Reducing the cost of a comfortable home
9 Ways to Cut Heating and Cooling Costs in Your Home
by Chris Long
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How to Keep Your Home Warm This Winter
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Summer is coming to an end, and if you are like me, you are very aware of how critical a good HVAC system can be. That said, you are also probably aware of how expensive it can be to keep your home cool when the temperatures outside are hot, hot, hot.
The cost of heating and cooling your house can make up over half of your utility bill, but you can enjoy the comforts of a climate-controlled home with minimal impact to your pocketbook by purchasing an energy efficient system and maintaining it year after year. With the right combination of equipment, maintenance, thermostat usage and other upgrades, you can reduce your costs by 20% to 50%.
Purchase wisely: If you are in the market for a new HVAC system, aim for purchasing the most energy efficient one that you can buy. Central air conditioning units are graded using the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), and you should purchase one that scores at least a 13 or higher, particularly if you live in warmer parts of the country. If you are in the market for a furnace, look for one with an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating of 90% or more. Although energy-efficient models cost more up front, they will pay for themselves in a few short years by reducing your energy bill.
Maintain your system: Whether you have installed an energy-efficient HVAC system or you are keeping your home's temperature moderated with one you have had for years, maintenance is critical for reducing costs. Although this process can sound daunting, it doesn't have to be.
- Monitor your thermostat: It doesn't sound much like a maintenance tip, but by setting your thermostat to a slightly higher temperature during the summer and a lower temperature during the winter, you will not only cut down on energy costs, but you will also elongate the life of your HVAC system since it will work less. Consider setting your thermostat to 78 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter.
- Change your filters regularly: Many HVAC technicians will tell you to change your air filter about once every three months. Most air filters for air conditioners and furnaces should be changed on a monthly basis to ensure proper air flow through the home. For those looking to change the filters less frequently, there are products on the market that can last several months. If anyone in your home has allergies, consider purchasing allergen-reducing filters.
- Regularly remove plant growth from the air conditioning condenser: For your air conditioning's condenser to run as efficiently as possible, it needs to be able to dispose of the heat it removes from your house. Make sure to trim away the grass and plant life that can crowd the condenser to ensure it is functioning properly.
- Routinely service your system: HVAC professionals recommend that you have your system serviced twice each year, once before summer and again before winter. During a typical maintenance check-up, a technician will check the thermostat settings, lubricate the moving parts, tighten all connections, check the system's controls and inspect the condensation drain, along with a few season-specific checks.
Additional Cost Saving Tips: Even if your HVAC system is in tip-top shape, there are other opportunities to reduce heating and cooling costs in your house. Following are five tips for further reducing your power bill:
- Install a programmable thermostat: A programmable thermostat allows you to set the temperature in your home according to when you and your family are there. For the times of the day when you are away, set it for a temperature that is warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter so that your system doesn't do a lot of work for an empty house.
- Plant shade trees near windows: Trees and shrubs can block the invading sun and can keep your home cooler during the summer months.
- Use curtains to regulate temperature: Curtains, draperies and blinds are great tools for keeping the summer's heat and the winter's chill out of your house.
- During the summer, keep window coverings closed to block the sun's heat.
- During the winter, keep the window coverings on the south side of your home open to allow heat to enter, but close them at night to keep the chill out.
Proper equipment, maintenance and other routine steps can help ensure that your home is the perfect temperature for every season, without breaking the bank.
Chris Long has been a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago suburbs since 2000. Chris writes for the Home Depot website and provides advice to homeowners on home improvement topics ranging from repairs for furnaces to HVAC systems installation.
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