Heating and CoolingHeating and cooling your home uses more energy and
drains more energy dollars than any other system in your home. Typically, 44%
of your utility bill goes for heating and cooling. No matter what kind of
heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system you have in your house, you
can save money and increase comfort by properly maintaining and upgrading your
equipment. Remember, though, an energy efficient furnace or air-conditioner
alone will not have as great an impact on your energy bills as using the whole
house approach. By combining proper equipment maintenance and upgrades with
appropriate insulation, weatherization and thermostat setting, you can cut
your energy bills in half.
All major appliances including gas furnaces, boilers, air conditioners and
heat pumps sold in California meet the Title-24 energy efficiency "standards."
If you are thinking about purchasing a new central furnace, please check out
Database that lists the most energy-efficient models. This database will
eventually be interactive allowing you to compare models.
Set your thermostat as low as it is comfortable.
Clean or replace filters on furnaces once a month.
Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed;
make sure they're not blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes.
Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans wisely; in just one hour,
these fans can pull out a houseful of warmed or cooled air. Turn fans off as
soon as they have done the job.
Keep draperies and shades open on south-facing windows during the
heating season to allow sunlight to enter your home; close them at night to
reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
- Close an unoccupied room that is isolated from the rest of the house
such as in a corner and turn down the thermostat or turn off the heating for
that room or zone. Do not, however, turn the heating off if it adversely
affects the rest of your system.
Heat PumpsIf you use electricity to heat your home, consider
installing an energy efficient heat pump system. Heat pumps are the most
efficient form of electric heating in moderate climates, providing three times
more heating than the equivalent amount of energy they consume in electricity.
There are three types of heat pumps: air-to-air, water source and ground
source. They collect heat from the air, water or ground outside your home and
concentrate it for use inside. Heat pumps do double duty as a central air
conditioner. They can also cool your home by collecting the heat inside your
house and effectively pumping it outside. A heat pump can trim the amount of
electricity you use for heating as much as 30% to 40%.
Heat Pump Tips
Gas and Oil SystemsIf your furnace is old, consider updating it,
preferably with a model using natural gas. Electrical energy is about three
and a half times more expensive than energy from natural gas; that's why
central natural gas furnaces are the most common heating method in California
Gas furnaces are rated for efficiency with an Annual Fuel Utilization
Efficiency number, or an AFUE. According to the state's Energy Efficiency
Standards, Title 24, the minimum AFUE for central furnace systems now sold in
California is 0.78, which means that 78 percent of the fuel used by the
furnace actually reaches your home's duct work as heat.
The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the furnace. AFUE numbers in
today's furnaces range from 0.78 to around 0.90. If you are thinking about
purchasing a new central furnace, please check out our Appliance Database that
lists the most energy-efficient models.
Gas Furnace Tips
Don't block registers, vents or heating units with furniture or drapes.
That makes your furnace work harder and uses more energy.
Consider installing a programmable thermostat. You can save as much as
10% a year on your heating and cooling bills by simply turning your
thermostat back 10% to 15% for 8 hours with an automatic setback or
- Using a programmable thermostat you can adjust the times you turn on the
heating or air-conditioning according to a pre-set schedule. As a result,
you don't operate the equipment as much when you are asleep or when the
house or part of the house is not occupied. Programmable thermostats can
store and repeat multiple daily setting (six or more temperature setting a
day) that you can manually override without affecting the rest of the daily
or weekly program. When purchasing a new thermostat, look for the ENERGY
STAR label (www.energystar.gov) and one that allows you to easily use two
separate programs; an "advanced recovery" feature that can be programmed to
reach the desired temperature at a specific time; and a hold feature that
temporarily overrides the setting without deleting preset
It might surprise you to know that buying a bigger room air-conditioning
unit won't necessarily make you feel more comfortable during the hot summer
months. In fact, a room air conditioner that's too big for the area it is
supposed to cool will perform less efficiently and less effectively than a
smaller, properly sized unit. This is because room units work better if they
run for relatively long periods of time than if they are continually,
switching off and on. Longer run times allow air conditioners to maintain a
more constant room temperature. Running longer also allows them to remove a
larger amount of moisture from the air, which lowers humidity and, more
importantly, makes you feel more comfortable.
Sizing is equally important for central air-conditioning systems, which
need to be sized by professionals. If you have a central air system in your
home, set the fan to shut off at the same time as the cooling unit
(compressor). In other words, don't use the system's central fan to provide
circulation but instead use circulating fans in individual rooms.
SEER is the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. SEER rates the efficiency
during the cooling season. Look for a SEER rating of 12 or above.
Evaporative CoolersEvaporative coolers may be installed as an
alternative to air conditioning, particularly in climates with very dry air.
Evaporative coolers provide mechanical cooling to a building by either direct
contact of air with water (direct evaporative cooler) or a combination of a
first-stage heat exchanger to pre-cool the air and a second stage with direct
air contact with water (indirect/direct evaporative cooler).
Whole house fans help cool your home by pulling cool air through the
house and exhausting warm air through the attic. They are effective when
operated at night and when the outside air temperature is cooler than the
Set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the summer. The
less difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your
overall cooling bill will be.
Don't set your thermostat at a colder temperature setting than normal
when you turn on your air conditioner. It will not cool your home any faster
and could result in excessive cooling and therefore unnecessary expense.
Set the fan speed on high except in very humid weather. When it's humid
set the fan speed on low. You'll get better cooling.
Consider ceiling fans to spread the cooled air more effectively through
your home without greatly increasing your power use.
Don't place lamps or TV sets near your air conditioning thermostat.
- Plant trees or shrubs to shade air-conditioning units but not to block
the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses as much as 10% less
electricity than the same one operating in the sun.
(--Exerpts from the California Energy Commission's
Consumer Tips and the US Department of Energy's Energy
Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse (EREC) - Energy
Savers: Tips on Saving Energy & Money at Home.)