Controlling air-conditioning, heating costs pay off in energy savings
"Turn off that light!"
If you're a parent, you've probably said it countless times, no doubt invoking your electric bill when telling your children to turn off their bedroom lights before they make their way to another room in the house.
But let's face it, an occasional light on is hardly your biggest enemy when it comes time to tame your energy costs. Maybe instead parents across Chicagoland should be yelling, "Turn up that AC!" In the winter, the charge could just as easily be "Turn down that heat!"
After all, your air conditioning and heating costs account for a huge portion of your electric bill each month. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly half the energy used in your house is for cooling and heating. According to the Department of Energy, more than 50 percent of a home's energy cost are heating and cooling, a statistic that should get anyone's attention.
Smart Temperature Control Saves Money
Yet something as simple as using a programmable thermostat to keep your home warmer than normal during the day in the summer, and then using it to cool your house to a reasonable temperature — in this case, 78 degrees — when you are home could save you up to 15 percent on your utility bill. The same practice can be used during the winter. If you set the thermostat to 68 degrees while you are home, and lower the temperature when you are away or asleep, the savings add up, possibly as much as 1 percent for each degree.
Properly Operating Heating and Cooling Systems Also Save Money
Of course, any savings would be minimized if your system isn't running properly, which is why it's important to use a licensed and insured HVAC specialist to inspect and adjust your heating and cooling systems.
"They are your home's best defender of energy costs," says Direct Energy spokesperson Dave Borowski. "They are the experts when it comes to getting the most out of your heating and cooling systems."
Due to the sophistication of today's systems, technicians must stay up-to-date on the latest technology, meaning homeowners should look for technicians who are certified under the North American Technician Excellence program.
Borowski says it's important to find the right technician to install or service your system, and suggests asking your friends and neighbors for recommendations.
"You need to do your homework to separate the qualified from the not-so-qualified," he says. "You need to find a person you're comfortable with and someone willing to take the time to find out what's best for you and your home. Don't hesitate to ask for referrals, and copies of license and insurance — good contractors want to show them off."
Don't take the infrastructure of your home for granted. Your ductwork plays a huge role in your heating and cooling needs and costs.
"Ductwork is a key problem for loss of energy in homes today," Borowski says. "If you think you're cooling system isn't efficient, you need to have your ductwork checked out. Putting in a new air conditioning unit without addressing the ductwork is like installing a new engine in your car and reusing the old oil."
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, air leakage from faulty ductwork in attics or crawl spaces can lose up to 40 percent of the heated or cooled air that passes through en route to the vents in your home.
Homeowners can play a part in efficient heating and cooling as well, starting with insulation, which, when installed properly, can save money on the cost of cooling and heating. Something as simple as weather stripping and caulking to plug the air leaks throughout your home will prevent hot air from entering your home, meaning your air-conditioning system has to work less hard to keep your house cool.
"You're your own biggest ally when it comes to saving money on cooling and heating," says Borowski. "By hiring the right people and properly maintaining your system, you'll be helping reduce your energy costs."
And maybe, you'll be able to ignore the occasional light the kids leave on, saving your time and energy for the other parenting staple: "Clean up your room!"
For more information on home maintenance, call Direct Energy Protection Plans at 855-235-1459 or click here.