Your Guide to Improving Your Heating and Cooling Efficiency

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Posted July 19, 2019

In this guide, you will learn tips and tricks to improve your heating and cooling efficiency.

It’s a familiar scene. We’ve all seen it depicted on television, many of us have even experienced it in our own homes growing up:

The kids come romping into the house, excitedly chasing each other and laughing, leaving the front door wide open. Dad, brow furrowed, chastises them:

“Close the door! We can’t afford to heat the whole neighborhood!”

Well, unlike waterskiing over a live shark, the scene isn’t completely prime time television fiction. Dad’s right after all! Air leaking through that open door is causing the furnace to work a lot harder, just maybe not if the door was only open for a minute…

The thing is, heating and cooling systems are designed to regulate the temperature of a closed system. Air leaks are one of the many ways that your system could be losing efficiency. Read on to learn some great ways to make sure your home heating and cooling system is running at peak efficiency!

Your Heating and Cooling System Should Be Efficient

An efficient system has three major benefits. The first is that it saves you money! An inefficient system uses energy that you pay for to heat or cool air, but loses some of that work. The lost work means that even more work is needed to achieve your desired temperature. That means more money!

Wasted energy also has a negative impact on the environment. A lot of resources went into generating that energy and if you use twice as much as you actually need with an inefficient system, that means consuming even more resources. Imagine if every house in America used twice as much energy as it was currently using, that would put a strain on the entire system!

An inefficient system also means that your system has to work harder to achieve the results you want. This undue stress on your furnace or AC unit means that it will wear out quicker. This could lead to repairs and even premature replacement of the entire system. Optimizing your heating and cooling efficiency will save you from needing costly repairs.

There are quite a few ways that you as a homeowner can help your system to run at it’s best.

1. Adjust the Thermostat and Ceiling Fans

Adjusting your thermostat by even a few degrees can save you a lot on your heating and cooling bills. Setting the thermostat 5-8 degrees cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer can keep your system from having to work too hard.

If you can learn to be comfortable at these modified temperatures, it will go a long way. Take advantage of your thermostats programming features (or upgrade if you don’t have a programmable thermostat.)

By setting a program, you can make sure that the system isn’t running when no one is home. If your system runs at all time of day, this wastes energy. A program allows you to set it to come on before you arrive at home so things are at your desired temp when you arrive.

There are even smart thermostats on the market now which allow you to control your thermostat from your phone whether you are home or not. It also makes programming easier as you can set schedules using your phone. You can set schedules based on the weather, sunrise and sunset, and many other factors with a smart thermostat.

Another way you can help your system run more efficiently is to make sure there are not heat producing items near your thermostat. If something like a lamp is too close to your thermostat, the heat from the light bulb may be throwing off the temperature reading that the thermostat is taking. With inaccurate internal temperate readings, your system will run when it doesn’t actually need to.

Adjusting your ceiling fans seasonally can also help more efficiently heat and cool your home. Most if not all ceiling fans have a switch which changes the direction of the rotation.

In the summer, your ceiling fan should run in a counter-clockwise direction (when looking up at it.) This blows the air straight down, helping to cool the room and create a breeze.

Your ceiling fans aren’t only for cooling though! In the winter, they can actually help your home heat itself better. You should reverse the direction when heating. This forces air up towards the ceiling, displacing warm air that is collecting there and forcing it back down where it helps to heat the room. You should run the fan on low speed in the winter to avoid creating too much of a breeze and making it chilly.

Homeowner Adjusting Heating and Cooling Using Nest Thermostat

2. Regular Maintenance

Regular system maintenance is also important if you want your system to run efficiently. Failure to stay on top of regular maintenance won’t only cause your system to run inefficiently, but it could also result in damage!

You should check your furnace filter every month, and wait no more than 3 months before replacing it. With washable and reusable filters, follow the same practice, checking it monthly and cleaning per manufacturer specifications. Keeping your furnace air filter clean allows the unit to run efficiently and that translates to an energy cost savings from 5% to 15%!

Maintaining a steady flow of air to the system is important for efficiency. Dirty filters prevent this and so do dirty and blocked vents. You should regularly vacuum the dust from your vents. You should also make sure that they remain unblocked by furniture and other items.

