Heating and cooling your home uses more energy and costs more money than any other system in your home—typically making up about 54% of your utility bill. No matter what kind of heating and cooling system you have in your house, you can save money and increase your comfort by properly maintaining and upgrading your equipment. But remember, an energy efficient furnace alone will not have as great an impact on your energy bills as using the “whole-house” approach. By combining proper equipment maintenance and upgrades with recommended insulation, air sealing, and thermostat settings, you can cut your energy use for heating and cooling, and reduce environmental emissions from 20% – 50%.
– During winter, keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
– Set your programmable thermostat as low as comfortable in the winter and as high as is comfortable in the summer, as well as when you’re sleeping or away from home. You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling, by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F, for 8 hours a day from where you would normally set it.
– For furnaces, look for high Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings. The national minimum is 78% AFUE, but there is some ENERGY STAR” models on the market that exceed 90% AFUE.
– For air conditioners, look for a high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The current minimum is 13 SEER for central air conditioners. ENERGY STAR models are 14.5 SEER or more.
– Clean or replace filters on furnaces and air conditioners once a month or as recommended.
– Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed; make sure they’re not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.
– Eliminate trapped air from hot-water radiators once or twice a season; if unsure about how to perform this task, contact a professional.
– Turn off kitchen, bath, and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after you are done cooking or bathing; when replacing exhaust fans, consider installing high-efficiency, low-noise models.
– Select energy-efficient products when you buy new heating and cooling equipment.
– Use a Humidifier & Lower Your Heat: Keeping humidity levels up during the winter is not only good for your health, but also for your air and furniture. It also helps keep the ambient air temperature feeling warmer than dry air, which means you can turn your thermostat down. If your HVAC system doesn’t have a humidifier built-in, then you can get an inexpensive and portable humidifier to use during dry conditions.
Furnace- Heats air and delivers the hot air via air ducts to each room. If you have air vents in each room of your home that provide you with heat, then you have a furnace. The furnace is the most common heating system used in the United States. Manufacturers claim efficiencies as high as 97 percent. Energy Star units top the list of the most efficient furnaces. Consider a sealed-combustion furnace they are safer and more efficient.
Boiler– Heats water, and then the heated water is circulated through your home to produce heat. If you have steam heat and radiators or baseboard heating, you have a boiler. Boilers are also very common heating units with high efficiency. Units that meet Energy Star requirements are the most efficient boilers.
Heat Exchanger- Is a common form of heating system used in temperate climates. There are two types of heat exchangers: electric air source heat pumps and geothermal heat pumps. Electric air source heat pumps are often used in very moderate climates. These units use the difference between outdoor air temperature and indoor air temperature to cool or heat your home.
Passive Solar Heating and Cooling– Using passive solar design to heat and cool your home can be both environmentally friendly and cost effective. In many cases, your heating costs can be reduced to less than half the cost of heating a typical home.
Passive solar design can also help lower your cooling costs. Passive solar cooling techniques include carefully designed overhangs and using reflective coatings on windows, exterior walls, and roofs. Newer techniques include placing large, insulated windows on south-facing walls and putting thermal mass, such as a concrete slab floor or a heat-absorbing wall, close to the windows.
A passive solar house requires careful design and siting, which vary by local climate conditions. If you are considering passive solar design for a new home or a major remodel, consult an architect familiar with passive solar techniques.
Change any filters at regular or required intervals. Poor performance or premature failure of your heating system can occur because of a lack of maintenance. If you cannot do the maintenance by yourself, at least examine the filters and other maintenance items every few months, especially during the months of heavy use. Then call a profession if you observe the need for service.
Yearly maintenance or a tune-up for the heating system is required. You will want to inspect the main unit as well as the inlet and delivery systems. A poorly performing or dirty furnace or boiler can use 20 percent more energy.
Check your pipes or heating ducts. Remember, you want the heat in your home to be transferred directly to the areas in need. If the ductwork leaks, then there will be hot and cold rooms. Sealing and insulating the ducts can increase the energy performance by as much as 25 percent.
Buying a bigger room air conditioner won’t necessarily make you feel more comfortable during the hot summer months. In fact, a room air conditioner that’s too big for the area it is supposed to cool will perform less efficiently and less effectively than a smaller, properly sized unit. Central air-conditioning systems need to be sized by professionals.
If you have a central air system in your home, set the fan to shut off at the same time as the compressor, which is usually done by setting the “auto” mode on the fan setting. In other words, don’t use the system’s central fan to provide air circulation, use circulating fans in individual rooms.
Instead of air-conditioning, consider installing a whole-house fan. Whole-house fans work in many climates and help cool your home by pulling cool air through the house and exhausting warm air through the attic. Use the fan most effectively to cool down your house during cooler times of the day; your home will stay cooler through the hotter times of the day without using the fan.
– Set your thermostat at as high a temperature as comfortably possible in the summer, and ensure humidity control if needed. The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.
– Avoid setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner. It will not cool your home any faster and could result in excessive cooling and, therefore, unnecessary expense.
– Consider using an interior fan along with your window air conditioner to spread the cooled air through your home without greatly increasing your power use.
– If your air conditioner is old, consider buying an energy-efficient model.Look for the ENERGY STAR and EnergyGuide labels; qualified room air conditioners are 10% more efficient, and qualified central units are about 14% more efficient than standard models.
On high speed, most Ceiling Fans use less energy than a 100-watt light bulb! A ceiling fan can offer energy savings all year round. In warm weather, a fan can make a room 7 to 10 degrees cooler allowing you to set your thermostat higher and save up to 40% on air conditioning bills. In the winter, you can run your fans in reverse to reclaim the hot air trapped near the ceiling. You can set your thermostats lower and save on heating costs as the fan provides even, comfortable temperatures throughout the room. Either way you will conserve valuable energy by making a ceiling fan a wise investment for your home.
Clockwise vs. Counterclockwise: During the warm months, the fans should be moving counterclockwise. In other words, for the cooling function, the higher edge of the blade should be the leading edge as the fan spins. For heat reclamation purposes, the fan should run clockwise with the low edge of the blade being the leading edge.
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