Great Savings #45 – Save On Heating and Air Conditioning


Older homes tend to be less efficient.

Are you spending too much on heating and cooling? To improve your odds take a look at the following ideas.

According to the US Department of Energy heating and air conditioning make up about 43 percent of a typical monthly utility bill—in other words, almost half. Though local climate and living conditions can severely impact the various options available to save power and money, almost everyone can do something. Here are 15 ideas to get started:


(1) Turn down the thermostat in winter, turn it up in summer. No matter whether you’re heating or cooling, the issue of energy consumption comes down to a battle pitching your house’s interior temperature with the air temperature of the great outdoors. The higher the difference in temperature, the harder your furnace or air conditioner must work. When it works more you spend more. When it works less you save money. It’s really that simple.


It's cold out.

Winter takes a toll on most every heating budget.

(2) Get a programmable thermostat. If you cover with enough blankets at night you can get by with less heat. If you are out of the house several hours during the day, why leave the air conditioner or furnace on? Install and use a programmable thermostat. Set it to turn down heat or air conditioning automatically overnight, during work hours, or whenever you’re normally out of the house.


This is Great Savings Tip #45 - Save on Heating and Air Conditioning.(3) Get an energy audit for your home. In some areas you may qualify for a free energy audit. Check with your local utility. An audit will point out your homes weakest points in terms of its energy consumption. The audit may show your home is fine as is, or it will point out various inefficiencies  and then list steps you can to take to improve them.


Proper attic insulation can significantly reduce energy consumption. That saves money.

Improperly installed or insufficient insulation wastes energy and money. Get an expert to inspect your attic.

(4) Add insulation in the attic. Many homes have insufficient insulation. As heat rises, insufficient insulation allows it to escape through the roof. In summer, that hot roof creates a hot attic that heats your home’s interior long into the night. These days, insulation companies can come in and add or replace insulation in most homes in less than a day. Though the tax code changes from year to year, an upgrade may also qualify for a tax credit. Save all your receipts and check with your accountant to see if you qualify.


(5) Install an attic fan. Just as proper insulation in the attic is critical, an attic fan draws hot air out of your attic in the summer and draws warmer air into the attic during the coldest months. Either way, a fan helps keep your home’s interior temperature at a more manageable level. If you live in an area that gets plenty of sun, consider buying a solar powered attic fan to do the job.


Check your air filters.

Don’t forget to check your furnace air filter regularly. Replace dirty filters to help maintain the efficiency of your unit.

(6) Get a more efficient furnace. How old is your current furnace? In the past few years, there have been significant enhancements to the efficiency of furnaces—whether gas, electric, oil or otherwise. If your furnace is out of date, you could reap a huge reduction in energy consumption just by replacing your old unit. Though the cost may feel prohibitive, many utilities allow you to lease a unit long term, and over the course its life a new furnace should more than make up for the outflow through the savings in energy provided. You won’t know until you talk to your utility or get a free estimate. One other tip: Change your furnace and air conditioner filters frequently. Plugged filters make drawing air through the unit more difficult and that requires more power.


Don't heat space you don't need.

Are you using all the rooms in your house? If not, maybe you could get by lowering the thermostat and only heating the rooms you really use.

(7) Use a portable space heater. If you own a large home and find yourself occupying only a few rooms you may be able to save more money by lowering your home’s “core” temperature to around fifty to sixty degrees and then using a portable space heater to heat the room you’re in. For this to work as it should, you’ll need to keep your home’s temperature far enough above freezing to avoid breaking any pipes. Also, you’ll need to use extreme care so your portable heater doesn’t start a fire. Be sure to follow all the recommendations for safety that come with your heater. Check the units cord to make sure there are no frays. And whatever you do, don’t use a kerosene or propane heater indoors that hasn’t been designed for the purpose as fumes may lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.


Installing a good set of blinds can save on my energy budget.

Are you using blinds and draperies to their full advantage. Good blinds can reflect sun and that can keep a room cooler.

(8) Install a ceiling fan. The warmest air in your house is near its ceiling. The coolest near the floor. The difference can often run to several degrees, more than enough to make you feel uncomfortable. To evenly distribute air install a good ceiling fan. If you have low ceilings or no good options for installing a ceiling fan, place portable fans around the house to circulate the air. Watch garage sales to find portable fans. You can sometimes pick them up for pennies on the dollar, especially toward the end of summer.


