Heating and cooling can account for almost half your energy bills. But there are many ways to reduce them. One way is to be vigilant and reduce consumption – such as keep thermostat temperatures a few degrees away from ideal or use less hot water. This may help you see a small but significant decrease in your utility bill.
To save more on heating/cooling bills you need to step back, take a holistic view of your energy consumption and ask yourself a few questions. Are you using the cleanest, most inexpensive energy source? Where is your energy consumption the highest? Can you reduce it in the long-term if not now?
Here are ten things you can do to save on your electricity bills:
1. Invest in your home
You can do simple things like seal wall and window cavities using caulk. You can also insulate your walls and roof, the biggest surfaces that let heat out or in to your home.
If you can afford it, replace your old appliances as newer models are more energy efficient. Get an air conditioner or refrigerator with an Energy Star certification. Use energy star certified ceiling fans or small individual fans where you can focus on the person needing the cool air – say when you’re baking in a hot kitchen.
2. Go for Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors
Window shades or awnings can reduce heat gain on south/west facing windows. Blinds, draperies, window films, mesh screens, shutters can also help with this. Storm panels on your windows can reduce winter heat loss.
When buying your home’s exterior doors, choose ones with energy saving materials (Eg: multiple paned glass, fiberglass, wood cladding etc.) and fenestration certifications from the manufacturers/ Energy Star certifications. Most heat loss in exterior doors is around the edges of the door rather than through the door itself. So check for the any information the door manufacturer provides about weather-stripping, water/air-tight seals, accurate fits, warranties etc.
3. Remove Energy Vampires
Also known as phantom load, this is when electronic devices drain small amounts of electricity from their outlets because they are in standby mode Eg: Your remote red light blinking even when you aren’t using it as it is on standby waiting for you to use it.
Some common culprits are:
- gas ranges
- electric toothbrushes/shavers and many more.
Use smart power strips to connect your electronics. These turn the devices completely off as otherwise they still draw power.
4. Know your Provider
If your state has multiple providers and you are allowed to opt for one with the most competitive prices then do so. If your energy company offers less rates during non-peak hours try and schedule your heating or cooling appliance use during that time. Eg: air-conditioning, heat pumps
5. Use Setback Thermostats
Take advantage of the programmable feature and set it to less ideal temperatures when your home in unoccupied.
6. Save on Water Heating
Water heating typically accounts for 18% of your utility bill. Things like insulating your hot water storage tank/hot water pipes will help.
You can also consider alternatives such as:
- Solar water heaters – these are installed on your roof and use clean renewable energy to heat your water.
- Tankless water heater – these heat large quantities of water on demand and do not have the storage facility. They are not cheap, but are energy efficient and last long.
- Drain-water heat recovery systems – when building or renovating your home you can consider adding this system. This system extracts the heat from the water you shower, bath or washed with dish or clothes. This heat is then reused to warm the incoming fresh water, recycling the heat energy used.
7. Home heating fuel
If you can, use natural gas for heating your home as it is affordable and clean. Clean your furnace air filters and replace when necessary.
8. Switch to a Cool Roof!
If you live in a warm area, consider a cool roof. A cool roof reflects more sunlight than it absorbs. It contains reflective material such as tiles or cool roof coating paint. Roof shingles coated with the reflective paint are also available.
If you have a flat or shallow roof, you can also consider installing a green roof. Green roofs are expensive and require maintenance, but provide good passive insulation and are becoming more popular as they are aesthetic. They also reduce storm water runoff.
9. Consider investing in a solar heating system
If you live in a sunny area, consider a solar heating system. It will be cost-effective in the long run compared to using more expensive fossil fuels. Some states even offer tax exemptions for this investment. Solar heating systems can power from 40-80% of your home heating needs including water heating. You will need to check if your home design allows for the solar system to be installed on it, related zoning issues etc.
10. Install a passive Geothermal HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) system
Geothermal Heating and Cooling is also called Geoexchange, Geothermal, or Ground Source Heating and Cooling. Many eco-friendly homes use this system.
Four to six feet below ground, temperatures remain relatively constant year-round. A geothermal system inserts a series of small pipes into the ground. These pipes transfer heat to and from your home; in this process heat is not created, it is transported therefore no fuel is burned. There is also an indoor handling unit attached to the pipes. This system uses very less electricity to run, emits no greenhouse gases, is efficient, low-maintenance and can last for decades.
Geothermal HVAC systems have been in use for more than 60 years in the U.S. and beyond. They may be expensive to install; however some states offer tax credits for installing a Geoexchange system
These were ten interesting things that you can do that will really make a difference to your heating and cooling bills and for a very long time too. Consult with a professional in cases where you need more information to check if this is doable for you!