HVAC air vents on the roof of an industrial building

Sweltering summers and subzero winters can make your life a living hell if your HVAC system is also bleeding you dry. Internal heating and cooling can make your utility bills skyrocket, but the alternative isn’t pretty either. 

How to Reduce Heating and Cooling Costs 

The good news is that you can use these top tips to not only make the most of your HVAC system but also reduce your bills at the same time. 

Disconnect Unused Appliances

Yes, you are saving a few seconds by leaving your toaster plugged in, but you are doing it at the cost of precious electricity. So besides your television, laptop, and electric can opener, make sure you pull the plug on appliances that are turned off, such as the blender.

Make the task easier by plugging your devices into surge protector power strips. These are convenient since you can flip off the master switch when you are not using it. This way, you won’t waste any energy on standby. Do this if you go away for a couple of days and wish to reduce your energy bills. 

Use Energy-Saving Appliances

Reducing your energy bill is not difficult if you invest in appliances that are specifically designed to use electricity efficiently. If you are looking to replace your appliances or buy new ones, buy ones that have an ENERGY STAR® label on them, which means it is certified to save energy without compromising functionality.

Take Measures to Prevent Heating and Cooling From Escaping 

 If your home is several decades old, chances are that the cool and heated air from your HVAC system is leaking out into the neighborhood through cracks, doors, windows, a poorly insulated attic, or other small spaces.

To determine if that is the case, have an energy audit done in your home via a local contractor or a utility provider. The certified auditor will check your home for leaks and recommend the ideal ways to make it energy-efficient and reduce your energy bills. 

A professional conducting an HVAC energy audit

You can do your own energy audit as well if you don’t want to spring for the service. Simply stand outside your house and run your hands over your doors and windows with the heating or cooling on full blast. If you feel cold or hot air escaping, caulk around the leaks and add insulation around your doors.

Invest In a Programmable Thermostat

Your HVAC system uses up most of the electricity that is powering your home. Did you know that you can reduce your bill by about 2% for each degree you lower the temperature on the thermostat?

Plus, you can also save money by getting a smaller, programmable smart thermostat designed to adjust temperatures in a home throughout the day. If you forget to turn off the heating or cooling when you leave the house, you can shut it down remotely. This technological marvel will do wonders for your energy bill.

Keep the Temperature Low

Even during the summer, temperatures drop at night, so you don’t have to turn on the AC full blast to get a good night’s sleep. Lower it to the point that you only need a light blanket to keep the chill off. Use the aforementioned smart thermostat to set the temperature range for the night, so you don’t have to do it manually every time. 

During the day, maintain a comfortable temperature. Some AC systems come with energy-saving modes to maintain a consistent, tolerable temperature. 

Set Thermostat to 76°F

On a related note, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advises employers’ maintain workplace temperatures between 68° and 76°F. This range is ideal for minimizing energy bills and maintaining a cool and comfortable workplace. 

The same is true of homes. Keep your thermostat at a steady average temperature and during summer, make sure that fans have temperature automation. 

Save Energy with Smart Temperature Control 

Smart devices do more than just offer comfort and convenience to users. A smart HVAC system, for example, can limit the energy used and maintain a comfortable temperature throughout your home. 

A smart thermostat is adjusted to optimize HVAC costs

So if you have a portable AC or a mini-split, investing in smart AC controllers can help you save money on your electricity bill via numerous features such as location-based controls or a comfy mode.

Smart AC controllers can also allow you to set smart triggers. For example, if the temperature reaches a specific point, the HVAC system will slow down automatically. 

Invest In Ceiling Fans 

If you live in an area that swelters during the summer months, your cooling bill will skyrocket if you keep the air-conditioning on for hours. Invest in ceiling fans so you can turn off your HVAC after a few hours. The fans will circulate the cool air and keep you comfortable during the hot season. These will also take some of the burden off your HVAC system. 

Better yet, invest in smart fans. These can work alongside your AC unit by picking up the internal temperature to maintain the best temperature. The fans cost less than air conditioners and consume a lot less energy in comparison as well. Install them in areas where they can blow cool air around your home. 

Get HVLS Fans 

High volume, low speed (HVLS) fans offer slow and steady airflow and also place less strain on your HVAC system. By placing less strain on heavy moving parts, it lowers maintenance costs compared to high-speed fans. 

While HVLS fans will not reduce indoor temperatures drastically on their own, they can be highly efficient combined with commercial air conditioners because they’re designed to circulate cool air from AC systems through rooms better than a standalone unit. 

Ensure the AC Is Installed In the Ideal Spot

If you want to reduce your heating and cooling bill, consider relocating your air conditioner. For one thing, it should be in a shaded spot and should have sufficient space to dissipate heat. Also, don’t cover the outer unit with leaves and shrubs and keep trash away from it. The heat it dissipates will get trapped, and your unit will have to use more energy to work.

Choose Lighting Options Wisely 

If your electricity bill is quite significant, check which types of bulbs you have. Halogen and incandescent bulbs use more electricity and emit more heat which means they also add heat to your home. Swap them with energy-efficient LED bulbs instead. 

Check and Upgrade Your Windows 

Most people don’t know this, but just by upgrading their windows, they can remove some of the strain from their HVAC system. 25% to 30% of heat is lost through old windows. If you don’t want to remodel your home just yet, consider replacing or upgrading the current windows to save money on your bills.

