Heating & Cooling (HVAC)

Heating and cooling your home accounts for about 43% of your monthly bill

Keeping the warm air inside during the winter months and keeping the hot air outside during the summer months not only helps you stay comfortable, it keeps your electric bill affordable. Consider taking action if any of the following statements apply:

  • Some of your rooms are too hot or cold. Inadequate air sealing or insufficient insulation could be the cause.
  • Your home has humidity problems, excessive dust, or rooms that never seem to get “comfortable.” Leaky or poorly insulated ductwork might be the cause.
  • Your heating and cooling equipment is more than 10 years old. Consider replacing it with newer, more efficient equipment.

Maintain to attain maximum efficiency

Keep me clean!

Dirt and neglect are the two biggest enemies of your home’s heating and cooling system. If you allow the dirt to pile up and don’t perform routine maintenance then you can be sure your HVAC is working harder than it needs. Two things you can do to stay on top of your system are:

Change air filters regularly: A small, unglamorous task like routinely changing the filters on your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system makes your unit run more efficiently – keeping your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. It also saves money. Dust and dirt trapped in a system’s air filter leads to several problems, including:

  • Reduced air flow in the home and up to 15 percent higher operating costs
  • At a minimum, change the filter every 3 months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool – wasting energy.
  • A clean filter will also prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system – leading to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.

Tune up your HVAC equipment: Proper maintenance from a qualified technician is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent future problems. Plan to check your system twice a year – at the beginning and end of daylight-saving time each spring and fall.

Thermostats: Do you have a programmable thermostat but aren’t quite sure how to use it? You’re not alone! Roughly 70 percent of homeowners who have these thermostats do not program them for maximum efficiency gains. Using a programmable thermostat allows flexibility and adds convenience, as temperatures will automatically return to more comfortable conditions before you wake or return home.

During winter months, every degree you raise your thermostat above 68, adds 3-5 percent to your heating costs. During summer months, every degree you lower your thermostat below 78, adds 3-5 percent to your cooling costs.

Air leaks and insulation: The exterior of your home – the outer walls, ceiling, windows and floor – is called the “envelope,” or “shell.”

Up to 25 percent of air is lost through small cracks and holes in your envelope! A well-sealed envelope, coupled with the right amount of insulation, can make a real difference on your utility bills.

Air ducts: ducts are used to distribute conditioned air throughout your house. Holes, leaks or poor construction can result in an inefficient system that has difficulty keeping the house comfortable.

  • Seal leaky ducts with mastic sealant or metal (foil) tape and insulating all the ducts that you can access such as those in the attic, crawlspace, basement and garage. Never use ‘duct tape.’ It doesn’t work well in these environments.
  • Also make sure the connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where the meet the floors, walls and ceiling.

Windows and doors can also be leaky culprits. There may be significant gaps and you may never know it! Oftentimes, it is not obvious if a window or door is leaking around the trim. There are quick and easy ways to locate leaks:

  • Perform a paper test — close the window on a piece of paper. If it easily moves back and forth this means your window could be tighter. This can be accomplished by adding thicker weather stripping.
  • Light an incense stick and hold it next to the seams or sash of the window. Watch the smoke to see if the smoke is pushed in a particular direction. If you see the smoke pushed one way or another, you probably have a leak.

Your attic, where most of your home’s insulation resides, is usually where you can find some of the largest opportunities to save energy in your home. It’s simple – insulation keeps your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

  • Insulation performance is measured by R-value – its ability to resist heat flow. Higher R-values mean more insulating power. Different R-values are recommended for walls, attics, basements and crawlspaces, depending on where you live.
  • To get the biggest savings, the easiest place to add insulation is usually in your attic. The recommended insulation level for most attics is R-38.

Second to the attic, the basement or crawlspace is one of the largest opportunities to save energy in your home. By sealing and insulating those spaces, you can prevent cold floors and reduce drafts from below to keep your home comfortable – and save you money.

Can’t, or don’t want someone to come to your home? No problem. You can assess the efficiency of your home with an online tool from Touchstone Energy. Use the Home Efficiency Analysis Tool to find new ways to save!

One of the best ways to identify leaks and measure the effectiveness of your insulation is by consulting with a professional energy auditor.