Home Insulation, Heating and Cooling Efficiency Tips

A checklist of must-haves for comfort and savings

Your heating and cooling system is responsible for your year-round comfort. Whether you realize it or not, nearly half of your energy spending is devoted to the heating and cooling system.

To ensure that you're getting the most for your dollars, take steps now to assess and improve the efficiency of the heating and cooling system and your home insulation overall.

Give HVAC heating and cooling system equipment an annual tune up.  Just like that valuable piece of machinery in your driveway, a heating and cooling system needs annual maintenance to keep on running efficiently. Plan to have a contractor pay pre-season calls (spring for cooling, fall for heating) to address elements in ENERGY STAR's Maintenance Checklist.

Install a programmable thermostat.  By programming the thermostat settings to match your away-from-home schedule, you can save around $100 in annual energy costs. If you have a heat pump, be sure to choose a set back thermostat designed for that system to avoid bringing on the heat pumps more costly backup heat.

Improving Heating And Cooling EfficiencySeal all heating and cooling ducts.  Up to 20 percent of potential comfort escapes through poorly sealed and insulated ductwork. Ducts running through the attic, crawlspace, garage and an unheated basement should be first on your maintenance list. To seal ducts in those areas, use duct sealant (mastic) or metal-backed tape rated UL 181. After properly sealing the ducts, follow with an insulation wrap, and repeat the process with ducts that you can access in the heated or cooled parts of your house.

Never use duct tape to seal ducts!  Run-of-the-mill duct tape doesn't have the required staying power to seal all seams and connections and will dry up and fall off with months of installation. 

Improve home insulation.  When correctly installed, every type of insulation contributes to comfort and reduces energy bills. Insulation's performance is measured by R-value, the ability to resist heat flow. The higher the value, the stronger the insulating power. R-value requirements vary for different areas of the home, and the climate you live in will determine overall needs. Refer to the U.S. Department of Energy's Insulation Recommendations for more details.

Upgrade your heating and cooling system.  A furnace or air conditioner that's over 10 years old may be due for replacement with an ENERGY STAR qualified furnace or air conditioning system. Add the programmable thermostat and change heating and cooling filters regularly, and you could find yourself saving up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs.

Improve air quality and humidity.  When added to your HVAC system, a whole-house air cleaner helps your family breathe more easily and your heating and cooling equipment work more efficiently. The Aprilaire Model 5000, for example, clears the air of most airborne pollen, mold, dust and virus-sized particles, killing bacteria and spores and trapping the rest. Hardworking, energy saving humidifiers and dehumidifiers, which, depending on your climate, can also add comfort and improve health while protecting the overall structure of your home.

Planning for heating and cooling efficiency throughout the year, along with making sure you have the right amount of home insulation can yield plenty of energy savings, benefiting both your wallet and your comfort!