In the average home, heating and cooling appliances consume the most power and may be responsible for your high energy bill. Thankfully, with a little effort, there are better (and cheaper) ways to maximize their efficiency and regulate your home’s temperature without compromising convenience or comfort.
Why Your Energy Costs Are High
First of all, heating and cooling technology like HVAC units and space heaters are not the villains they are made out to be. Although they do consume a considerable amount of energy, it is their misuse that leads to that energy being wasted.
The primary goal of heating and cooling is to keep as much hot air in as possible when it is cold outside and as much cool air inside when it’s hot. Both effects can be easily achieved with your air conditioning unit.
The problem is when the air at the desired temperature escapes, forcing AC units and heaters to work harder and thereby consume more energy. The secret to heating and cooling effectively is making sure that the air you want doesn’t escape by plugging leaks, doors, windows, outdoor structures and keeping equipment in good condition.
Proper insulation and regular maintenance of heating and cooling sources can greatly reduce your energy expenses. You can achieve an even, comfortable room temperature in a shorter amount of time, using appliances less and saving more energy.
By making small repairs around the house, you can reduce uneven heating and cooling for a more comfortable interior in every season.
Search for and Plug Leaks
You can cut up to thirty percent of heating and cooling costs by simply searching for air leaks around the home and plugging them. How?
Start by inspecting your attic, basement and crawl spaces for any cracks, gaps and openings where air may be coming through.
You can also try a smoke test. On a windy day, shut all windows, vents, skylights and doors, and switch off all appliances. Then hold a lit candle or incense stick next to potential air leakage spots, paying close attention to the movement of the flame or smoke. If the flame/smoke flickers, it signals a leak. Note it with a piece of chalk and continue the rest of the inspection, repeating this throughout the rest of the home including the fireplace.
Note: If you’re noticing drafts within your home or energy bills that are higher than normal we always recommend hiring a qualified professional to conduct a thorough and accurate inspection for air leaks so don’t hesitate to do so!
DIY experts are torn on which solution is best for fixing leaks. While caulking works best, it is usually not aesthetically pleasing (it can be ugly). Another option is expandable insulation that is available in aerosol cans. If you are not equipped for repairs or prefer the peace of mind of hiring a professional that is always a great option as well.
Shut the Door
You may already know that drafts can come through the front or back door. Any door leading in and out of the house should be inspected. Foam weatherstripping is the common solution to sealing doors, but a trip to the local hardware store might have other surprisingly effective insulation solutions to try.
An expert tip is to take a piece of the seal already on your door with you to the hardware store. This way, the specialist is in a good position to recommend solutions suited to your specific door(s).
Enforce the Windows
Single pane windows can be a pain because of their poor ability to insulate. If it’s within your budget, consider upgrading to double pane. Otherwise, caulking is perfectly fine. If you live in an area prone to extreme weather, speak to an insulation specialist about adding extra insulating materials to your windows.
Dive into Ducts
The efficiency of your HVAC system is affected by the condition of your ducts. Poor insulation and rips, tears, and cracks in the duct system need to be repaired. A quick inspection and repairs by a skilled pro can be very beneficial.
Time to Vent
Take a trip to your attic and clean out all the vents. Make sure to clean out vents and filters of dust, grease, and debris regularly. When clogged, these can make the attic unbearably hot in the summer and could potentially force your fan and other cooling devices to work twice as hard, using more power.
Inspecting and sealing leaks on the inside and exterior of the home can lead to big savings on energy costs. Windows and doors should be caulked on both sides. If the cracks are in the foundation, siding, corners, walls, or the roof, ask a professional about the best material to seal them.
Replace to Save
Replacing the AC unit in the home is usually a tough call to make for homeowners. Perhaps you are holding on to it because you believe it still has a few good years left, or maybe you would rather avoid the cost of installing a new one.
Although all reasons are valid, keeping an old system might not be cost-effective in the long run. Older or outdated models are far less efficient and inevitably end up using more energy than they need.
If you don’t like the idea of replacing your HVAC system, the best thing to do is maintain it properly. Always make sure vents and ducts are clean and sealed, schedule professional servicing, and insulate the home to reduce the amount of time it is on.
After cleaning and servicing, take note of the difference in how the AC unit works. Does it sound better? Is your energy bill lower? Does it heat or cool more evenly than before? Who knows, after a clean, you may discover that the system does not need replacing after all.
The cost of heating and cooling is determined largely by how much energy your equipment or appliances consume. While air leaks around the home raise your energy consumption, a well-insulated home can help heating and cooling systems run at full capacity without raising your power bill.