUE rating of 90 means that the furnace produces 90 units of heat output for every 100 units consumed.

To help your furnace work at its highest efficiency, change the air filters. Clogged filters slow the flow of air and makes the furnace work harder. During winter, change the filters every month.

Here are more tips from energy expert Noah Horowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council:

• Use a programmable thermostat. These devices can cycle off your heating system when no one is home and turn it back up before you return. It’s an investment up front — about $100 for most homes — but this simple tool can carry much of the energy-efficiency load in your home by cutting heating and cooling costs by 20 to 30 percent, Horowitz says.

In winter, set the thermostat to turn off when you’re at work, but kick back on an hour before you come home.

Regulate humidity. The more humidity in a room, the warmer it feels, Horowitz says. A room temperature of 70 degrees combined with humidity of 10 percent feels like 64 degrees, but 80 percent humidity makes it feel like 71. Use a humidifier to fight dry air; you’ll use less heat and still feel warm.

But don’t turn your home into the tropics, Horowitz warns. Dust mites, mold and mildew thrive in high humidity. Use an indoor humidity gauge to keep the range at 30 to 40 percent. Follow the humidifier’s cleaning instructions to deter mold and bacteria growth.

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