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How To Save Money on Heating and Cooling Your Home

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More than half of energy used in a typical home goes toward heating and cooling it, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The more energy efficient your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are, the less they cost to run, and the lower your heating and cooling bills might be. Here are some tips to help you shop wisely and save money on your energy use.

Think Efficiency

When you shop for new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment and systems, it’s important to comparison shop, not only for the upfront price, but also for energy efficiency — in other words, how much it will cost to run your new HVAC system. That’s where the EnergyGuide label and ENERGY STAR logo can help.

  • The EnergyGuide label. Anyone selling heating and cooling systems — central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, and heat pumps — has to tell you how much energy a product uses, and how it compares to similar models. They have to tell you at the point of sale. Manufacturers include that information on a product’s EnergyGuide label. You’ll often see the label on the product when you shop in person, but it could also be on a website, fact sheet, or brochure.
  • The ENERGY STAR logo. This logo means the product meets certain energy efficiency guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency and DOE. To learn more, visit energystar.gov.

Other Ways To Save on Energy

Do a home energy audit. Also called a home energy assessment, it will tell you how efficient your heating and cooling systems are and where your home is wasting energy — say, through air leaks or under-insulated attics and ducts. Your utility company may offer free or low-cost energy assessments, or refer you someone who does. You also can check with your state or local government energy or weatherization office for recommendations, or visit energysavers.gov for more resources.

  • A professional assessment might cost several hundred dollars. Before you hire a company, get several references. Look at sites you trust that post ratings and reviews. Do people seem to have similar experiences, whether good or bad? Check out a company by searching for the company’s name with words like “scam,” “review,” or “complaint.” The assessment you pay for should include specific recommendations.
  • A do-it-yourself assessment is another option. While not as thorough as a professional home energy assessment, it can help you pinpoint some of the easier areas to address. For more information, visit DOE’s Energy Saver website, or use the online tool at hes.lbl.gov.

Seal air leaks and insulate.

  • Seal air leaks around windows, doors, and places where pipes and wires come through walls. Check existing caulking and weatherstripping for gaps or cracks.
  • Check ducts for holes and gaps where sections have separated and air may be leaking. You can seal some leaks yourself with mastic sealant or metal tape (don’t use duct tape). Hiring a professional to repair leaky ducts can be a good investment.
  • Bring your insulation up to DOE-recommended levels where your energy assessment shows it’s needed.

If your home has old or inefficient windows, think about replacing them.

Ask about special energy efficiency offers. If you’re in the market for energy-efficient products, ask your salesperson or utility company for information about cash rebates, low-interest loans, or other incentive programs in your area. You also can visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency for information about government- and utility-sponsored incentives.

Notice the small stuff. Small savings add up. For example, you can:

  • Lower your thermostat in winter and turn it up in summer before you go to bed or head out for the day, or get a programmable thermostat to do it automatically.
  • Check filters for forced-air furnaces, heat pumps, or air conditioners — as recommended — to see if they need to be cleaned or replaced.
  • Check that fireplace dampers are closed when you don’t have a fire going.
  • Consider a budget-billing program, if your utility or oil company offers it. While you won’t pay less, your costs will be spread evenly over the year, protecting your budget from seasonal spikes. If you’re on a fixed income or have trouble paying your utility bills, contact your utility company. There may be energy assistance plans.

If you use heating oil, shop around to make sure you’re getting a good price. Research a company and its service before you sign a contract. If you live where you can choose your natural gas provider, comparison shop for gas prices.

Shop Smart for “Energy-Saving” Products and Services

  • Be skeptical of products that promise to drastically reduce your home heating and cooling costs. Visit sites you trust that post ratings and reviews and search for the company or product name with words like “scam” or “complaint.”
  • Resist high-pressure door-to-door sales calls for furnaces, windows, and other home improvement products. Find a contractor who’s licensed and reputable, and remember that the Cooling-Off Rule gives you three business days to cancel a contract if you sign it in your home or anywhere other than the contractor’s permanent place of business. You don’t have to give a reason for canceling your purchase. You have the right to change your mind.

For More Information

To learn more about saving energy in and around your home, visit: