Energy efficiency is important to homeowners because it helps save money on annual utility bills. Residents of Chicago, NW Indiana and SW Michigan have to worry about both their heating and cooling systems for the cold winters and hot summers. In the average household, nearly half of the energy bill goes toward heating and cooling costs. By making smart decisions about your HVAC systems, you can achieve lower utility bills while improving the overall comfort of your home.
When to Make Changes
There are some key signs to look for when determining the efficiency of your home. Use the following checklist to see if you need to make changes to improve your efficiency.
- Certain rooms are too hot or too cold.
- You experience humidity problems, excessive dust or discomfort.
- You need frequent repairs on HVAC equipment, and your bills are increasing.
- HVAC equipment is more than 12 years old.
- The thermostat is set at one constant temperature.
If you can relate to one or more of these issues, then you may need to reconsider your approach to heating and cooling. Sometimes, the solution is as simple as keeping up with routine maintenance. You may also want to replace some of your equipment with newer models that are energy efficient.
Maintain Your HVAC Equipment
Inefficiency is often caused by dirt accumulation and system neglect. By altering some of your habits and hiring a professional technician, you can regain your equipment's energy efficiency.
Change Air Filters Regularly
Changing your air filters is one of the easiest ways to improve system performance. Dirt and dust can build up in the system and decrease its efficiency. You should check your filters once per month and replace them as needed. At the very least, your air filters should be replaced every three months.
HVAC Equipment Tune Ups
Your equipment needs proper maintenance performed by a qualified technician twice per year to prevent future problems. It is best to have your systems checked in the spring and fall before the busy seasons begin. Look for comprehensive air conditioner and heating services, including:
- Safety and Heating Inspections
- Full System Cleaning
- Lubrication of Key Components
- Refrigerant Replenishment or Replacement
- Wiring and Fuses Check
- Testing and Calibration for Efficiency
Upgrade to a Programmable Thermostat
Leaving your thermostat set to one constant temperature is a sure way to make your bills skyrocket. Using a programmable thermostat can reduce your annual energy bills by up to $200. You can set the thermostat to change when you wake up, during the daytime, in the evening and when you sleep. Some models feature remote-access controls so that you can make adjustments as needed from anywhere. The recommended temperatures for energy savings are 70 degrees or less for heating and 78 degrees or more for cooling. You can further adjust these settings to your family's preference. If you are installing a new thermostat, the best location is the interior walls. Avoid air registers, doorways, fireplaces, windows, appliances and lighting where other factors may affect the thermostat's readings. For optimal efficiency, follow these guidelines.
- Set thermostat at energy-saving temperatures for long periods.
- Use the energy-saving features when going on vacation.
- Utilize pre-programmed settings for optimal performance.
- Install a programmable thermostat in every zone.
- Change batteries every year if the model runs on batteries.
Seal Your Heating and Cooling Ducts
With forced-air heating and cooling units, ducts carry conditioned air throughout your home. In a typical house, 20 percent of circulated air is lost due to inefficient ducts. This leaking results in higher utility bills and an uncomfortable home. Common places to find leaks are the connections at vents and registers. It is a good idea to hire a professional for duct-improvement projects due to the concealed locations of the ducts. Ask your local contractor to:
- Inspect Whole Duct System
- Evaluate Air Circulation
- Repair or Replace Problematic Ducts
- Seal Leaks and Connections
- Seal Gaps Where Ducts Meet the Floor, Ceiling or Wall
- Insulate Ducts
Choose the Right Equipment
If your HVAC equipment is old and inefficient, you may consider replacing it with newer models. Look for high-efficiency models that have earned ENERGY STAR ratings. To improve your home's energy efficiency, consider the following HVAC equipment.
- Furnaces – These units deliver heat through ducts. Look for higher AFUE ratings, which are represented as percentages. ENERGY STAR-qualified units will be condensing furnaces and feature efficient blower motors.
- Boilers – Gas and oil boilers run quietly and heat the home through radiation. Look for efficient features, such as electronic ignition.
- Central Air Conditioners – When upgrading your AC, you should replace both the indoor and outdoor units. You may also need to replace the heating system at the same time to receive the rated efficiency. Look for higher SEER and EER ratings.
- Heat Pumps – Ductless systems provide heating and cooling all year. You can choose from electric air-source or geothermal heat pumps to heat and cool your home. Ductless systems are more efficient because they bypass duct problems. Look for higher SEER, EER and HSPF ratings.
If you live in Chicago, NW Indiana or SW Michigan, you need efficient systems to perform optimally throughout the entire year. Ask your local HVAC contractor to evaluate your home and offer suggestions on improving your efficiency to gain lower utility bills.