Heat & Cool Efficiently

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The most important question to ask yourself about heating and cooling is related to the cost. The Energy Star web site reports that as much as half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling. Keeping this figure in mind, it is very important to review your current systems in place and if changes are needed, making smart decisions about your home's heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can have a big effect on your utility bills — and your comfort.

One way to action is to address how to increase the efficiency of your heating and cooling system. Here are some tips that will help you save this winter:

  • Change your air filter regularly - Begin now checking your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer). If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every 3 months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool — wasting energy. A clean filter will also prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system which leads to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.
  • Tune up your HVAC equipment yearly - Maintenance on any system is required to operate efficiently. Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency and comfort.
  • Install a programmable thermostat - A programmable thermostat is a great way for people who are away from home during set periods of time throughout the week. Through proper use of pre-programmed settings, a programmable thermostat can save you about $180 every year in energy costs.
  • Seal your heating and cooling ducts - Air ducts that move air to-and-from a forced air furnace, central air conditioner, or heat pump are often big energy wasters. Proper sealing and insulating of those ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent — and sometimes much more.
  • Focus first on sealing ducts that run through the attic, crawlspace, unheated basement, or garage are a great start. Various types of mastic and metal back foil tape are options for this project to seal the seams and connections of ducts. After sealing the ducts in those spaces, they can be wrapped in insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter. You can also seal any other ducts that you can access in the heated or cooled part of the house.
  • Consider installing ENERGY STAR qualified heating and cooling equipment - If replacement is an option and the equipment is more than 10 years old, have it evaluated by a professional HVAC contractor. If it is not performing efficiently or needs upgrading, consider replacing it with a unit that has earned the ENERGY STAR. ENERGY STAR qualified equipment can cut your annual energy bill by more than $115. But before you invest in a new HVAC system, make sure that you have addressed the big air leaks in your house and the duct system. Sometimes, these are the real sources of problems rather than your HVAC equipment.

Ask about Proper Installation of your new equipment -Replacing your old heating and cooling equipment with new, energy-efficient models is a great start. But to make sure that you get the best performance, the new equipment must be properly installed. In fact, improper installation can reduce system efficiency by up to 30 percent - costing you more on your utility bills and possibly shortening the equipment's life.

Go to Energy Star now for more information