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

Tips To Protect Your HVAC System

Your HVAC system is an expensive and necessary part of your home, offering heating and cooling to keep your house comfortable year round. To keep this system working at its best, it is important to provide it with the necessary maintenance and repairs, as well as protecting it from preventable stress. On top of regular annual HVAC maintenance from your local HVAC service company, here are a few tips to reduce stress on your HVAC system: 

–        Programmable thermostats. Constant heating or cooling can add extra stress to your HVAC unit. Use a programmable thermostat to give your system a break when you are away from home or sleeping at night. Even a few degrees can save on over-taxing your unit, plus save money on your energy bills.

–        Filters. One of the easiest ways to protect your HVAC system is to ensure that the filter is regularly changed. This keeps your unit protected from dust and other air particles while removing them from the air your family breathes.

–        Outdoor units. If you have an outdoor HVAC unit, make sure to keep it clear of excess foliage and dirt. Keep grass clippings away from the unit, as well as leaves and other debris. Anything that can block air flow into the system could create problems, from poor efficiency to costly repairs. 

By reducing the stress on your HVAC unit, you can help prolong the life of the system and make it more energy efficient. Just by keeping the system well-maintained and clean, you may be able to get years of extra comfort from your existing HVAC components.

Posted on behalf of James Smith, ClimateSmith LLC


Properly Placing Your Programmable Thermostat

When you’re building a new home or remodeling an existing one, you will almost certainly have a detailed picture fixed in your mind of what everything will look like when the work is finished. Unfortunately, when it comes to the placement of your programmable thermostat, your professional HVAC contractor may be forced to adjust that mental picture a bit. 

Regardless of what your internal interior designer is looking for aesthetically, a programmable thermostat’s location is vital to proper functionality. If it’s too close to a heating vent or cold air return, it will affect the temperature in the area in a way that may not accurately reflect the temperature throughout your home. Remember: your thermostat only knows what the temperature is in the area surrounding it. That’s why placement is so integral to functionality. 

Installing your thermostat near an exterior door can dramatically affect how it works, as the opening and closing of the door will change the ambient temperature in the immediate area, regardless of temperature in the rest of the house. For the same reason, it’s not recommended to place a thermostat near windows. This is only one of the reasons why, when it comes to HVAC installation and maintenance, you will need the guidance of a professional who’s able to draw upon years of experience and training. 

Before you paint a picture of how your home will look upon completion, down to the placement of thermostats and light switches, you should contact an HVAC contractor in your area. Together, you can work out a plan that ensures peak performance of your central heating and air conditioning system while keeping the look of your home satisfying and aesthetically pleasing.

Energy Saving Tips

Summer weather is on the way and if last year is any indication, we may be seeing another round of record breaking temperatures.  You can keep your cool while keeping your energy costs down by trying a few of these energy saving tips.

If you don’t already have one, install a programmable thermostat.  These save energy by automatically switching to a higher, energy saving setting when you and your family are away from home or asleep.

Make sure that your thermostat is installed in a location that is not affected by heat from direct sun exposure, a lamp, electronics, or the kitchen stove.  Your thermostat will think that the temperature in your home is higher than it really is and it will cause the air conditioner to work harder and waste energy.

If you have windows that get direct sunlight, keep the blinds or drapes closed during the day to reduce the warming effect of the sun’s rays. Direct sunlight can raise the temperature in a room by several degrees.

Remember to switch your ceiling fans to normal rotation.  In the winter, ceiling fans should be run in reverse to move warm air lower in the room but in the summer, ceiling fans should run in the normal direction.  The moving air can make the temperature seem several degrees lower than it is.

Change your furnace filter regularly and schedule your air conditioning service by an experienced HVAC technician before the cooling season starts.  Keeping the system serviced will help it operate efficiently.  It will reduce your energy costs and extend the life of your system.

Saving Energy With Your Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats are a terrific energy saving tool, but you can maximize your savings by using the device properly.  Programmable thermostats save energy by automatically changing the temperature setting inside your home to an energy efficient setting at pre-programmed times throughout the day.  When these times are programmed to coincide with the period you are at work or asleep, you will reduce your energy usage and can save about $180 per year without sacrificing comfort.

