Heating is the single largest household energy expense, accounting for up to 50 percent of annual energy bills in colder regions of the country. In fact, the average American household spends more than $2,000 a year on energy bills.
With heating costs projected to rise nearly 40 percent this winter, the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) and its partners have joined together to launch the 2 Degree Pledge campaign to educate homeowners about the steps they can take to maximize the efficiency of their home heating systems to reduce their energy bills — without compromising their comfort.
With just a couple degrees of change — whether it’s simply changing your system’s filter or installing new equipment — you can save energy, save money and help save the Earth.
Five Steps to Saving Energy…By Degrees
Homeowners can improve their heating equipment efficiency by taking one or more of the following steps:
1. Get a Checkup By a Qualified Contractor.
The only way to ensure the optimal performance of an air conditioning or heat pump system is to make sure it is installed correctly and then maintain it properly. A system that is not installed or maintained properly will result in reduced efficiency, less humidity control, and deliver less comfort. Look for an HVAC contractor with technicians certified by North American Technician Excellence (NATE).
FACT: Efficiency is more than the rating on the equipment. If a heating and cooling system is not properly sized, matched and installed, it could up to 50 percent less efficient that its performance rating. More than half of all heating systems in U.S. homes do not perform to their rated efficiency as a result of improper installation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
2. Upgrade Equipment.
One the fastest ways to reduce your energy bills is to replace old equipment. A new system is a “green” system because it will use less energy, especially if it is installed correctly. Well before energy prices skyrocketed, heating and cooling equipment manufacturers were making highly efficient systems for homes. With the breadth of “green” product choices available today, consumers can easily make the right investment for their budgets.
FACT: One in four furnaces in U.S. homes is more than 20 years old.
3. Install a Programmable Thermostat and Use It Properly.
Using a programmable thermostat properly can save about $180 a year on home energy bills. By adjusting the temperature merely two degrees, homeowners can save 10 percent on energy bills, without sacrificing their comfort. Set back thermostats when when consumers leave home for the day can result in significant energy savings, with no reduction in comfort.
FACT: About 75 percent of North American homes do not have programmable thermostats.
4. Change Filter.
Replacing your system's filter once every one to two months is one of the easiest ways to reduce your home's energy costs. A dirty filter can greatly reduce a system's efficiency by causing it to work harder to draw in air.
FACT: Energy cost savings can be 10 times the initial filter cost for a standard pleated filter and four to five times the initial filter cost for higher efficiency final filters. This means filters can pay for themselves by helping to maintain the system’s optimal efficiency.
5. Seal Ducts/Windows and Insulate Walls.
The harder equipment has to work to heat a home, the higher the energy bills. Although windows, doors, and outside walls contribute to air leakage, the biggest holes are usually hidden from view and connect the house to the attic, crawl space, or basement. Reducing air leakage by sealing ducts and windows typically costs less than $200 for the average home.
FACT: Excess air leakage in homes can increase heating and cooling bills by 30 percent. Gaps and compressed areas of insulation can cut the energy-saving potential of insulation by over 25 percent.
Pledging to be part of the solution by making smart decisions regarding your home heating and cooling systems is a win-win proposition for consumers and the environment.