Inexpensive Tips to Improve the Energy Efficiency of Your HVAC
It can be simpler and cheaper than you think
Being energy efficient doesn't have to be expensive. Use these six simple tips to improve your home's heating and cooling efficiency without breaking the bank:
1. Use Fans to Move Air Around Your Rooms
Hot air rises. In the summer, this means heat collects and stagnates in a room, causing your AC to expend more energy to cool your living area. Conversely, in the winter, your energy is going toward heating a part of your house no one uses, such as the attic. What you want to do is get that hot air moving. No matter the season, a ceiling fan or just a portable plug-in fan will help distribute this hot air in a way that will save on both heating and cooling costs.
There are a few rules to using fans effectively. In summer, fans create a cooling sensation on human skin, but they don't cool down rooms. So if you're running a fan in an empty room, you're wasting energy. Ceiling fans must rotate counterclockwise to create this cooling downdraft. In winter, reverse the ceiling fan direction and run them at low speed to redistribute warm air that collects near the ceiling.
2. Take Advantage of Free Solar Energy
On cold winter days, open up your shades and throw back your curtains to let the biggest power plant in our solar system warm up your home. Conversely, during the summer, keep the blinds down and the curtains closed. Either way, you'll be taking the pressure off your HVAC unit and saving money.
3. Challenge Your Thermostat Habits
If you're the type of person who keeps the thermostat set to 72 all year long, push yourself out of your comfort zone one degree at a time. Set the thermostat one notch higher in summer and one notch lower in winter. If you don't mind the difference, go one more degree. Experiment with different settings to find the highest comfortable summer temperature and lowest comfortable winter temperature for your household. Even if you just make a small difference, you'll see it reflected in your utility bills.
4. Maintain Air Filters
According to energy.gov, filters should be cleaned or replaced once a month (or as recommended with some specialty filters). An easy way to remember to switch out filters is to set a reminder on your phone. It's also a smart idea to write the date on each new filter as you install it, so you can check its condition at a glance.
If you have air quality issues in your home, such as excessive pet hair, dust or irritating allergens, you may be able to improve the problem by upgrading to a filter with a higher MERV rating. All filters have MERV ratings between 1 and 20, and the higher the rating, the more (and the smaller) particles it will capture. However, higher MERV filters can force your HVAC fan to work marginally harder to move air through your home, so this can have a negative impact on energy efficiency and system wear-and-tear. But for many homeowners, clean indoor air is well worth the price.
5. Pre-Season Checkup
Okay, this one might cost a little money, but it's worth it! A regularly scheduled tune-up is the best way to ensure that your unit continues to run efficiently. If your unit performs both heating and cooling functions, try to schedule two checkups a year — one in the spring before you use your AC, and one in the fall before you use your heating. If there are problems, you'll be able to address them during these milder times of the year.
6. Protect Your Unit from Sun and Debris
Exposure to excessive sunlight can cause your HVAC unit to use more energy to cool your living area. Placing it in a shaded area can prevent this, but you also want to be careful about placing it beneath trees or shrubs that can clog the vents and prevent proper ventilation.
7. Locate and Seal Leaky Ductwork
Hopefully, the network of ducts in your home is well sealed at every joint and junction. But not all homeowners are so lucky, and if your ducts are leaky, you could be wasting a lot of energy heating and cooling your attic, basement and the gaps in your walls.
If you have rising energy bills, some rooms getting hotter or cooler than others, or signs of dust and dirt around your vents, you might have leaky ductwork. HVAC technicians can conduct pressure tests to help you verify this problem, and most offer a variety of repair services. But you can perform a decent repair of any accessible ducts in your system by covering any gaps you discover with aluminum tape.
We all want to keep comfortable at home, and that means ensuring that our HVAC is running properly and smoothly. Hopefully, these tips help you!