The EPA’s $180 per year savings figure is based on programming your thermostat to 8 degrees lower in the winter for 10 hours during the day and 8 hours at night and increasing the temperature in the summer 7 degrees for 10 hours during the day and by 4 degrees for 8 hours at night.

To achieve greater savings try setting the energy saving temperatures even lower in the winter and higher in the summer.  The greater the difference from your comfort setting the more you will save on energy costs.  You can also try reducing your winter comfort setting and increasing you summer comfort setting a degree or two.  Keep making adjustments until you find the energy saving and comfort settings that you are comfortable with and then leave the thermostat alone.

Avoid the temptation to override the programmed energy saving or comfort settings.  This habit will reduce your energy savings.  You are better off finding a good temperature program you are comfortable with than frequently overriding the energy saving or comfort temperature settings.  Programmable thermostats work best if you set the program and then forget about it and let it do its thing.

For additional ways to save energy on your heating and cooling, talk to your HVAC contractor about an HVAC system efficiency analysis.  They will analyze your HVAC system and recommend an energy efficiency package that will help your reduce your heating and cooling energy usage and cut your energy bills.

Thermostat Placement

If you are installing a new programmable thermostat, make sure find a good location where it can accurately measure the temperature inside your home.  Similarly, if your current thermostat has problems keeping the temperature in your home even throughout the day, check its placement.  A thermostat only knows what the temperature is where it is located and if it is placed in a location subject to temperature swings, it will not read your indoor air temperature accurately and you may experience uneven heating and cooling.

A thermostat should be mounted about 5 feet from the floor to get a good average reading from floor to ceiling.  Warm air rises so temperatures in your home will naturally be warmer toward the ceiling and cooler at the floor.

The thermostat should also be located where it is not affected by heated or cooled air blowing from the registers.  Locating a thermostat too close to a register will cause your system to cycle on off too frequently and some areas of your home will never reach the appropriate temperature.

Also, keep light fixtures several feet away from your thermostat.  An incandescent light bulb can raise the nearby air temperature several degrees and affect your thermostat’s temperature reading.  The same is true for the sun.  If your thermostat is located where it receives direct sunlight for more than a few minutes, it will cause the thermostat to read high on sunny days.

Finally, mount thermostats well away from exterior doors and windows and away from kitchens to avoid inaccurate readings.  An interior hallway often makes an ideal location for a thermostat.  If you think you need to move your thermostat, talk to your local HVAC contractor or an electrician.

Can You Benefit From a Programmable Thermostat?

Installing a new programmable thermostat is a great way for many homeowners to save energy and money by reducing the amount of energy used for home heating and cooling.  However, not every home can benefit from a programmable thermostat so before you make the investment, make sure a programmable thermostat would be good energy saving device for your home.

Programmable thermostats save energy by automatically adjusting your temperature setting to an energy saving setting while you are asleep at night or away from home during the day.  It is possible to get similar results by manually changing the setting on your thermostat, but programmable thermostats work well because they automate the process so you don’t have to remember to change the setting when you go to bed or leave for work.

In addition, programmable thermostats increase your comfort because they can be programmed to return to the more comfortable setting shortly before you return from work in the evening or get out of bed in the morning. The temperature in your home will be at a comfortable setting and you won’t have to wait while your home heats up or cools down.

The biggest savings are experienced by families who are out of the home during the weekday.  If a family member is at home during the day, your energy savings will be limited to the overnight hours.  Also, savings are best in climates that use both heating and air conditioning.  If your home is located in a climate where you rarely use the air conditioner or furnace, your savings will be reduced.  Finally, programmable thermostats don’t work well on heat pumps running in heat mode.

Heat pumps rely on inefficient electric heating strips to make large temperature adjustments and your savings from the energy saving setting will be offset by the energy used bringing your home back up to the comfort setting.   Your local HVAC contractor carries a wide selection of HVAC accessories and optional components like programmable thermostats or you can fine one at your local home improvement center.

