Nearly half of all the energy used in American homes goes to powering heating and cooling systems; the annual cost of maintaining these systems is more than just about any other home utility. Residential HVAC units also emit millions of tons pollutants into the air, including carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. With so much at stake, both economically and environmentally, it makes sense to reconsider your home’s HVAC efficiency as the cold weather approaches.
Putting just a handful of these tips to work can save you hundreds in utility costs each year and will help reduce your carbon footprint.
- Clean or replace furnace and air filters regularly. Most filter manufacturers print a replacement schedule right on the packaging. It’s also a good idea to invest in a professional cleaning and tune-up once a year just to make sure everything is functioning as it should.
- Keep air registers, baseboard heaters, radiators and vents clean. Check for excessive dust or debris, and make sure heat outlets and returns aren’t blocked by carpeting, furniture or draperies.
- Use ventilation fans in kitchens and bathrooms only when absolutely necessary and just long enough to clear the air. It may seem like a small thing, but in just 60 minutes these fans can draw out an entire houseful of warmed air—along with your money.
- Close doors and turn the heat down—never off—in unoccupied rooms. This will lessen the load on the rest of the system significantly and can make a noticeable difference on your heating bill.
- Set your thermostat two or three degrees lower than normal. It may take some getting used to at first, but you can keep warm in the cozy new sweater you’ll be able to buy with the money you’ll save.
- Invest in a programmable thermostat and customize a heating schedule for your home. Set the thermostat lower when you know you’ll be out of the house for long periods of time, and then program it to kick on just before you return. The hour or two of chill you’ll have to put up with when you get home will be a minor nuisance when you see the eight hours’ worth of savings on your utility bill.
- Seal gaps under doors and in ductwork. Check ducts in attics, crawlspaces, unheated basements and garages for leaks or tears. Repair them using sealant or foil tape, then insulate. Use door stops to plug gaps under doors where drafts can sneak in. These simple steps can improve your heating system efficiency by more than 20%.
- Run heat-producing appliances during the warmest time of day. Dishwashers, dryers and ovens all give off heat. Using these devices at the right time can actually help heat your home and take the load off your heating system, saving you money.
- Consider purchasing an EnergyStar rated space heater. These units are great for supplementing the heat in a small area of your home, or to help keep infants, small children and the elderly comfortable without having to overheat your entire house.