How to Reduce Your HVAC Energy Bills

Many people pay thousands of dollars a year to heat and cool their home, money that could be used for something more tangible. If you are tired of high energy bills due to HVAC use, there are ways to reduce your energy use and your monthly bills. While some may require an initial investment, the return on the investment can be substantial. Here are some energy savers when it comes to lowering your heating and cooling bills.

Program Your Thermostat

If you have a programmable thermostat, use it. If you don’t have a newer model thermostat, make the investment. Programming your thermostat to reduce use when you are sleeping, or the home is empty can save you a large percentage of your energy bill each month while still keeping your home comfortable.

Keep Up with HVAC Maintenance

Making sure your HVAC system is maintained ensures it is working efficiently. Heat pumps, AC units and furnaces all need annual maintenance, which is a small price to pay to keep your system running efficiently.

Upgrade to a New HVAC System

If you have an older HVAC system that is 10, 15 or more years old, you may be paying much more than you should for heating and cooling. Newer systems are made for efficiency. Consider upgrading to an Energy Star rated HVAC system that will pay for itself with a reduction in energy bills.

Need more ideas on how to cut down on your heating and cooling bills? Schedule a tune-up for your HVAC system and have an efficiency analysis performed. Your local HVAC pros can help you find ways to reduce energy use and lower your monthly utility bills.

Posted on behalf of:
ClimateSmith, LLC
3870 Peachtree Industrial Blvd. Suite 340-129
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 475-9555

HVAC and New Construction

While it may not always be easier and/or less expensive to do things right the first time, the long run usually supports the approach. This is especially true when considering the HVAC system for new home construction. You don’t need extensive personal expertise in the field, but you will need people who not only know what they are doing but also know what you want them to do. Communication is the key. 

Choosing the right HVAC installation contractor is imperative, and there are numerous articles on this site to assist you in that choice. However, in new construction, you are more likely to be dealing with the builder, not the series of sub-contractors he has picked and who are actually the ones who will construct your new home. This is true from foundation and framing to finish work and landscaping, and definitely includes HVAC work. 

Does this mean you have no input or influence other than choosing a builder? Of course not. Builders, even pretty good ones, are going to utilize what are called “builder grade” systems during all phases of construction unless you have contracted for something else before-hand. The contractor, like all good businessmen, will want to minimize his own costs in order to maximize his profits. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it also means that you may not get state-of-the-art systems as a matter of course. The builder could be using serviceable but dated technologies because they are more economical for him. 

What may work best for you in terms of zoned heating and air-conditioning, for instance, could cost more initially, but pay for itself in terms of fuel use and versatility. Up-grading at a later date is costly and disruptive, to the point where you won’t gain anything by installing the up-grade. Work with your builder to get it right the first time.

Understanding Variable Speed Fans

If you have been shopping for a new HVAC system for your home, you probably know that there are many confusing options and features on most new HVAC systems.  The good news is that most of these features help increase the efficiency of your HVAC system and reduce operating costs.  One feature commonly found on many of today’s energy efficient heat pumps, furnaces and air conditioning systems is a variable speed fan.

A variable speed fan is sometimes referred to as a variable speed blower.  Not matter what nomenclature the manufacturer gives it, the purpose of the fan or blower is to circulate the heated or cooled air through your home.

Variable speed fans are primarily designed to increase the energy efficiency of the system.  Unlike a traditional fan that operates at the same speed under all conditions, a variable speed fan runs faster or slower depending the demand for warm or cool air.  When the demand is low, the fan will run at a slower speed and reduce energy consumption.

A variable speed fan has other advantages as well.  Some homeowners prefer to set the fun to run all the time, continuously circulating the air in the home.  The home is more evenly heated and cooled and the furnace filter can do a better job of removing airborne contaminants.

If you are one of these homeowners, an HVAC system equipped with a variable speed fan is an excellent choice.  When running in continuous mode, the fan will run quietly and use far less energy than a traditional fan.

Choosing a High Efficiency Air Conditioner

If you are in the market for a new central air conditioning system, you are in luck!  Modern central air conditioning systems are much more efficient than systems manufactured fifteen or twenty years ago.  According to EPA estimates, you can save as much as a third on your energy bills by replacing your old inefficient air conditioner with a new energy efficient model.

The energy efficiency of a central air conditioning system is expressed as its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER).  Modern air conditioners have SEER ratings from 10 to 17.  The higher the number, the more efficient the unit.

Before you rush off and buy the most energy efficient model on the market, take the time to evaluate your air conditioning needs and decide which model would provide the best return on your investment.  The highest efficiency units are more expensive than standard efficiency units.  Your HVAC professional can help, but what you need to look at is whether the energy savings from the higher efficiency air conditioner is greater than the difference in the purchase price.

If you live in a very warm climate where your air conditioner will run a lot, you will probably come out ahead by paying more for a more efficient new HVAC system. On the other hand, if you live in a cooler climate where the air conditioner is used infrequently, a less expensive, less efficient system would be the most economical in the long run.

In either case, be sure to have your HVAC technician install a new programmable thermostat that’s matched to your system to maximize your energy savings and minimize your carbon footprint.

Comparing HVAC Estimates

When you need major heating and air conditioning work such an HVAC replacement and installation, you should obtain estimates from two or three different HVAC contractors before starting work.  By getting several estimates, you will have the opportunity to meet each of the HVAC contractors and evaluate whether you would be comfortable having them do the work.

In addition, you will be in a better position to make sure that you are getting a high quality unit installed at a reasonable price.  Some people automatically choose the lowest estimate thinking that they will save money.  This can be a major mistake.  The lowest estimate is not always the best one.  The contractor may be “low-balling” the estimate to get the job, then will add on other costs later after the work has already begun. 

Also, in some cases a low estimate is an indication that the contractor will be installing lower quality or undersized equipment.  Compare the size of the unit in each estimate. Any significant discrepancies call for further investigation.

You can also compare the quality of the equipment by comparing the warranty period.  The warranty is not a guarantee, but it gives you an indication of the approximate relative level of quality between similar sized units.  You should also compare the energy efficiency of each unit.   A more efficient unit can save money in the long run.

The estimate should include the cost of labor which may vary between HVAC contractors, but be sure that the installer will be an experienced HVAC technician. Finally, check to see that the estimate includes clean up and disposal of the old unit.