Tips & Resources
Energy bills account for a significant portion of a home’s expenses, and as much as half of that is for the home’s heating, ventilation and cooling system. It is no surprise, therefore, that energy efficiency is a major concern for many homeowners. Here are several simple ways to make your HVAC more efficient and save money.
Forced-air furnaces and air conditioners use air ducts to move heated or cooled air throughout the home as well as to draw air back into the system. Over time, they can develop leaks or if they were incorrectly installed they may have gaps that allow air to escape. This makes the HVAC work harder to maintain the proper temperature in the home and increases your utility bills. Sealing and insulating ducts can greatly improve efficiency (by as much as 20% according to energystar.gov). Start by sealing the seams of the ducts running through crawl spaces, the attic, and an unheated basement or garage. Then wrap them in insulation and do the same for other ducts that you can access.
Regularly changing the air filter is a simple and economical way to ensure that your HVAC maintains its efficiency and continues to run smoothly between annual tune-ups. Check the air filter every 30 days and replace every 30 to 90 days as needed or according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Failing to do so can lead to unnecessary repairs and shorten the life of your system.
A programmable thermostat is an easy way to reduce your energy use when you are not at home and prolong the life and health of your equipment. The thermostat adjusts the temperature for greater efficiency and cost savings when no one is home and automatically readjusts to more comfortable levels when you return home.
Drafts can impact your energy costs year round. Check the weather seals around doors and windows and seal any cracks to prevent loss of heat in the winter and loss of cooled air in the summer.
Insufficient insulation can also cause your HVAC to work harder in order to maintain a comfortable temperature, raising your energy bills. An energy auditor or insulation professional can help you determine your home’s insulation levels.
Window coverings can help keep heat in during the winter and out during the summer, and give your HVAC equipment a boost as well. Open blinds and curtains to let sun in during the winter to help warm up rooms and keep them closed in summer to help rooms stay cooler. Curtains offer an extra layer of insulation between the glass and your home’s interior.
The way a home is oriented and where the windows are placed play a big part in how much energy a home will use for heating and cooling by maximizing sunlight in cooler climates and minimizing it in warmer climates.
Having your furnace checked in the fall and your air conditioner checked in the spring will help ensure that there are no unpleasant surprises when you need your equipment to work. HVAC technicians are trained to spot problems while they are still small and easy to repair. They make sure your equipment is operating safely as well as efficiently, and make any necessary adjustments. Annual maintenance is required for the warranty by some manufacturers.
Bigger is not always better and smaller is not always less expensive. If your energy bills are high and your comfort level is not what it should be, it is possible that your system is too big or too small for your home or that it was improperly installed.
Technology in this industry is constantly improving. If your system is more than 15 to 20 years old, replacing it with a new ENERGY STAR model can greatly improve both energy efficiency and comfort. While a new system is an investment, the savings on monthly energy bills and repairs can greatly offset that initial cost over the life of the system. ENERGY STAR models often qualify for rebates and tax credits.