You should also keep your outdoor condenser unit clean and clear of debris. You can clean the unit with a garden hose and optionally with coil cleaner. Make sure that plants and grass are trimmed from around the unit and not growing into the unit. Remove fallen leaves from around the unit to keep air flowing.

3. Be Conscious of Other Sources of Heat

There are other sources of heat in your home that affect the air conditions. One of the key players is the windows. Specifically, the fact that they allow sunlight into your home. The sun can be your friend or your enemy depending on the time of year.

Leaving blinds closed during the day, especially when not at home, can help your house stay cooler in the summer. This will help your system not have to work so hard to keep the temperature down. Conversely, keeping them open in the winter means that if you happen to get a sunny winter day, it may help warm the house a little.

Certain appliances also introduce a lot of heat into your home. Your dryer is one of them. In the summer, you can dry your clothes on a clothesline to avoid introducing excess heat into the home.

Your oven is another culprit. Though it is not always possible to avoid using the oven, on particularly hot summer days, you may want to opt for another cooking method.

You should NEVER leave your oven on as a source of heat in the winter. This is extremely dangerous. Using your oven as normal will introduce a little more heat into the house in the winter, but you should never try to use your oven as a supplementary or primary heating source.

4. Insulate and Repair

Your home’s heating and cooling efficiency could also be suffering due to lack of insulation and from leaks.

The Environmental Protection Agency states that the average home can lose 20-30% of their conditioned air through duct leaks. Here are some signs that your ducts might be leaking:

  • Noticeably high heating/cooling bills
  • Having a hard time heating or cooling rooms
  • a lot of ductwork in your attic, crawlspace, and garage
  • dust swirling by air ducts

You can check your ducts for leaks yourself. Hold a small piece of toilet paper or lit incense around where you suspect there may be an air leak. If you notice that the paper or the smoke from the incense moves erratically, you have found an air leak.

You may be able to seal the leaks yourself using UL 181-rated duct-sealing tape. Once you have applied the tape, perform the test again. It is a good idea to record where the leak was, even if you fixed it, and bring it to the attention of your HVAC technician the next time you have service performed.

Exposed ductwork in unconditioned areas like attics and crawlspaces should be insulated. If they are not, then the outside temperature will affect the conditioned air inside the vents and you will lose efficiency.

Your duct system is not the only place where leaks can form. Anywhere that air leaks from your home can make your system have to work harder. You can repair the seals around windows and doors with weatherstripping and caulk.

If you have an older home with a wood floor, it could be bleeding air through the gaps in the floorboards. An area rug is an easy solution to this that can be stylish and not too expensive. You can also fix the problem by applying a silicone sealer.

You could be losing one-quarter of your heat through your roof if your attic is not properly insulated! Mineral wool or fiberglass insulation will help you keep in the heat and save you a ton of money in the winter. Fiberglass insulation is a pretty easy and cheap fix that will easily pay for itself in energy savings!

These are just a few examples of where air may be escaping your home. Check out this article for even more tips on insulating your home!

5. Replace Your Old HVAC System

Sometimes, even if you are performing all the required maintenance and have made the necessary repairs around the house to ensure the system is running at peak efficiency, it’s not enough. Sometimes the system just needs to be replaced.

You should have your system inspected by an HVAC technician once a year to make sure that it is running the way that it should. They will be able to advise you on whether or not it is time to get a HVAC system replacement.

Generally, if your furnace is older than 13 years, you will soon need to replace it. Even if it is still running, once it is 10 years old, it is probably not running at peak efficiency anymore.

If you notice that your furnace is running more often, or longer than usual, that could be a sign that it is not able to keep up with your heating and cooling needs. Loud noises coming from your equipment is a sure sign that something is wrong, and may indicate the need for a new system. Notify a technician of any new sounds you hear coming from your furnace or AC unit.

There are other signs that can indicate your system is failing, check out this article for more information on the warning signs of a system that needs replacing!

Comfortable and Happy

With an optimized heating and cooling system, your home will stay at a temperature that leaves you feeling comfortable and happy. By following some or all of the tips above, you’ll be able to save a lot of money and conserve energy.

If you’ve followed a lot of these tips and still feel like your system isn’t running as well as it could, you may need a new system. If you think that may be the case, please give us a call! We are a full-service HVAC company that can provide you the knowledge and expertise you need to get the job done right!

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