When temperatures drop below freezing or rise to the point of sweltering, does it seem like your wallet develops leaks? If keeping your home comfortable year-round taxes your budget or tempts you to forgo comfort, you need to find a better way.
Try implementing simple methods to lower your heating and cooling bills.
Save on Air Conditioning
If you didn't have to heat or cool your home, you could easily cut your energy bills in half, as the Department of Energy points out. Few people want to return to the days before air conditioning and central heat, however. The problem, then, is balancing comfort with affordability. Try implementing these cooling strategies to save money while keeping cool.
Raise the AC temperature. Most experts suggest setting your thermostat to about 78 degrees when you're at home and around 85 degrees when you will be gone four hours or longer. For every degree higher you set the thermostat, you may save 1 to 3 percent on your energy bill.
Get a tune-up. As much as you may hate to spend the money, having your central air or window air conditioning unit serviced before the start of the cooling season will keep it operating efficiently and help ensure it doesn't break down at the worst moment possible.
Create wind chill. Moving air always makes you feel a little cooler. Purchase, install and run fans to help cool off even with the thermostat set higher. For ceiling fans, set the blades to spin counterclockwise, creating a cooling downward breeze. Turn off fans when you leave the room for more than a few minutes to conserve energy.
Take advantage of cool nights and mornings. If the temperature outside is lower than inside, turn off the AC, open the doors and windows, and allow the outside air to come in. Not only is fresh air healthy, but you can keep your house from heating up too early in the day.
Develop a green thumb. Trees and shrubs beautify your property and, when planted strategically, help shade your home. Shade means less need for summer cooling. Also, plant shade trees or shrubs around your AC unit so that it doesn't have to work as hard.
Block your windows. Save soaking up the sun for time spent outdoors. Inside, draw curtains to block out the sun. Look into window film to block sunlight and insulate the glass. Blinds, shades, shutters and other options exist as well.
Save on Heating
Don't let winter's frigid temperatures make your energy bills soar sky-high. Focus on a few strategies that keep the cold at bay while preventing the heat from leaking out of your home.
Lower your heating thermostat. When heating your home, keep your thermostat set at 68 degrees. At night and when you leave the house for four hours or longer, try setting it for between 55 and 60 degrees (if you have pets, you may want it closer to 60).
Have your furnace serviced. Even if it seems to work fine, having your furnace or heating system checked and serviced at the start of every heating season helps prevent unexpected breakdowns and ensures it operates efficiently.
Reverse your ceiling fans. Using ceiling fans isn't just for summer. In the winter, reverse the ceiling fan so the blades spin clockwise. This forces the warm air down as it sucks the cool air up toward the ceiling.
Install storm windows. Your windows are responsible for losing a tremendous amount of energy. New, energy-efficient windows are best if you can afford them. If you can't, install storm windows (and doors) in the winter to help prevent heat loss.
Get a snake. Don't like snakes? You'll like this one: Draft-stopping snakes fit along the bottom edge of a door to prevent drafts. Even a rolled-up towel will work.
Year-Round Heating and Cooling Efficiency
Change your filters. Changing HVAC filters is critical. Changing your filters will prevent dust and dirt from clogging the system and causing inefficiency.
Learn to use caulk and weatherstripping. Check for drafts around windows, doors, and places where wiring, plumbing and other items enter the home. Caulk and weatherstripping will stop much of the air leakage. Use expanding foam insulation where appropriate.
Seal your ductwork. Duct tape only goes so far. Hire a professional or seal your ducts with sealant and special tape to increase your energy efficiency.
Add some insulation. Unless your home was built recently, it may not have the insulation it requires. Insulation matters in both hot and cold weather. Add insulation, especially in the attic, to lower your heating and cooling bills. Calculate your insulation value by measuring the thickness and multiplying by the material's R-value. Compare to the Department of Energy's guidelines.
Get a new thermostat. A programmable thermostat can save you a significant amount of money by automatically adjusting the temperature according to your schedule.
Have an energy audit performed. A professional energy audit identifies where your home is losing heat. Many local energy companies offer free or low-cost audits to their customers.
Many people find it challenging to set their thermostat higher in the summer and cooler in the winter. Once your body adjusts, the new temperature won't be as difficult to maintain. Consider adjusting the setting by 2 degrees at a time over a period of weeks. Before you know it, you will be used to the new normal and enjoying every dollar you save.