So, you've moved into a new home and you just got your first utility bill. Is it higher than you expected? If so, your HVAC system may be the cause.
According to the Department of Energy (DOE), heating and cooling account for close to 50 percent of your home energy costs. If you are struggling with higher than expected energy bills, here are some easy ways to increase your HVAC system's efficiency and lower your utility bills:
1. Purchase a programmable thermostat.
One of the easiest ways to save money on your utility bills is to purchase a programmable thermostat and use it correctly. The DOE estimates that by dropping the temperature of your home in the winter and increasing it in the summer by 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours, you could save between five and 15 percent annually on heating and cooling costs. In other words, just by allowing your house to be warmer (or cooler) while you are at work, you can save big money.
Instead of trying to remember everyday to change your thermostat's settings, programmable thermostats allow you to schedule automatic temperature changes based on your schedule. Just remember to update and adjust when necessary.
2. Change your air filter regularly.
Dirty air filters block the airflow through your system making it less efficient. Once a month, take out your air filter and inspect it for debris. If you cannot see light passing through your filter, it may be time for a change. Typically, good air filters can last 60 to 90 days, and some last up to a full year, but inspecting them each month and changing them sooner when necessary will make your HVAC system more efficient and save you money.
3. Clean the coils on your air conditioning unit.
Keeping the AC coils on your outdoor unit clean is another easy way to keep your system from running inefficiently. The fan in your outdoor unit pulls warm air in and over the coils, but it also pulls in dirt and debris.
Keep the coils clean by clearing any debris from the outside of your unit. Walk around your unit once a week in the warmer months and pick up any leaves, sticks or other debris that is trapped on the outside of your unit. Try to keep any trees, plants, or other foliage at least two feet away from your system for optimal performance. Next, shut off the power to your system and vacuum the outside "fins" on the unit with your vacuum's soft bristle attachment, or rinse them with a hose.
If you think your coils need a more intensive cleaning, you can try cleaning them on your own or calling an HVAC professional to service your unit.
4. Check your home's ducts and registers.
These are the pathways that air travels throughout your home. In order to keep the airflow in your home at maximum capacity, vacuum your registers whenever you see dust accumulating on the register. Check any ducts you have access to for debris and ensure there are no obstructions to air flow. Keeping your ducts and registers free of dust and debris will allow your system to push air through your house more efficiently, saving you money in the long run.
When checking your visible ductwork, look for holes in the ducts and gaps between duct connections that create airflow leakages. Where possible, plug any holes and seal duct connections to keep your system from working harder than necessary.
5. Replace your HVAC equipment with newer, high-efficiency equipment.
If your system is 10 to 15 years old, it may need to be replaced. Consider replacing your unit with a high-efficiency unit that maximizes energy savings. This may be costly up front, but if you can afford to make the investment, it pays off big time in energy savings over time.
For example, replacing just your old AC unit with a more efficient, ENERGY STAR-rated unit can save you hundreds of dollars per year.
Start lowering your bills today by considering how you can implement these five energy-saving tips into your home maintenance routine. Increasing the efficiency of your HVAC system can be the best way to reduce your new home's utility costs.
Will Housh is the founder and CEO of HVAC.com, where consumers can get unbiased advice and answers to all their HVAC questions, shop for parts & supplies from an extensive catalog, and connect with trustworthy local pros.