Summer has arrived and, if current trends hold, it will deliver some of the hottest temperatures on record. That could send homeowners’ cooling costs skyrocketing unless they follow better energy habits and make sure their HVAC unit is in good working order.
Energy costs associated with operating air conditioners cost homeowners in the U.S. an estimated $30 billion per year. Electricity used by HVAC systems accounts for about 48 percent of all residential energy use, making it the single largest energy expense for most homeowners. Energy costs have been trending upward in the past decade—between 2005 and 2015, residential electricity prices have increased by 34 percent.
The numbers make it clear—homeowners who want to find a way to reduce their monthly expenses would do well to reduce the energy used for heating and cooling their homes.
As most of the U.S. is located in temperate areas, many Americans spend far more on cooling their homes than heating them. The good news is that homeowners don’t have to endure miserably hot temperatures to realize savings on their monthly energy bills during the summer. With upfront investment in new technologies and some time spent on preventative maintenance, homeowners can enjoy lower power bills even during the dog days of summer.
Good Energy Habits
Lower power bills start with good energy habits. Homeowners who leave their doors and windows open on hot summer days with their air conditioners set to low can’t expect a drop in energy bills. Smart homeowners know a little discipline and common sense are required to enjoy lower cooling costs. Here are a few smart solutions for lowering cooling costs and overall energy bills:
- Turn it up a degree or two – The easiest way to reduce heating costs is to turn the thermostat up a little. A temperature setting of 78 degrees is within most people’s comfort range and will avoid using too much power.
- Keep curtains closed – Too much sunlight can cause your home to warm more quickly, increasing air conditioner usage. Good, stout curtains will help keep sunlight from causing the temperatures inside your home from requiring your unit to run more to maintain comfortable temperatures.
- Don’t cool an empty house – If you’re going on a vacation or an extended business trip, don’t leave your unit in the same setting you maintain when you’re at home. Turn it up a few degrees or shut it down entirely. You can ensure that you return to a cool home by having a neighbor turn it back to its usual setting a few hours before you arrive or by changing the setting remotely with an automated system.
- Dry clothes at night – Running your clothes dryer can make your home hotter, particularly if you live in a small home. Wait to run your dryer until nighttime, when temperatures are lower, to keep your air conditioner from having to do extra work during the day to maintain your desired temperature.
- Cook outside – Cooking can also increase temperatures in your home. Summer’s a great time for outdoor cooking. Invest in a grill and cook outside to avoid adding to your air conditioning unit’s workload.
Heating & Cooling Maintenance
Maintaining your heating and cooling system is also important to reduce your summer energy bills. Your unit has a big workload; most units run for hours each day to keep energy costs low. By properly maintaining the unit, you improve its operational efficiency and lower its energy consumption. Try these maintenance suggestions to ensure your unit is in good working order:
- Change your air filters – regularly changing your air filters is one of the easiest and most effective means of keeping your unit operating properly. In general, you should change your air filter once a month. Air filters that absorb too much dirt will cause airflow obstructions and may allow dirt into the system, which can damage it.
- Have your ducts inspected – The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that about 30 percent of the air that flows through heating and cooling system ductwork is lost because of leaks. Having an HVAC professional inspect your ductwork can ensure that leaks aren’t losing you money.
In addition to leaks, your ducts may also have excessive dirt and dust that can reduce heating and cooling system efficiency and impact your home’s indoor air quality. Heating and cooling technicians can do several things to improve your ducts, including cleaning them thoroughly with special brushes and vacuums, treating them with chemicals that will resist mold and bacteria growth, and sealing tiny holes that can cause air loss.
- Install a smart thermostat – Modern thermostats help homeowners better manage their heating and cooling energy usage. The newest thermostats allow homeowners to program when they want to system to be most and least active. High-end thermostats can even learn their owners’ schedules and preferences and adapt to accommodate them.
Some thermostats integrate with owners’ smartphones and allow their owners to adjust thermostat settings from anywhere—a big convenience for workers who commute or are frequently out of town.
- Unit maintenance – At least every other year, you should have heating and cooling system technicians visit your home to service the unit. They’ll inspect the unit to ensure it has an adequate coolant and, also, check the coils and other mechanical components of the unit to ensure they are working properly.
Changing your habits and maintaining your heating and cooling system aren’t the only ways to reduce the power bills associated with cooling your home. There are also several home improvement projects you can undertake to improve your home’s energy efficiency, including:
- Upgrade your windows – Older windows, particularly single-pane windows, are far less energy-efficient than modern windows. By upgrading to new, energy-efficient windows, you can save money in the long run on electricity costs.
- Seal your windows – Installing new windows isn’t the only window-related task you’ll need to do. Windows are a leading source of heat loss in homes, with leaks or cracks around the edges of the windows being the primary cause of this problem. By caulking around your windows and installing weather stripping, you can keep cold air in and hot air out.
- Install insulation – Homes that aren’t properly insulated will be more costly to cool in the summer and heat in the winter. Check your attic to see if it has enough insulation, and consult with a contractor to determine if the walls in your home are sufficiently insulated. If they’re not, have a professional insulation company add sufficient insulation. Many older homes are not properly insulated, so taking care of this problem could save you a lot of money.
- Install ceiling fans – Ceiling fans take less energy to run than air conditioners and can help cool your home. By adding ceiling fans, you won’t have to turn your thermostat down as low to achieve desired temperatures, thus reducing your energy bill.
Barstow & Sons is a family-owned heating and cooling installation and repair service operating in the Annapolis, MD area. Founded in 1980, Barstow & Sons has built a reputation for outstanding customer service and satisfaction.
Available for emergency repair work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Barstow & Sons specializes in Lennox products but can also provide maintenance, installation, and repairs for nearly any HVAC system. Learn how Barstow & Sons can help you save money on your energy bills today by contacting the company via phone (410) 441-3147 or chat.