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HVAC Tips to Save Money

Heating and HVAC
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HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) can account for a big chunk of a homeowner’s utility bill. Taking charge of your HVAC system means taking charge of out-of-control utility bills. Here are a few money-saving HVAC tips.

Heating. Heating systems that are 12 years or older are just not as energy efficient as today’s high-tech machines. Taking a look at a new system may be the best way to save money. Also, considering the increasing costs of fuel, if you opt for a new installation it may also be time to choose a completely different system, depending on the price and availability of fuel in your area. For instance, less-expensive natural gas may now be an option in areas where heating oil was once the only available fuel.

It could be time to go “green”. Systems that rely on “green” fuels such as sunlight, biomass fuels (plant-based fuels that are a renewable resource), and the earth’s stable temperature (for geothermal pumps) rely on readily available and inexpensive sources of energy. While these systems are typically more expensive than “traditional” HVAC, an owner who has a “green” system in place never has to worry about disappearing petroleum reserves.

Installing a setback thermostat to your existing HVAC system is also quite cost-effective. This type of thermostat is programmable and can automatically set the temperature for your home for different times of the day. Why heat the house when you’re not there to enjoy it? A setback thermostat can take control of your HVAC system.

Ventilation. Ventilation is the often overlooked member of the HVAC team. The good news is that houses built since 1980 are extremely well insulated, and thus, much more energy-efficient than their older brethren. However, the very fact that newer homes are so well-built and “tight” means that proper ventilation is sometimes difficult to achieve.

Ventilation is the exchange of air. The goal is to have the good fresh air come into our homes and chase out the “bad”, stale air. Air in a home can be adversely affected by everyday activities such as cooking, cleaning, taking showers, using your heater and air conditioner, and by just breathing. Here are some gases that people create everyday, simply by living: carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, and ammonia. Respiration uses up oxygen in the home, which needs to be replaced, somehow, by fresh air. If not, people can become ill, and homes can be overwhelmed by mold, fungus, and mildew.

To get more fresh air into a home, you can simply open a window. This isn’t the best way to use your HVAC system efficiently, however. Better to provide proper ventilation to the spaces that really need it. The most moisture is made in bathrooms, so make sure the bathrooms have vents other than windows. Vents should be vented to the outside, and should be capable of exchanging the entire volume of air in the bathroom in 30 minutes. Consider installing a timer switch to the bathroom vent; that way you don’t have to worry about forgetting that the vent is on and waste money and electricity letting it run all day. Also install exhaust fans in the garage, a kitchen range hood over the stove, and make certain to properly vent your laundry dryer.

Whole-house balanced ventilation systems called air-to-air heat exchangers or heat recovery ventilators are also available. These systems use two fans to blow stale air outside and pull fresh air into the home. Also consider installing a humidification/dehumidification system, depending on the area where you live.

Air Conditioning. Forced air powered by electricity is extremely expensive. But there are money saving options. Considering ductless heat pump, a traditional heat pump, or a geothermal heat pump can substantially lower the electricity costs of your HVAC system. These systems also provide warmth in the winter time. And depending on the area where you live, an evaporative cooler might be effective. High-efficiency modern coolers can use as little as .5 kilowatt per ton of cooling.

Thinking outside of the HVAC “box” can results in greater comfort, efficiency, and savings.

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