September 21, 2020

Energy Audit Practices to Lower Home HVAC Costs

With a home energy audit or assessment, you can identify shortcomings that are raising upkeep costs. Many aspects of these inspections focus on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, but there are other facets too, including appliances, water usage, and lighting. A professional energy assessment is highly recommended when you move into a new home and about every five years or so. Professional inspections can involve infrared cameras, blower door tests, gas testing, and other phases that are not practical for most homeowners. That said, there are some energy audit practices that homeowners can apply on their own to lower their costs.

Invest in a Programmable or Smart Thermostat

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average American home still using a conventional thermostat can save 5% to 15% on home cooling and heating by upgrading to a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats can save this much because they allow you to conserve energy when it is not needed—such as while sleeping or at work or school—and without compromising your comfort. Your programable thermostat could, for instance, dial in your preferred temperature while you are still commuting home. Smart thermostats do tend to cost more, but they can learn your behaviors, which makes programming them more convenient. Furthermore, they can interface with a wide range of other smart home devices, such as window shades and ceiling fans.

Set Your Thermostat to Auto and Monitor Temperatures

Learn your thermostat. Set the initial programming as best you can, and set the thermostat to Auto. Let the blower run as needed, and avoid manually engaging and disengaging. If you really want to save, maintain a home heating and cooling log through which you monitor temperatures and track your utility bills. Being able to compare August of this year to last August can be invaluable. While this all may seem a little too painstaking for some, it really can mean the difference between the EPA’s estimated 5% and 15%.

Address Your Insulation

Adequate insulation helps maintain cooled and heated air and thus keeps your costs lower. It is not uncommon for older homes to lack insulation in the walls. This is something to consider if you live in an older home, but be mindful that inspecting wall and ceiling insulation is best left to the pros. You can, however, inspect insulation in attics, crawl spaces and similar areas. Look for insulation that is shifted out of position, compressed, moisture ridden or otherwise damaged, and if you discover it, replace it as soon as possible since it can have a dramatic effect on how often your system needs to run.

Assess the Air Sealing of Your Home

Most homes experience a certain amount of air leakage, which is also referred to as natural ventilation. Modern homes are incredibly well-sealed whereas older homes are more prone to leakage. The most common problem areas are doors and windows. You should inspect your entire home outside and inside. Be sure to focus on the foundation, crawl space, attic, vents, cracks, and so on. Inside, you can shut the blower down and test doors and windows using a candle. If you discover problems, you should take temporary measures, such as door socks and painter’s plastic. More permanent measures can include caulking, weather-stripping, storm windows, storm doors, crawl space encapsulation and so forth.

Ensure Suitable and Efficient Mechanical Ventilation

Mechanical ventilation encompasses your air handler and ductwork and perhaps other aspects of your HVAC system. In modern well-sealed homes, strong mechanical ventilation is imperative to ensure that pollution levels do not rise to unsafe levels. In all homes with central air, mechanical ventilation is crucial to ensure that conditioned air is distributed well and thus does not lead to cold spots and warm spots, which can affect either you or the thermostat. Unless you have a zoned system that allows for it, ensure that all return vents are open and unobstructed. If you ever notice any uneven cooling or heating, then you should schedule an inspection of your ventilation system.

Change Your Air Filter on a Regular Basis

Your HVAC air filter at the supply vent is there to limit the amount of dust and other particles that get into your system. That air filter traps particles, which then causes restricted airflow. Reduced airflow leads to increased pressure in the system, which causes it to work harder and thus use more energy. Rather than rely on a guideline—such as every three months—you should inspect your filter on a monthly basis and change it out whenever you see an accumulation of dust.

Upgrade High-Use Rooms With Ceiling Fans

All rooms where moisture is present, such as kitchens and bathrooms, should have strong, well-cleaned exhaust fans. These will extract moisture and impurities as quickly as possible. You should also consider installing ceiling fans in all rooms that are used often for extended periods. This includes living rooms, family rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens. Ceiling fans serve a couple of purposes. They help to distribute air more evenly within a room, and in the warmer months, they create the wind chill effect, which lets you set the thermostat higher. In fact, the EPA estimates as much as seven degrees.

Schedule Seasonal HVAC Maintenance

A common mistake homeowners make is taking a break-fix approach to their HVAC systems, which can seem like savings in the short-term but is usually far more expensive in the end. Regular maintenance is relatively inexpensive, and many heating and cooling companies offer maintenance plans that reward your loyalty with even better savings. It is generally recommended that you schedule an AC tune-up in early spring and a furnace tune-up in early fall. This will ensure better efficiency throughout the high-usage seasons and help you avoid any major repairs.

Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned

The National Air Duct Cleaners Association recommends having your air ducts cleaned every three to five years. How often is best for you will depend on the size of your home, the number of occupants, the number of pets, and so forth. Having your air ducts cleaned is important to ensuring good indoor air quality, but what does it have to do with HVAC efficiency? Well, air duct leakage can be a costly problem that can be tough to identify, and the cleaning process is an excellent opportunity for a trained HVAC technician to inspect the ducts and test them for leaks.

Your Home Energy Efficiency Experts

Since 2002, White Mechanical, Inc. has served homeowners and businesses in Foothill Ranch and throughout the surrounding areas. We are members in good standing of the American Air Conditioning Contractors of America and proud to employ NATE-certified HVAC technicians. Our company is a Lennox Premier Dealer that’s BBB accredited with an A+ rating. In 2020, we earned the Best of HomeAdvisor award. Our services include installation, replacement, repair, and maintenance of heating and cooling equipment, including furnaces, heat pumps, air conditioners, packaged systems, and thermostats.

Call us today or contact us online to learn more about our services or schedule an appointment.

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