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How your HVAC system impacts your home’s energy use

Monday, October 1, 2018

Heating and cooling can account for as much as half your home’s energy use, so it’s important to understand your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. The right choices can have a big impact on your energy bills and comfort—while there are many factors that determine your energy costs, we've highlighted a few that relate directly to HVAC:

  • Poor insulation/sealing: If your home is not properly sealed and insulated, your HVAC system will have to work harder—causing you to use more energy, even if your equipment is efficient. Leaky or poorly insulated ductwork could also increase humidity and discomfort in your home
  • Old equipment: If your heating and cooling system is more than 10 years old, consider replacing it with newer, ENERGY STAR® certified products. Older equipment may need costly repairs, and will perform less efficiently than newer models.
  • Temperature: Instead of keeping your home at a set temperature, adjust your thermostat according to your needs. Installing a smart thermostat will allow you to set your home's temperature on-the-go from a mobile device, further increasing your potential energy savings.

Make sure you measure up

Visit the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR Home Energy Yardstick, to compare your household’s energy use to others across the country. If your score is below five, that means you’re using and paying for more energy at home than most Americans.

Is it time for a tune-up?

Keeping your HVAC system properly maintained can prevent future problems and unwanted costs. An authorized contractor can perform seasonal check-ups to ensure your system is in proper working order. Many authorized contractors tend to get busier as winter and summer seasons approach, so consider scheduling appointments in the fall and spring to ensure regular maintenance. During a tune-up, your technician should:

  • Tighten electrical connections and measure voltage / current of the system’s motors. Faulty connections are not only dangerous, but can also shorten the lifespan of your equipment.
  • Lubricate all moving parts. Parts that lack lubrication cause friction in motors and lead to increased energy use.
  • Inspect the condensate drain in your central air conditioner, furnace and/or heat pump (when in cooling mode). An obstructed drain can affect indoor humidity levels, potentially leading to water damage in the house.
  • Check system controls to ensure proper and safe operation and shut-off capability.

How can you help?

While a tune-up should be completed by an authorized contractor, inspecting your system’s air filters once a month can make a huge difference in your equipment’s performance. By changing the filters regularly, you can reduce costs and damage to your equipment, prolonging its life and increasing your home’s comfort for years to come.

Consumers Energy offers rebates for heating and cooling, among other energy efficiency programs. Visit our website for more information and energy-saving tips.