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Tips: Heating and Cooling

Household Heating Systems: Although several different types of fuels are available to heat our homes, nearly half of us use natural gas. | Source: Buildings Energy Data Book 2011, 2.1.1 Residential Primary Energy Consumption, by Year and Fuel Type (Quadrillion Btu and Percent of Total).

Household Heating Systems: Although several different types of fuels are available to heat our homes, nearly half of us use natural gas. | Source: Buildings Energy Data Book 2011, 2.1.1 Residential Primary Energy Consumption, by Year and Fuel Type (Quadrillion Btu and Percent of Total).

Heating and cooling your home uses more energy and costs more money than any other system in your home -- typically making up about 48% of your utility bill.

No matter what kind of heating and cooling system you have in your house, you can save money and increase your comfort by properly maintaining and upgrading your equipment. But remember, an energy-efficient furnace alone will not have as great an impact on your energy bills as using the whole-house approach. By combining proper equipment maintenance and upgrades with recommended insulation, air sealing, and thermostat settings, you can save about 30% on your energy bill while reducing environmental emissions.

Heating and Cooling Tips

  • Set your programmable thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter and as high as is comfortable in the summer, and -- depending on the season -- raise or lower the setpoint when you're sleeping or away from home.
  • Clean or replace filters on furnaces and air conditioners once a month or as recommended.
  • Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed; make sure they're not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.
  • Eliminate trapped air from hot-water radiators once or twice a season; if unsure about how to perform this task, contact a professional.
  • Place heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators.
  • Turn off kitchen, bath, and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after you are done cooking or bathing; when replacing exhaust fans, consider installing high-efficiency, low-noise models.
  • During winter, keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
  • During summer, keep the window coverings closed during the day to block the sun's heat.

Long-Term Savings Tips

  • Select energy-efficient products when you buy new heating and cooling equipment. Your contractor should be able to give you energy fact sheets for different types, models, and designs to help you compare energy usage.
  • For furnaces, look for high Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings. For air conditioners, look for a high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). See the efficiency standards for information on minimum ratings for each, and look for the ENERGY STAR when purchasing new products.
  • Consider upgrading an old wood stove to an EPA-certified wood or pellet stove. Pellet stoves burn a renewable fuel made of ground, dried wood and other biomass wastes compressed into pellets and EPA has certified certain models as cleaner burning. However, be aware that most pellet stoves need electricity to operate.