It’s the time of year again when we start thinking about how much it is going to cost to keep cozy warm until spring returns, and how we can keep those costs down.  Lower utility bills aren’t hard to achieve; usually it’s just a habit change or a few minutes of work. Additionally, many of these efficiency boosters work when it’s time to turn on the air conditioner as well.

Up to 50% of the energy your home uses is for heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. By taking the right steps, you can increase your efficiency up to 30% and save hundreds of dollars a year.
Some easy steps that pay for themselves quickly:

  • Change your air filters.  You may have to change them as often as monthly, or you may be able to change them as little as every three months.  It’s a good idea to take a look at them monthly to see how dirty they are; if they have visible dirt, it’s time for a change.  Write a reminder on a calendar so you don’t forget. Something as simple as changing the air filter will allow air to flow freely through your system and keep your system from working harder to force air through a dirty filter.  Harder working systems cost more to run.
  • Have your heating and cooling system tuned-up by a professional.  This keeps your system from getting too much build-up of dirt and dust, which can cause it to break down and can shorten its lifespan. An inspection will also allow a technician to pinpoint any parts that may need to be replaced to reduce the possibility of unexpected failure.
  • Install and use a programmable thermostat.  Most homes built in the past 20 years already have a programmable thermostat installed, but if you don’t use it, a programmable thermostat is no more efficient than a traditional one.  It only takes about 15 minutes in the fall, and another 15 minutes in the spring to lower your utility bill for months at a time. It’s estimated by ENERGYSTAR that if you are using a programmable thermostat correctly, you’ll save about $180 a year.
  • Clean and seal your ducts.  Dirty ducts can circulate allergens, dust, and bacteria through your home.  Leaky ducts, which are in about 90% of homes, can account for up to 20% of the heated or cooled air in your home floating out through the ducts and never making it to its destination.  Sealing ducts to ensure that all the air makes it where it’s supposed to is a wise investment in home comfort and efficiency.
  • Conduct a home energy assessment.  You can do it yourself or pay a professional to conduct the assessment.  You will find energy-wasters throughout your home, such as air leaks, and be able to correct them.
  • Use a humidifier.  Humidified air feels warmer, so if your home’s air is in the optimal 40-50% range, you’ll be able to lower your thermostat at least three degrees with no reduction in comfort.
  • Use your ceiling fans to move warm air where you want it.  The blades should move clockwise to push the warmer air down to you.  Switch them in the spring to move warm air away from you.