A Guide to Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling: Everything to Know

Businessman Brainstorming About Energy Conservation

Have you ever stopped to think about how heating and cooling systems are such a big part of our lives?

How your home makes you feel is a big factor in your quality of life, and the air temperature in your environment plays a big role in how you feel. If your home is too warm or too cold much of the time, that discomfort can disproportionately affect how you feel.

But how your home environment personally makes you feel is just one small part of HVAC systems. Between increasing electricity costs and troubling environmental disruption, energy-efficient heating and cooling have never been more important.

Recent efforts by manufacturers and the government to improve energy efficiency have helped lower energy consumption for consumers. Purchasing Energy Star-rated appliances and ensuring your home meets government standards can help improve the environment and lower your energy costs.

This is only the beginning, however. To fully play your part in resolving climate change and optimize your home’s efficiency, there’s more you will need to do.

This article will explain everything you need to know about making your home as energy-efficient as possible, from HVAC upgrades to home maintenance. Keep reading for more.

When You Should Think About Making Efficiency Upgrades

Just like you watch out for physical symptoms in your body that might indicate illness, there are signs to watch out for around your home that tell you it’s time to think about making efficiency upgrades. Here are a few of them.

Increasing Energy Bills

Have your utility bills been going up in cost over the past year or so, without any obvious reason why? It may be that your heating and cooling system is using more electricity than it should.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to replace your entire HVAC system. There are several possible causes for increased energy usage from poor efficiency.

It may be that your heater or air conditioner is wearing out and needs maintenance. But it could also mean that there are leaks in your home letting warm or cool air outside. Or it could be an indication of poor insulation in your home overall.

There are several ways to improve your home to combat rising energy costs. First of all, you should make sure your house doesn’t need any minor repairs or added insulation. Next, ensure that your HVAC system is professionally inspected at least once per year to avoid lingering efficiency issues.

Hot and Cold Spots Around Your Home

Are certain rooms in your house always hot or mysteriously cold? Are there spots in your kitchen, living room, or bedroom that seem to be chilly or too warm all the time? Unusual hot or cold spots around your house could be a sign of poor HVAC efficiency.

Once again, the cause could be that your home isn’t properly insulated. But it could also be that your HVAC system’s ductwork isn’t completely sealed. Have  a professional HVAC repair service inspect your home to find out which it is.

Costly or Frequent HVAC Repairs

Has your HVAC system been breaking down more often in the last year or two? If it seems like your air conditioner or heater is always needing repairs, it’s probably a sign that your entire system needs to be replaced.

You may resort to calling local HVAC services instead of replacing the system altogether to save money. But keep in mind that, if you keep making repairs on a worn-out system, eventually you’ll spend more than you would have if you’d simply replaced it outright. Not only that, but at some point, the system will become unrepairable.

Don’t throw good money after bad by having repairs done on a system that’s ready to bite the dust. Frequent repair jobs mean you should probably get your HVAC replaced.

A Non-Programmable Thermostat

If you’re living in an older home, does the thermostat you use always keep your house at a fixed temperature? If it’s an older thermostat, it probably only has one setting, without scheduling capabilities. If this is the case, then it could be costing you more money in heating and cooling than you need to spend.

With a modern programmable thermostat, you can set your home to be cooler (or warmer, depending on the time of year) at night or when you’re away. You don’t need your home to be perfectly climate-controlled while you’re at work all day, and most people prefer cooler temperatures for sleeping in during winter.

Of course, you may be resetting your non-programmable thermostat on your own when you leave for work or go to bed. But not only is this hard to remember all the time, it’s also annoying to keep up with. A programmable thermostat can improve efficiency and save money automatically.

An HVAC System Over 10 Years Old

When was the last time the heating and air conditioning system in your home got replaced? If it was longer than 10 years ago (or if you don’t remember), that’s a serious red flag.

HVAC systems aren’t meant to last longer than 10 years, and their efficiency seriously declines with old age. Not only that, but older systems are considerably less energy-efficient than recent models. An old air conditioner could be wasting energy and money without you even knowing it.

If your system is 10 years old or older, or if you aren’t sure how old it is, consider calling an HVAC service for an estimate on a new system.

How to Quickly Boost Your Home’s Energy Efficiency

You now know what signs to look out for that might indicate problems with energy efficiency. Next, let’s go over some simple, practical ways you can quickly give your home an energy-efficient boost. Keep in mind that the following steps are things you should be doing or considering on a routine basis, not only when you want to improve energy efficiency.

