Utility bills can be high all year here in northeastern Ohio. So it’s especially important for local residents to save as much on whole-house energy as possible, no matter the season.
Powerful Tips to Make Your Whole-House Energy Savings and Comfort a Standard
How would you like your home to save energy (and thereby save money) without affecting your home comfort level?
That may be a rhetorical question, but it’s not hypothetical. Most homes in our part of the country can save on their utility bills, often substantially, without sacrificing home comfort. While some ideas are obvious — set your thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter, for example — there are some other relatively simple ideas you should also consider. We can help you do exactly that by utilizing these whole-house energy-saving tips.
Save on Cooling
Use ceiling fans.
Ceiling fans use very little electricity. But they can also make a room feel several degrees cooler than the temperature on the thermostat. That allows you to set the thermostat higher in the summer, cutting down significantly on your air conditioning usage. On some days, your air conditioner won’t have to come on at all.
Just remember to turn off the ceiling fan, along with the lights, when you leave the room. If nobody’s there, they don’t do anyone any good.
Keep the outdoor unit clean.
Sweep debris like dirt, grass clippings, and leaves away from the outdoor unit. They can cause your condensing coil, the part responsible for discarding hot air outside of your house, to work inefficiently. Spray it with a water hose occasionally to rinse away accumulated dirt.
Change your air filters.
This is an incredibly simple step that is also very easy to forget about. If too much dust accumulates on your filters, it becomes difficult for the air to pass through. As a result, your HVAC system has to overwork while trying to compensate and use more energy than necessary. Replace filters every couple of months to steer clear of this problem and enhance efficiency.
Shade your windows.
As much as 20 percent of your air-conditioning bill can go toward countering heat from direct sunlight that enters your house. If you just keep your window curtains drawn during the day, you will lighten the amount of work your air conditioner has to do. Solar shade screens can also be installed to help keep sunlight out. They have a special weave that helps them accomplish this task, and are slightly darker than regular insect screening.
Install a programmable thermostat.
A programmable thermostat is probably one of the most inexpensive yet effective changes you can make. Most can be installed easily and allow you to set the temperature for different times of the day. This way, your home is at the temperature you want while you’re at home, but not running needlessly while you’re away. Many have settings for every day of the week and for weekends to give you maximum control over setting the temperature. You can read more on this below.
Save on Heating
Replace your HVAC system filter.
Cold weather is gone for now, but it’s never to early to start preparing for the harsh midwest winters.
A dirty filter can impede airflow, forcing your air conditioner or furnace to work harder.
Keep your HVAC equipment maintained.
Having your air conditioner and furnace regularly maintained ensures they run at peak efficiency. You wouldn’t expect your car to keep running smoothly if you never changed the oil; there’s no reason to think your HVAC system is any different.
Look at energy-efficient replacements.
Consider replacing your heating and cooling system with new energy-efficient equipment if your HVAC system is over 10 years old or not keeping your house comfortable.
Seal air leaks around windows, doors, and outlets.
You can hire a qualified technician to do an energy audit to find where the air is leaking, or you can simply seal where you feel air leaking or see gaps. Weather stripping, spray foam or caulk are easy-to-apply materials that are available at most hardware stores.
You can contact your heating and cooling professional to check for leaks in the ductwork. You can also temporarily fix it yourself where you notice leaks with duct mastic, again available at hardware or home improvement stores. Ironically, duct tape is not recommended for this.
Add more insulation to your home.
In our area, R-38 insulation is recommended for the attic, R-18 for the exterior walls, and R-10 to R-13 for the basement and crawl spaces.
Save through Lighting and Electronics
Unplug electrical adapters, such as phone chargers, when not in use. They can slowly drain energy, even when they’re not running.
Choose Energy Star.
When replacing appliances and lighting, choose ones that carry the Energy Star label. These appliances have demonstrated significant energy efficiency without sacrificing quality and performance. The lighting offers the same bright, warm lighting you’re used to, but with much less energy usage and heat output, and they last up to ten times longer.
Look for high-efficiency products when replacing existing equipment.
We mentioned this above for electric savings, but Energy Star applies to so much more. The Energy Star label is a quick and easy way to know whether that new water heater, air conditioner or other appliance will save you energy.
Schedule preventive maintenance.
Have an HVAC specialist come inspect your air system to make sure no components show signs of deterioration. They will make sure your A/C is working efficiently and that you don’t face the risk of any unexpected breakdowns. They will also clean all the parts and make sure it is working as efficiently as possible.
Use the tools available to you.
Energy Star has a couple of excellent online tools called the Home Energy Yardstick and Home Advisor, which can provide personalized tips for savings. You can also compare your energy usage with the average local household.
A Little More about Programmable Thermostats
Programmable thermostats are convenient whole-house energy savers available at a relatively low cost to homeowners. They enhance your home comfort, make it easy to schedule when your furnace system cycles on and off, and increase energy savings. However, homeowners need to know the underlying energy-saving principles of how to use a programmable thermostat to reap the maximum benefits from one.
When you schedule the thermostat to manage the times when you’re away or sleeping, you save energy. However, if the furnace cycles on and off too frequently, it will consume more energy and counteract energy savings.
In order to maximize energy savings, a setback should be scheduled for eight hours. Any less and your furnace will consume more energy to cycle on and off. Do this for night and mid-day to get optimal savings.
Effective temperature settings
People are comfortable at different temperatures. You’ll know this is true if you’ve ever gotten into a thermostat war with your spouse or a coworker. However, if you can set your thermostat back by just a few degrees, you’ll ensure increased energy savings. With each degree that you turn your thermostat down, you’ll get 1 percent in energy savings. Dial it back even more, by 5 degrees, and save 5 percent. If you can’t do this while at home, use the time you’re at work to do so.
Avoid using the override as much as possible.
Most thermostats with programmable capabilities also come with an override feature. This is a convenient way to bypass a scheduled setback. But use it too often, and you’ll offset any energy savings you had. So don’t be so quick to use the override. The less you bypass scheduled setbacks, the more you’ll save on your energy bills.
Imagine upon waking never having to set your feet on a cold floor again, or arriving home from a long day’s work to a warm home. If you follow these guidelines for using a programmable thermostat, you’ll enhance your home comfort.
Install a programmable thermostat this spring, and start saving right away by scheduling setbacks. If you have questions about how to get the most out of your programmable thermostat, or if you need help selecting one, contact the experts at Stack Heating & Cooling.
A Little Bit Here and a Little Bit there Makes a Difference
Save a little money here, save a little money there, and pretty soon it adds up, right? One of the areas where we most like to see our customers save money is in your energy use.
When the days are very hot, your air conditioning can account for up to 70% of your utility bill. So it makes sense that whatever you can do to improve energy efficiency at home can help you keep more money in your own pocketbook (and send less to your utilities).
The important point to make here is that you don’t have to take big steps to save energy. You can take small steps over time or make a few small changes in your habits.
For more energy-saving ways to keep your home comfortable, contact us at Stack Heating & Cooling. We’ll be happy to answer your questions. Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues.