Everything You Should Know About Efficient Heating and Cooling
Feb 26, 2021
When it comes to your monthly energy usage, turning the lights off and unplugging your appliances only goes so far. For the typical utility bill, around 40% of your energy costs and energy consumption are from heating or cooling your home or business. Moreover, the cost of keeping your space comfortable during the hot summer months or frigid winter is even higher.
So if you want to lower your carbon footprint or simply save money each month on your residential or commercial heating and cooling costs, improving the energy efficiency of your HVAC system should be your top priority. So what can you do to minimize waste and help your system operate at peak efficiency? There are several areas to consider.
Ductwork maintenance and insulation
While there are many types of heating systems for commercial buildings and residential homes, a traditional HVAC system is a common option. Traditional HVAC systems rely on ducts to deliver conditioned air throughout your space. Air travels from the return vent into the furnace or air conditioning system, where it is heated or cooled. Next, your system will blow the cooled or warm air through the ducts, and it will enter each room through supply vents.
Some things can affect this air flow process. Furniture or other things that block your vents can slow down the airflow and cause your motor to work much harder to pull in air. You should also routinely clean out dust and hair on the vents and change the air filter on your system every 30-90 days.
However, the biggest issue is air leaks in your ductwork—leaky ducts can reduce your HVAC system’s efficiency by as much as 20%. Hiring an HVAC unit professional to seal and insulate your ductwork will ensure your system has good airflow and doesn’t waste energy on warming or cooling your attic.1
Sealing your space
Sealing off your duct work is just the beginning. If you have air leaks throughout your home or building, you’re spending extra energy on conditioned air that winds up going outside. Identifying areas where cooled or heated air can escape will help you keep your house more comfortable and minimize waste.
Typically, over half the air leaks in your house occur through the walls and ceiling. Many older buildings have inadequate insulation in the walls and attic spaces, and some may have none at all. Having a contractor add insulation to your attic and walls, as well as having your roof inspected for air leaks can help cut your waste down tremendously.
While a significant amount of air loss occurs through older styles of windows, the cost of replacing them with newer windows that hold in air better doesn’t always make sense. If your system still seems to be working too much after insulating your walls and attic, you could consider adding weather stripping to your doors and plastic heat shrink window coverings to further seal your home.2
Use your thermostat wisely
Sometimes improving your energy efficiency is as simple as getting a programmable thermostat. This will allow you to present your system depending on when you will be home or gone for the day. Raising or lowering the thermostat by ten degrees when you’re gone can save you money and help your system run more efficiently. HVAC systems use fuel best when they are running full blast instead of starting and stopping. If the thermostat is programmed to warm or cool your house right before you get home
Turning it off altogether may work for days when the outdoor temperature isn’t drastically different than your desired indoor temperature, but on extreme days it winds up costing you a lot more to let your house get too hot or cold and turning your system back on when you get home for the day. Ideally, you should set your thermostat 7-10 degrees different when you’re gone to get the optimum efficiency from your system.3
Upgrading your system
When it comes to energy and HVAC efficiency, the type of home heating and cooling system you use makes all the difference. With some older systems, no amount of insulation will make a dent in your electricity bill. For example, an electric furnace is typically more efficient than a natural gas furnace, while a boiler is often better than either type of furnace. But manufacturers have made big improvements on heating efficiency in the last couple of decades, so newer systems will use fuel better no matter which style they are. Depending on how close your system is to the end of it’s lifespan, you may be better off upgrading your system for a new, more energy efficient system.
To truly maximize your efficiency, you should consider a mini ductless heat pump system. A heat pump that is energy efficient can use as little as half the energy as a furnace or air conditioner to heat your space, especially in climates where it rarely freezes. The mini-split systems allow you to set specific heating and cooling zones throughout your space so you can control the temperature for individual areas throughout your home or building. Because there isn’t a duct system, no energy is lost moving conditioned air from one place to another, and you don’t have to worry about paying to make empty rooms more comfortable.
An air source heat pump relies on thermal energy in the air to warm your home in the winter, and the process is simply reversed in the winter, allowing a heat pump to replace your central air conditioner.
A Geothermal heat pump system uses a fluid with a high thermal conductivity to absorb heat and transfer it in ground loops buried under your house. Because the earth maintains a fairly consistent ground temperature, these units are still capable of warming homes in colder climates, and the systems can last much longer than air source heat pumps or traditional central air and heating systems. However, they are more difficult to install, and the upfront cost is significantly higher.4
When it’s time to upgrade your system, An HVAC specialist can help you weigh the pros and cons of each type and help you determine the best value for your budget. HVAC systems should always be installed by licensed professionals with the tools and experience to safely get your heating and cooling equipment running.
Keep your system operating at peak efficiency with maintenance
Maintaining an efficient heating and cooling system in your home or business is an ongoing process, but that doesn’t mean you have to (or should) take care of it alone. The HVAC specialist at Simpson Sheet Metal can address all of your HVAC needs, from new installation, ductwork sealing and insulation, or routine maintenance. Whether you need energy efficient commercial heating and cooling, or you’re a homeowner looking to cut your monthly energy usage, we can help ensure your system is running at peak efficiency and help you cut costs on your utilities as well as extend the life of your HVAC system.
Our team has served the Santa Rosa area for over 30 years, and we are ready to help you design and fabricate custom systems to work with your space, timeline, and budget. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help reduce your monthly energy use.