Using a Programmable Thermostat With a Heat Pump

Heat pumps and programmable thermostats have become popular these days as people try to find ways to reduce their energy consumption.  Whether motived by decreasing their carbon footprint, lowering their energy bills, or both, heat pumps and programmable thermostats are excellent alternatives for lowering the amount of energy used to heat and cool homes.

However, if you are not careful when using a programmable thermostat with your new heat pump you may end up wasting energy by activating the auxiliary heat too often.  A heat pump is an energy efficient way to heat a home because it moves heat rather than creates heat.  As the name implies, a heat pump moves heat from outside the home to the inside to warm the home.

It is an efficient and economical system, but it is less effective at temperatures below freezing.  To compensate for this, most heat pumps have auxiliary electric heating strips installed to supplement the heat when the heat pump can’t keep up with the demand for heat.  Heat strips are an expensive way to heat, but if they are used sparingly a heat pump is still an efficient heating system.

The problem with programmable thermostats is that they are typically set to lower the temperature about 10 degrees at night and when the homeowner is away during the day.  When the program switches back to the more comfortable higher temperature setting, the heat pump tries to reach that temperature quickly and the electric auxiliary strips are activated.  Using the electric auxiliary heating strips to bring the temperature backup offsets the energy savings from lowering the temperature during the night and might even be counter productive.

If you use a programmable thermostat with a heat pump, program it so the temperature only drops two or three degrees at night to avoid activating the auxiliary heating strips.

Choosing a Programmable Thermostat For Your Heat Pump

A programmable thermostat is an excellent energy saving piece of equipment.  According to EPA estimates, by automatically adjusting the temperature of your home to match your work and sleep schedule, a programmable thermostat can save up to $180 per year in energy costs.

In the winter, a programmable thermostat lowers the temperature setting while you are sleeping or at work, and automatically raises the temperature so that your home is comfortable when you wake up or get home from work.  It works the opposite in the summer.

If you have a standard gas or oil furnace, most universal programmable thermostats will work fine.  Your HVAC technician can install one for you or you can choose one of the many programmable thermostats available at your local home improvement center if you are the do-it-yourself type.

If you have a heat pump, you should talk to a reputable HVAC contractor who has heat pump experience and carries HVAC accessories and optional components.  Until recently, most programmable thermostats worked fine when the heat pump was used in cooling mode, but they were not very effective at saving energy for heat pumps in heating mode.

When the temperature setting is increased more than a couple degrees, most heat pumps rely on auxiliary electric heating strips to help bring the temperature up to the desired setting.  Using the auxiliary heat cancels out the energy savings from lowering the temperature at night.

There are now some thermostats specifically designed to work with heat pumps.  Your HVAC professional can help you choose the right thermostat for your heat pump and make sure it is installed and set up to work properly with your equipment.

Programmable Thermostat Installation

Programmable thermostats are a great way to save energy and do your part for the environment.  Lower energy use for heating and air conditioning means more money in your pocket and few greenhouse gas emissions.  If used properly the thermostat should pay for itself in less than two years according to EPA estimates.  After that, you will enjoy year after year of energy cost savings.

It is relatively easy to replace most existing thermostats with a programmable thermostat, but proper installation is important for the thermostat to work properly.  If you have any doubt about your mechanical skills or how to install your programmable thermostat, it is well worth the small cost of having the thermostat installed by an HVAC professional. Most reputable HVAC contractors will be happy to help you select and install the right thermostat for your home.

It is important to install the thermostat in a location that accurately reflects the temperature inside your home.  Install it on an inside wall away from sources of hot or cold air such as heating and air conditioning vents, doors, and windows.  You should also avoid placing the thermostat in a location that receives direct sunlight or near a fireplace or woodstove.

If you are handling the installation yourself, turn off the power to the thermostat before you start work.  Thermostats use low voltage, but they can still give you a shock.  If the job involves more than just a straight replacement of your existing thermostat, you should have an HVAC contractor handle it.  Also, if you have a heat pump, make sure the thermostat was designed to work properly with heat pumps.