By Patrick O’Donnell
For East Penn Energy Solutions
Did you know that about half of the energy used in your home goes toward heating and cooling? While switching incandescent light bulbs to CFLs and LEDs is undoubtably going to save energy and money, your biggest savings will likely come from ensuring your home’s heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are in top shape.
Here are a few tips to help:
Change your air filter
This one should be a no-brainer. The air filter is what allows your HVAC unit to breathe. When it gets clogged, your furnace or air conditioner need to work harder. That uses more energy, cutting efficiency and boosting your bills. You should be changing your filter at least every three months, and you should be checking it monthly. If it looks dirty, install a new one. You don’t need the most high-tech option available. Use whatever your HVAC system’s instructions recommend.
Seal up the ducts
Leaky ductwork is a huge energy waster. A leaky duct is essentially forcing you to pay to heat or cool your attic, garage, crawl space, or basement. Sealing and insulating ducts can boost an HVAC system’s efficiency by 20 percent or more. Use a duct sealant (mastic) tape or a metal-backed (foil) tape to seal all seams and connections in your ductwork. Then wrap the ductwork in insulation to keep it from absorbing the summer’s heat or winter’s cold.
The idea behind this device is simple: Program it to heat or cool rooms when those areas are in use, and to set the temperature back when they’re not. That way you’re not paying to condition unused space – for instance, paying to keep a house at a comfortable 72 degrees while its occupants are at work or school.
There has been some debate, however, over whether a programmable thermostat actually saves the user money. In fact, they were removed from the Energy Star program because several studies have shown that folks with these devices were spending more on their energy bills than folks with traditional thermostats. There’s a catch, however: Most people who install them don’t use them correctly. In many cases, they’re setting temperatures higher (or lower) than necessary – such as setting the air conditioner to 68 degrees, instead of the recommended 72 (or higher). They’re also not setting them back far enough when the space isn’t in use. If you’re setting your AC to supercool a room when that room is in use, and not properly programming it for when it’s not in use, you’re going to use more energy. In our experience, an AC setting of 72 or even 74 for a room in use, followed by a setting of 76 or 78 for a time when it’s not used (or when you’re sleeping) will help you save money.
Get a tune-up
We recently posted about having an HVAC system’s ductwork cleaned. Another important part of a yearly tune-up is having a technician check and adjust your furnace or air conditioner to improve efficiency and comfort. They’ll check for problems, make sure the units are working properly, and perform any neccesary adjustments.
Replace outdated, inefficient equipment
If your HVAC equipment is more than a decade old, consider switching to a new ENERGY STAR model. This can bring significant annual energy savings (and, in many cases, a good tax break) as well as keep your home much more comfortable.
David from East Penn Energy Solutions will be happy to answer any questions you might have about getting your HVAC unit in top-notch shape. He can also perform tests to ensure your equipment is functioning safely and properly. Contact us today!