Tips for Reducing Heating and Air-Conditioning Costs
By Laura Bickle | 2 minute read
“The first step is to have a basic understanding of how a house works. Windows tend to be the most common source of drafts.”
Photo: Finn Reynolds
Where should homeowners start in terms of reducing heating and air-conditioning costs?
The first step is to have a basic understanding of how a house works. Windows tend to be the most common source of drafts. On a cold day, feel around the edge of the window. If you feel a draft, you have an air leak. If you notice condensation on your windows, you either have too much humidity in your house, or a very cold window. Cold windows themselves can create a draft sensation: As heated air touches a cold window, it cools and drops creating air convection within the home.
When it comes to energy efficiency, windows play an important role in reducing the costs of heating and cooling a home.
What can be done about inefficient windows?
It costs so much to replace windows that they have to be very bad for you to have any chance of recouping your investment through energy savings. Oftentimes, as long as they’re double-pane windows, you are better off with a window repair, sealing them with caulking, or putting plastic over them in the wintertime.
What other sources of drafts can affect efficiency?
Doors that are installed improperly, weather seals that are broken, openings around plumbing and ventilation (stove hoods, bathroom fans, electrical outlets) — anywhere where there’s penetration through the air barrier is a possible source of an air leak. Caulking and weather-sealing tape can help in many of these cases.
Doors that are not properly installed or sealed can cause air leaks, which can drive up heating and cooling costs.
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Can curtains and rugs play a role in energy efficiency?
Curtains can help save energy in summer if they’re reflecting light back out to prevent overheating. In winter, rugs on a cold basement floor can make you more comfortable so you don’t have to jack the temperature up.
What is the most efficient temperature setting?
The most efficient setting is off. The next most efficient setting is low if you’re heating and high if you’re cooling. The less heat or AC you inject into your house, the less you’re going to lose. Consider a programmable thermostat, particularly for poorly insulated homes with air leaks, where turning down the heat when no one is home would have a greater impact than in a well-insulated, airtight home.
Any other tips?
Keep your heating and air-conditioning equipment properly maintained. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance, filter replacement and duct cleaning, and have it inspected. New furnaces are more efficient than older ones, but we would love to see people transition towards electric or heat pumps, which are several times more efficient than standard forced-air furnaces.