Use a Programmable Thermostat Correctly

A programmable thermostat is a relatively simple piece of equipment. But if you never set it to change your home’s temperature automatically when you aren’t around and active, you won’t get any of its energy-saving benefits.

If you have a programmable thermostat that you’ve simply changed manually and otherwise left alone, now is the time to start utilizing it.

For most programmable thermostats, there are three basic settings you can choose from for controlling your home’s temperature: seven-day schedule, weekday/weekend schedule, and weekday/Saturday/Sunday schedule.

With a seven-day schedule setting, you can set a specific temperature schedule for every individual day of the week. If you have an unusual work or social life, you might need to customize the exact temperature for every hour of every day.

Most people have fairly similar weekdays and weekends, and there are two schedule settings for them. If you have a traditional working schedule and your Saturdays and Sundays look the same, a weekday/weekend schedule lets you use the same hourly schedule for every weekday and a different schedule for each weekend day. A weekday/Saturday/Sunday schedule has the same hourly schedule for each workday, but a custom schedule for both weekend days.

Whichever schedule type you use, you can set your home’s temperature to change at different hours of the day. It’s a good idea to keep your home slightly cooler at night, no matter what time of year it is. Otherwise, set your thermostat so your HVAC system kicks on less often when you’re not at home.

Get Rid of Excess Dust

Dust builds up quickly in a home over time, layering upon every flat upward-facing surface. This dust and debris build up inside the ductwork, too, as it’s circulated through your HVAC system along with your home’s inside air. Excessive amounts of dust block airflow and decrease the efficiency of your HVAC system.

To help with this, you should start by cleaning and dusting your home regularly. You should dust your home specifically at least once every month. Additionally, you should have your ductwork cleaned at least once every seven years.

Replace Air Filters

Fortunately, not all the dust from the air that gets circulated through your HVAC system ends up in the ductwork. Most of it gets trapped in the air filters that clean your home’s air as it passes through the system. Unfortunately, this can cause even bigger problems than dust alone if the air filters aren’t regularly replaced.

Thankfully, changing the air filters is the easiest and simplest way to improve your HVAC system’s energy efficiency. For most models, all you have to do is slide the old filters out and then slide new ones in. There may be latches or screws holding the filters in place—consult your HVAC owner’s manual to find out for sure.

Depending on your model and the type of filters you use, air filters need to be replaced between once every month and once per year. You should never use a filter for longer than it’s supposed to be used. A filter full of dust will dramatically decrease the efficiency of your system and cause it to wear out quickly.

Seal Ductwork Properly

We’ve mentioned ductwork a few times in this article. But what is ductwork exactly?

The ductwork is to HVAC what pipes are to plumbing: it’s the array of tubing that carries warm or cool air throughout your home. Unfortunately, if your ductwork is poorly sealed or improperly constructed, it can allow a lot of air to leak out through the cracks.

As a result, some areas in your home may get lots of airflow, while other areas farther away from the HVAC system may get none.

As you can imagine, this leads to a significant reduction in HVAC efficiency. You may try to compensate by turning up the air conditioner or heater, in an attempt to get more airflow to the farthest reaches of your home. But that only causes more extreme temperatures closer to the system, while your energy bills go through the roof.

A much better solution is to have your ductwork resealed. Although serious DIYers may want to try sealing their ductwork for themselves, for best results it should be left up to a professional. Fortunately, ductwork sealing is a fast process when done correctly, and should only take a day or two.

Schedule Annual Maintenance Services

Last but not least, even if your HVAC system is in good working order, you need to have it inspected at least once every year. In fact, it’s a good idea to have it inspected every six months: once in the spring, before you start using the air conditioner, and again in the fall before you begin using the heater.

By having your system inspected regularly, you’ll make sure that problems are detected right away, instead of allowing them to linger. This is the most reliable way to make sure your home stays as energy-efficient as possible.

Get Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling Today

From using a programmable thermostat correctly to replacing air filters, by now you should know everything you need for energy-efficient heating and cooling.

But remember, all the knowledge in the world won’t improve your life unless you apply it. To make your home as energy-efficient as possible, you must take action.

The best way to get started is by installing a new heating and cooling system. Every other strategy you try to decrease energy usage will be limited without an energy-efficient HVAC system. Contact Rowbel Services today to learn how you can upgrade your home’s heating and cooling.

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