As the cold weather arrives and winter settles in, many homeowners will have concerns about managing the cost of their HVAC system. Heating and cooling the home accounts for the largest portion of domestic energy bills. Fortunately, there are tips to help improve the energy efficiency of your HVAC system, so you can stay comfortable without it costing the earth.
Change Your Air Filters
While the air filters may seem like an insignificant part of your HVAC system, they actually play a crucial role. The humble air filter keeps dust and debris from entering the sensitive areas of your HVAC equipment. Unfortunately, air filters can only trap so much debris before they lose functionality. This accumulation of debris not only compromises air quality, but also impedes airflow. This forces the system to work harder and harder to compensate. As a result, your energy usage increases.
So, be sure to change your air filters regularly. Most manufacturers recommend changing filters every three to six months, but it is a good idea to check them on a monthly basis. If you have pets or smokers in your household, you may find that you need to change your filters more frequently.
Inspect Your Windows and Doors
Drafts around doors and windows can account for as much as 25% loss in your home’s heat. This means that you are paying to warm air that simply floats out of your home. This is not only a waste of money, but you are making your system work harder to maintain the desired indoor temperature.
So, it is important to inspect your windows and doors for signs of air leaks. If you notice moisture or condensation inside the windows or on the sills, cracked window panes, or worn weather seals, you may need to arrange to have the damaged window or door replaced.
A low tech way to see if you have air leaks around your windows and doors is to light a candle and move it around the door or window. If you notice the flame flickering or moving, there is air movement.
While replacing doors or windows may seem counterintuitive when you’re trying to save money, there are some superb energy efficient options that can provide significant reductions in your energy costs. You may even be able to apply for tax credits or deductions in your area to offset the cost of the upgrades.
Open Your Vents
Many people assume that closing off vents in unused rooms will save money on energy bills. In fact, the opposite is true. It is important to have your air vents open and unblocked to maintain airflow and energy efficiency. So, if you have closed off any vents, ensure that they are open. You should also check that there are no pieces of furniture or other items blocking the vents.
Insulate Your Attic and Crawlspace
We all know heat rises, but have you given any thought about how heated air can simply rise up and out of your home through the attic? This type of loss can have a drastic impact on your energy costs and usage. Fortunately, it is possible to mitigate this by having your attic and crawl spaces insulated. Again, this is an investment, but you should be able to recoup the installation costs with your energy savings in future years.
Clear Your Outdoor Unit
Falling leaves and other garden debris can easily accumulate on and around outdoor HVAC equipment. This not only encourages mold growth, but reduces the airflow. So, it is crucial that you ensure that your outdoor equipment is free of any obstructions. Ideally, there should be two feet or more of clearance between the unit and any fencing or shrubbery. So, it may be a good time for some severe pruning and landscaping.
Use Your Ceiling Fans
You may be used to using your ceiling fans to help keep you cool in summer, but they can also be used to improve your comfort levels in winter. If you set your fans to turn clockwise, they can push warm air back down. If you use your ceiling fans, you may be able to reduce your thermostat temperature by as much as five degrees and still feel the same warmth and comfort.
Draw Heavy Drapes or Shades
If you have large windows in your home, they can contribute to heat loss, even if there are no air leaks. Fortunately, there is a simple solution to address this; heavy drapes or shades. This is particularly important in darker areas of your home. Once the windows are no longer receiving sunlight, close the shades. This will allow the room to be warmed by winter sun, but as soon as it goes dark, you can insulate the warm air.
Reprogram Your Thermostat
Many people take a “set it and forget it” attitude to their thermostat, but this could waste a great deal of energy. After all, you don’t need the same level of warmth in every room of your home at all times of the day or night. So, take a little time to reprogram your thermostat, so you can have target temperatures for while you’re sleeping, at work, and relaxing in the home.
If you’re not particularly tech savvy, consider upgrading to a smart thermostat. These devices can learn your typical patterns and automatically adjust your heating accordingly. You can also link the smart thermostat to your phone. This allows you to make changes remotely, even if you’re not at home. So, if the day is particularly cold or you’ll be coming home early, you can turn on the heat before you even leave work. This will mean you arrive back at a warm and comfortable home.
Schedule a Tune Up
Don’t assume that just because your HVAC system is operating, it is working at optimum energy efficiency. For this reason, it is a good idea to schedule a tune up. An experienced HVAC technician can assess your system and make any necessary adjustments to ensure that the equipment is operating properly and efficiently.