How to Cut your Heating and Cooling Bills
If you’ve ever owned a home or paid energy bills while renting, you know that energy can be a significant chunk of your overall living expenses. The average U.S. household spent $3,727 on household energy costs in 2012.
Furthermore, as much as half of energy costs go towards heating and cooling. Let’s take a look at how we can slice your heating and cooling bills.
1. Lower your thermostat in the winter
For each degree you lower your thermostat, you have the potential of decreasing your heating expense by 5%. That means that simply lowering the temperature from 72 to 68 degrees (the average range that most people feel comfortable at) could lower your heating bills by up to 20%.
2. Purchase an Energy Star programmable digital thermostat
According to Energy Star, installing an Energy Star programmable digital thermostat can cut your heating and cooling costs by $180 per year. A programmable thermostat enables you to regulate your household temperatures periodically without having to constantly remind yourself, even while you’re away. This can help you lower your bills in two ways:
- While you are away: You can set your thermostat to change temperatures while you are at work. For instance, in the winter you could set your thermostat for 60 degrees from the hours of 9AM to 5PM. Similarly, in the summer you could set your thermostat for 80 degrees during those times.
- While you sleep: In the winter, you can use an extra blanket and/or comforter to stay warm. I have been able to go as low as 62 degrees at night and still stay plenty warm. In the summer, try using only a sheet and leave the windows open.
3. Seal your Air Ducts
This can lower your heating and cooling expenses by 20% if done properly, in addition to adding to the overall air quality of your dwelling. You can use metal tape to seal off joints where your cuts meet. Check out the Energy Star guide to properly sealing your ducts.
4. Seal Home Leaks and Add Attic Insulation
This can also lower your HVAC expenses by another 20%. I recently purchased cellulose insulation and rented a insulation blowing machine from Home Depot (free with 24 bags of purchased insulation). I was able to add a foot of insulation to my entire attic (which previously had very little) for about $350. I expect to recoup my costs with each passing winter. Here is a DIY Guide to Sealing Air Leaks and Adding Attic Insulation. Also, make sure that your windows, doors, light fixtures, and external electrical outlets are sealed from allowing external air to seep in.
5. Purchase an Energy Star Qualified Furnace
Which will save about 15% in heating costs over a non-qualified version. Compare similar models and run the math on how long it will take you to recoup the added expense for an Energy Star model versus a standard model, based on your heating bills. If you think you’ll realistically be living in your home long enough to warrant the step up in price, pull the trigger.
6. Be Smart with your Water Heater
I recently set my water heater temperature slightly past the ‘vacation’ level, barely into the ‘warm’ category. I have found that even in the winter, this has resulted in very hot water for showers. If you also have to turn on the cold water when taking a shower, your water heater is probably set at too high of a temperature.
7. Regularly Maintain your Furnace, AC, and Duct-work
This includes changing the air filter monthly during heavy use months. If you have older machines, you will want to have them tuned with the earliest signs of inefficiency. Efficient running machines can save a bunch on your bills.
8. Get a Low Flow Showerhead
A 2.5 gallon-per-minute (gpm) unit can literally save a family of four $260 per year in heating costs alone vs. an older 5.5 gallon unit. That’s a whopping 640% ROI in one year! Not to mention the positive environmental impact. The Delta low flow showerhead can switch between 2.5 gpm and a super economical 1.8 gpm. I own it and love it.