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Heating & Cooling Savings

Heating and cooling your home is a major expense.  Significant savings can be achieved by actions requiring little or no investment, as well as major investments.  Noted below are several ways to save, while keeping your home at a comfortable temperature. The Environmental Protection Agency also offers some free tools to assist in increasing home energy efficiency.  Energystar.gov/homeadvisor recommends home improvement projects to increase energy efficiency.  Energystar.gov/home offers a room-by-room house tour that identifies opportunities to cut home energy bills.

1.     Tips for saving on both heating and cooling.

  • Determine a comfortable setting for your heat and then set it two degrees lower. For each degree lower, savings will be about 3-5%.  Conversely, find a comfortable setting for you air conditioner and then set it two degrees higher.
  • When less heat or air conditioning is required, such as at night when sleeping or during the day when the house is not occupied, or when you are on vacation, set the thermostat significantly lower for heat and significantly higher for air conditioning.  If you have heating/AC zones in your house, turn the heat and AC back in zones you are not using.  In most homes, trying to keep a constant temperature will result in greater energy usage than reducing heat and air conditioning usage when less temperature control is required.  Some estimates indicate that you can lower your heating and air conditioning bill by as much as 10% by lowering your thermostat to reduce heat, or raising your thermostat to reduce air conditioning, by five degrees for four hours each day.  However, if you are using a heat pump for heat, avoid large changes in thermostat settings (usually over two degrees), to avoid having the supplemental heat strip activate, which is quite costly.
  • Do not try to heat or cool your house faster by setting the thermostat to a higher or lower temperature than desired.  The house won’t heat up or cool down any faster, and chances are you won’t turn the thermostat back to the desired temperature until the house has gotten too warm or cool, resulting in excess energy consumption.  And, as noted above, if you are using a heat pump, turning up your thermostat more than two degrees above the present temperature to try to heat up your home more quickly will result in a higher cost for supplemental heat.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to ensure temperature settings are lowered and raised when desired.  Even a moderately priced programmable thermostat will most likely allow you to adjust settings for different periods of the day, as well as weekends versus weekdays.
  • When heating the house, keep the blinds and drapes open on the sunny side of the house to help with heating.  Conversely, keep the blinds and drapes closed on other windows to help retain the heat.  Make sure to close blinds and drapes on all windows at night to help retain heat in the house.  When using the AC, be sure to close blinds and drapes on the sunny side of the house to keep heat out.
  • When heating your home, if you have ceiling fans run them at low speed and set them on reverse (pushing air upwards) to help move the heated air away from your ceiling and down where the people are.  If you have exhaust fans, use them sparingly since they suck the heated air out of your house. When cooling your house, use ceiling fans (pushing air down) to create a gentle breeze.  The fans will not actually make your house cooler, but will allow you to set the air conditioning at a higher temperature to save energy costs and still feel cool.  Make sure to turn off the ceiling fans when not using the room.
  • If you have storm windows and storm doors, make sure they are shut when heating and air conditioning to keep your warm or cool air inside the house.
  • Make sure your forced-air heating/AC vents and return grills, and baseboard radiators, are out in the open and not blocked by drapes and furniture, so heat and air conditioning can freely circulate.  However, you can close vents in unused rooms and keep the room’s door closed to save on heating and air conditioning costs, as long as your thermostat controlling the temperature in rooms being used is not in the closed room.  Also consider keeping closet doors closed to avoid using energy to heat and air condition them.  If you have radiators, consider installing a reflective panel (available at home improvement stores) behind them to reflect the heat into the room.  If you are using space heaters make sure there is plenty of distance from the heater to any flammable materials.
  • Remember to regularly change air filters in forced air systems.  A dirty air filter that restricts air flow can increase heating and cooling bills considerably, and may reduce the life of your system.  In systems with hot-water radiators, bleed trapped air once or twice a season to improve efficiency.
  • Get your furnace or heating/AC system checked and tuned up so it is operating at maximum efficiency and safety
  • Installing a new, highly energy efficient furnace or heating/cooling system may significantly reduce your heating and air conditioning bills.  Whether this makes sense depends on the relative efficiency of  your present system compared to new system alternatives, and your willingness and capability to make a large investment. Compare SEER, AFUE and other energy use ratings of potential new systems, and consult with a qualified heating contractor to determine if a new system makes sense, and that the new system is sized properly for your home.

2.     Additional tips for saving on heating.

  • Keep your garage door shut in the winter to help prevent heat from escaping from your house.
  • If you have a fireplace vented to the outside, make sure the flue is closed to prevent heat from escaping, and that the seal on the damper seals tightly. Consider installing glass fireplace doors to keep the heat in the house.  When you do use the fireplace, turn your heat down significantly or it will just go up the chimney.  Also, consider installing a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room when the fireplace is being used. If you never use your fireplace, consider permanently sealing the flue/damper to further minimize heat loss.  If you have a gas fireplace, turn off the pilot light if it is not going to be used for a while.
  • When cooking with your oven, open the oven door after you are done to let the heat help heat the house.
  • You can use the heat from your clothes dryer to help heat and humidify the house in the winter by installing a device called a Heat Saver on your dryer’s vent line.  It has a flap that you can open or close, depending on the season, so in the winter you can blow warm moist air into your house instead of outside.  In the summer you blow the air outside.  But only install this on electric dryers because of possible fumes from gas dryers.
  • Consider using space heaters that are economical to only heat the room you are using.  But make sure to use them safely.
  • Use area rugs on cold floors.  If your feet are warm your body will not feel as cold.
  • Turn off your furnace pilot light in the summer .

3.     Additional tips for saving on cooling.

  • Make sure any  lights, appliances, electronics and tools that are not being used are turned off when using your air conditioner, so the heat generated by these items does not make your air conditioner work harder.  Also, when air conditioning consider using your main oven less by using toaster ovens, microwaves and cooking outside to reduce the heat generated.  Using the air dry setting on your dishwasher will also produce less heat.
  • Make sure lamps, electronics and appliances are not near your thermostat.  The heat from these items can cause your air conditioner to run longer than necessary.
  • Consider shading your windows that receive sun exposure with retractable awnings or reflective window film to reduce heat produced by the sun.  This will also help reduce fading of furniture and carpets.
  • Instead of always using your air conditioner to cool your house, consider turning the air conditioner off and opening windows if it is not too hot outside.  Open windows on opposite sides of the house to improve air circulation.  Placing a window fan in one or more windows to draw in cool air can be particularly effective.  Or put the fan on the basement steps to blow cooler basement air up the steps.  Also, consider installing a whole-house attic fan.  This fan will draw hot air out of your house and through the attic vents.  With some windows open, a house can be cooled considerably, particularly in the evening or when the outside air is cooler.
  • If possible, do not install air conditioners where they will be in direct sunlight.  This is particularly important for room air conditioners.  And make sure weeds and shrubs are trimmed and kept away from air conditioners and heat pumps.
  • Plant shade trees, particularly on the west and south sides of your house, to reduce the heat of the sun