Look for any signs of leaks and cover them with weather stripping to prevent cool air from escaping and hot air from entering your home. With time, you will see a visible difference in your energy bill. 

Get Shades for Your Windows

According to the US Department of Energy, more than 70% of sunlight enters our homes in the form of heat. That means the rooms in your house will get warmer no matter how hard your HVAC system works.

Prevent that from happening by placing a shade over all of the windows. It will block most of the sunlight and prevent your house from heating up. 

You can also prevent the sun from heating your home by placing insulated cellular shades over the windows. These are made of pleated materials that fold up like an accordion right at the top of the window or at the bottom, depending on how they are designed. The insulated version contains several layers in a honeycomb crisscross section, and some can be adjusted from the top, bottom, or both.

These shades also have the highest R-values out of all window coverings because air pockets in the cross-section act as insulators, reducing heat conduction through windows. Besides helping you reduce your energy bill, these can also increase your home’s resale value. 

Besides cellular shades, you can also consider getting window quilts to keep sunlight out. Window quilts open by unrolling and can fit snugly against the window trim on tracks or with attachments such as snaps and Velcro.

These can be difficult to operate, but if you get the hang of it, they can reduce your energy bills dramatically. 

Invest In Air Filters 

Air filters do more than just improve internal air quality. Clean ones can also make your fans more efficient by allowing more airflow.

A homeowner replaces an air filter to improve HVAC efficiency

So make sure you get those cleaned out regularly. Your cooling system will operate at its best. If you continue to use dirty filters way past their expiration date, your energy bill will suffer.

Maintain a Routine Maintenance Schedule 

A poorly maintained HVAC system is inefficient and consumes more energy to heat your home moderately. That is why besides ensuring your HVAC system is inspected after every season, make sure you also follow a routine maintenance schedule. 

A standard schedule looks something like this:

Air filters are replaced—as mentioned before, air filters remove dust from indoor air. However, if these are allowed to get dirty, your air conditioning unit will blow allergens throughout the building after passing through them. 

Some air filters are able to last for three months, but you should replace them monthly for optimal indoor air quality. This can reduce your energy costs by up to 10% since your HVAC system will not have to work as hard to cool each room.

Refrigerant levels are checked—air conditioning units have to be refilled with gas occasionally. The copper coils in the unit also contain refrigerant, which is what absorbs heat from the warm air that the unit sucks in.

If those levels are down, the compressor has to work harder to cool the air inside, which places more strain on the HVAC system, in turn increasing your energy bill. 

Fuel lines and connections are checked—the burner can accumulate soot. That is the part of the furnace where the air mixes with fuel and is burned. A lot of soot can reduce your system’s efficiency significantly and increase your electricity bill as well. 

Fix Damaged AC Ducting 

If your home was constructed within the last ten years, chances are its ductwork is sealed quite well. However, if your house is older than that, 40% of your cool air is probably escaping through gaps in the duct joints.

All of that cool air is going to waste, and your energy bill will rise as well, especially if your smart thermostat detects the change in temperature. Fixing ductwork is not an easy task. Hire a professional instead.

They will be able to determine weaknesses in your ductwork, such as splits, cracks, and bad connections. After the leaks are sealed, they will insulate them with fiberglass duct wrap. 

Plant Trees Outside Your Home 

By planting trees outside your house, you can reduce your energy bill significantly. Trees block sunlight, keeping your home cool. Also, consider planting a leafy tree over your air conditioner to prevent it from heating up, thus increasing efficiency.

Just make sure that leaves and branches do not touch the unit. The foliage will block airflow and can damage your AC irreparably.

Install an Energy-Efficient HVAC System 

With time, HVAC systems experience significant wear and tear, and their efficiency decreases as a result. At a certain point, frequent breakdowns and high energy bills should prompt you to invest in a brand new system.

However, before you go shopping for a new one, consult with experienced technicians regarding your home’s cooling and heating needs to ensure you select the right fit. 

Maintain Comfortable Humidity Levels 

The ideal indoor humidity level during summer is 30% to 45%. Anything above that, and your home will feel like a sauna.

An appropriately sized AC will correct this problem to a certain degree. Consider installing a separate humidifier that can keep indoor air dry and prevent your HVAC system from guzzling more energy.

Schedule HVAC Inspections Before the Season Starts

The last thing you want or need during the summer or winter is your HVAC breaking down. Besides making you uncomfortable, a malfunctioning system will also use up more energy and increase your energy bills.

Prevent this from happening by scheduling routine inspections. An HVAC professional can determine issues and conduct timely repairs before the entire thing breaks down. 

Work On Ventilation 

A well-sealed home doesn’t allow much ventilation, which can cost you in the long run. Ventilating your home in a controlled manner will maintain the temperature you want and ensure a steady flow of fresh air.

This is important because bodies are not the only source of heat in homes. Large appliances and electronic devices can also raise the temperature. 

Rather than accumulating, that heat will escape through vents which in turn will reduce strain on your HVAC system. A tightly sealed home will do the opposite.

Conclusion 

Your HVAC system is only as good as how it is used. The aforementioned tips can go a long way in helping reduce energy bills and keeping your family comfortable. Only use complex techniques after consulting with experienced technicians or electricians. DIY efforts can result in costly mistakes. 

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