(9) Install a swamp cooler. Depending on your location, the humidity in the air and how hot it gets where you live, a swamp cooler (a.k.a. evaporative cooler) can significantly reduce the need for air conditioning and run at a fraction of the cost. Even if you can’t keep your house cool all day with it, you may be able to keep it cool for half a day or more. Swamp coolers don’t require condensers like air conditioners and that means they use far less electricity. If you live in the South or Southwest where the air outside is dry a swamp cooler could be your ticket for significant energy savings. Ask a cooling efficiency expert.



(10) Take advantage of blinds and draperies. Blinds and draperies can significantly improve your homes efficiency. How? They reflect sun and keep it from heating the air inside your home on a hot summer day. They can hold heat in on a cold winter’s night. If you struggle to maintain a cool house during summer try this: Close all windows early in the morning and close all blinds on the sunny side of the house. Keep them closed until late afternoon or evening when the outdoor temperature starts to cool and the sun no longer hits the windows. When indoor temps become uncomfortable rely on air conditioning to cool you down. As soon as it’s cool enough outside, shut the A/C off and open all the windows and blinds to let the house breathe.


I love fresh, grilled salmon. Nothing beats it.

Grill more of your food outdoor in the summer. Avoid using stoves and ovens to keep the house cool.

(11) Cook smart. If it’s hot outdoors don’t heat up the house by using an oven or stove. Stick to salads or sandwiches, do more microwave cooking, or use an outdoor grill to prepare all your meals. Likewise, in winter bring your cooking back inside and let that stove or oven warm your soul.


I love the color of the leaves when they turn in the fall.

Leafy trees are the perfect answer to shade your home in the summer and let light through in the winter.

(12) Plant leafy trees around your home. Leafy trees about as tall as your house provide shade in hot summer months and allow sun to hit the house in the winter (when the leaves fall off). Careful planting can therefore be a critical component of your overall home energy savings plan. Another tip: Plant tall shrubs to shade your air conditioning unit from the sun. According to the Department of Energy you could save up to 10 percent on your air conditioning bill this way.


(13) Seal your home from air leaks. Cold or hot air can rush in and out of your house wherever you have an air leak. Common problem spots include the seals around windows and doors, a poorly insulated attic, and gaps around fans, light fixtures and electrical outlets. Check with a home insulation company to inspect your attic. You can easily install foam pads behind outlet plates yourself to cut some of the loss. Also, replace worn or defective seals around doors. Note: A home sealed too well may allow for the build-up of carbon monoxide inside the home. To be sure you’re family is safe invest in a carbon monoxide alarm. Installing a typical alarm is as easy as plugging it into an outlet.


Air can flow under and around doors and windows.

Have you checked for drafts around your doors and windows? A draft is a good sign it’s time to upgrade those old seals.

(14) Sleep around. Got a split level home or basement? Then take advantage of the natural temperature difference from one floor to the next. Instead of adjusting the thermostat, sleep in the basement over the hottest part of summer, or sleep upstairs in winter.


(15) Go low tech. Instead of cranking up heat or air conditioning as a first resort do it as a last resort. Meanwhile, in summer keep a spray bottle of water around and douse yourself with mist. Try making up a batch of delicious homemade lemonade. Pull on a pair of shorts and a cool tank top. Fill a large plastic tub with water and dip your toes. Apply an ice pack to your forehead or the back of your neck. Got long hair? Get a shorter cut or pin it up. In the winter, don’t just sit around, get moving. You’ll warm up in no time. Add thin layers to your ensemble. You can easily strip them off or add more as the need arises. Get a good pair of long johns. Invest in a pair of insulated socks. Wear slippers. The bottom line: Let your body adjust to the natural range of temperatures wherever you live. Doing so means you’ll end up using less power to heat or cool your home and that will save big-time over the long run.


Action Item: Call your local utility company today and ask what programs are currently available in your area to help consumers save energy. If possible, schedule a free home energy audit or ask who they can recommend to do one.


Got a favorite tip for saving money when it comes to home heating and air conditioning? Then why not share it with our readers in the comments below.


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