We've asked one of Georgia's premier energy experts, Triad Mechanical, to impart the best, budget-friendly tips for cutting energy costs while maximizing comfort all year long.
Tips for maintaining your HVAC system this summer from the pros at Triad Mechanical
Regular System Maintenance
Problem: You can have the highest-rated HVAC model on the planet and still be losing money due to off-sizing and/or system neglect. In fact, improper installation can reduce a unit's efficiency by up to 30%, while a mere 1/20th inch of dirt or film on an evaporator coil can stunt performance by 21%.
Solution: Register for a HVAC Service Agreement with a trusted contractor. This guarantees biannual check-ups and regular system auditing.
Problem: Dirty air filters severely stress your cooling system, causing it to work twice as hard to circulate clean, conditioned air throughout your home.
Solution: Change your air filter once a month during peak summer; and once every three months off season. A consistently fresh filter can reduce your home's overall utility cost by 15%.
Problem: The "set it and forget it" method works great for a crock pot, but not a thermostat. Many conventional thermostats are routinely off by four or five degrees and don't adjust according to changes in ambient temperature.
Solution: Programmable units can save you about $180 a year in energy costs.
Don't "Trick" Your Thermostat
Problem: Often thermostats are placed near electronics, appliances, lighting, doorways, fireplaces, skylights, windows, and areas that receive direct sunlight or drafts. These heat/cool-generators mimic higher/lower temp's and throw the system off balance.
Solution: Keep your thermostat on interior walls clear of these units.
Check Your Breakers
Problem: Just because you don't see an issue, doesn't mean your home's circuitry is working at 100% efficiency. Meaning: The flow of electricity going into your cooling system may be impaired, causing the unit to over/underwork.
Solution: Your home's circuit breaker should be tested once every three months, regardless of incident. This is an easy, D.I.Y. project that requires a flat-head screwdriver to remove the breaker panel and a basic Voltmeter to test the voltage of single and double polebreakers.
Use Energy Star Appliances & Fixtures
Problem: Any appliance or unit made before the EPA's 1992 Energy Star mandate falls short of basic environmental standards of efficiency and safety.
Solution: Invest only in Energy Star labeled units, including:
Windows: Installing Energy Star qualified windows reduces energy bills by 7-24%, due to advanced technologies such as invisible glass coatings, vacuum sealed spaces filled with inert gasses, improved framing materials, better weather stripping, and so on.
Lights: 19% of global energy use comes from lighting alone. LED bulbs use up to 80% less energy than conventional bulbs. Also, remember to turn lights off when leaving a room.
HVAC: An Energy Star system uses 15-30% less energy than older models, all the while reducing toxic, greenhouse gases into the environment.
Get Your "Ducts" In A Row
Problem: In typical houses, about 205 of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts.
Solution: Seal any leaks using mastic sealant or metal (foil) tape and insulating all the ducts that you can access such as those in the attic, crawlspace, basement, or garage. Make sure that the connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet the floors, walls, and ceiling.
Problem: Modern thermal technology has exposed a major flaw in the old-school fiberglass “batt” insulation -- it settles flat over the years to lose its insulative integrity.
Solution: A high R-value blown-in insulation. It comes in many forms, from loose-fill, cellulose, polyurethane, and even eco-friendly soybeans! But the product itself serves one purpose: It penetrates hard-to-reach cavities that conventional batt sheets can’t reach.
Used in conjunction with a spray-foam, the combination provides an air-tight seal around vents, windows, ducts, eaves, and on: and it's impermeable to water!
The highest end of insulation is the thermal-reflective sheet. This metallic canopy is fastened to the underside of the roof, where it “reflects hot air back into the environment, blocking up to 97% of the sun’s radiant heat.”
Mind the Window Gaps
Problem: An average home loses up to 30% of its heating/cooling energy through air leaks around windows and doors.
Solution: There are a wide variety of window treatment options that help block ambient heat from coming in and keep cool, conditioned air from leaking out, such as:
Awnings: Can reduce solar heat gain in the summer by up to 65% on south-facing windows and 77% on west-facing windows
Interior Blinds: When completely closed and lowered on a sunny window, highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by around 45%
Exterior Blinds: Typically made of wood, steel, aluminum, or vinyl. They're mounted above the window, and side channels guide them as they're lowered and raised
Drapes: Studies demonstrate that medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33%. Attach Velcro or magnetic tape to the sides and bottom of drapes to affix them to wall to further reduce heat loss
Window Panels or Pop-in Shutters: The panels are made so that their edges seal tightly against the window frame
Storm Panels: A storm panel added to a single-pane window can reduce winter heat loss by as much as 30%.
Other window treatment options include: mesh window screens and shades (roller, dual sided, pleated, cellular)
Problem: Cooking during the hot months increases inside temperatures and forces the AC to work overtime.
Solutions: Use a timer to avoid repeatedly opening oven door. For small meals, use portable grills, microwaves, crock pots, slow cookers, toaster/halogen ovens: these units are 50-75% more efficient than electric stoves and cook food in half the time.
Grill when weather permits. Cooking during hot months increases inside temperatures and forces the AC to work overtime.
Want to find out if your home is operating efficiently before the heat hits? Contact the pros at Triad Mechanical to get your very own home energy-efficiency audit.