According to ENERGY STAR, as much as half the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling. And while many of us who don't own our home might feel helpless when it comes to ways to improve our system, there are many things you can do to reduce your energy use and cut the utility bills. Whether you rent or own, are building new or renovating, be sure to tune up your system before Winter kicks into full gear.
Maintain Your HVAC Equipment
A yearly tune-up of your heating system can improve efficiency and comfort — it can also find any problems early, so you're not without heat later on in the season. The service will often include and overall check of the system's performance as well as tightening connections, checking condensate lines, lubricate moving parts, clean dirty coils, fans and heat exchangers, which can improve the efficiency of heating and cooling systems.
Change Your Air Filter
Check your filter every month, and at a minimum change it every season — if the filter looks (or sounds) dirty, change it. Depending on the type of filter you use it may need be changed even more often, and especially during heavy use months. A dirty filter can slow air flow, decrease system efficiency and can even damage the system. There are several types of filters, primarily electrostatic, pleated, HEPA and carbon. Electrostatic filters are permanent, washable filters that have an electronic charge that attracts dirt particles much like a magnet. Pleated filters have pleats, which give the furnace filter more surface area to capture particles. HEPA are a very high quality filter, however in furnaces, they are known for creating too much air flow resistance. Activated Carbon filters have an activated carbon component that allows it to absorb chemicals, fumes and odors. Most filters are labeled with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating number, which measures a filter's ability to trap particles — the higher the MERV rating, the more efficient the filter is, and the more particles it can trap.
Seal & Insulate The Ducts
Ducts can be huge energy wasters if they're not properly sealed and insulated. According to Energy Star sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your system by as much as 20-percent or more. Focus on sealing ducts that run through unconditioned spaces such as attics and crawl spaces. Use duct sealant (not duct tape) or foil tape to seal the seams and connections of ducts. After sealing the ducts, wrap the ones located in unconditioned spaces with insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter.
Get The Ducts Cleaned
Duct cleaning generally consists of cleaning of various components of forced air systems, including the supply and return air ducts and registers, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers heating and cooling coils, condensate drain pans, fan motor and fan housing and the air handling unit housing.This is not a necessary annual step for all homes, but should be considered on an as-needed basis, such as if you've had any construction projects occur inside the house and especially if there is visible mold present on the ducts. This would also be a good idea of you're particularly prone to allergies, as it helps eliminate dust, pollen and other debris.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
We've said this so many times you've hopefully done installed a programmable thermostat by now. If not, now is a great time to do it and you can follow our easy installation instructions here.
US Department of Energy
(Image via Energy Star)