Year-round comfort at home depends on your heating and cooling system and whether you realize it or not, nearly half of your energy spending is devoted to it. To ensure that you’re getting the most for your dollars, it’s important to perform basic heating and cooling system maintenance, including steps to assess and improve the efficiency of the system and your home overall.
- Check and change your air filters regularly: Heating and cooling system filters should be checked every month, with extra-special attention during heavy-use seasons. A dirty filter slows down air flow and wastes energy by making your system work harder, and can also lead to expensive mechanical maintenance or even failure if dirt and dust are allowed to build up. At the very least, change the filters every three months, and select the most sophisticated replacement models available for optimum dust screening..
Give HVAC equipment an annual tune-up: Just like your car, a heating and cooling system needs annual maintenance to keep on running efficiently. So 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 its settings to match your away-from-home schedule, you can save around $180 in annual heating and cooling energy costs.
- Seal all heating and cooling ducts: Did you know that up to 20 percent of potential comfort escapes through poorly sealed and insulated ductwork? Ducts running through the attic, crawlspace, garage and unheated basement should be first on your maintenance list; use duct sealant (mastic) or metal-backed tape (never duct tape, as it doesn’t have the required staying power) to seal all seams and connections. Follow with an insulation wrap, and repeat the process with ducts that you can access in the heated or cooled parts of the house. for more details.
- Improve home insulation: When correctly installed, every type of insulation contributes to comfort and reduces energy bills. Its 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.
- Consider upgrading your system: A furnace or air conditioner that’s over 10 years old may be due for replacement with an ENERGY STAR qualified model. Add the programmable thermostat and change those filters regularly, and you could find yourself saving up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs thanks to this basic heating and cooling system maintenance.