money-saving-energy

Energy Saving Tips to Help You Prepare for Cooler Weather

Published on: September 19, 2014
House made of money | Tips to save money | AC Southeast

Even though most of the southeast likely won’t see nighttime temperatures in the 40s until November, cool weather energy saving tips are appropriate for the changing seasons. You’ve probably spent a good deal of the summer trying to save energy by keeping heat outside your home. That’s a real challenge due to heat energy’s natural tendency to move from a warm zone into a cooler zone. Now, as summer turns to fall, the cooler zone moves outside and you’ll be increasingly concerned with trying to keep heat indoors.

Heat On The Move

Heat escapes your home in several ways. Slowing down the process of heat loss is one way to save energy expenses all winter long by reducing the load on your furnace. It also makes the home more comfortable, improves indoor air quality and cuts household contribution to environmental impacts like greenhouse gases. In most homes, here’s where the heat goes:

Air leaks exist in any structure, especially residences built more than 10 years ago. These minute cracks and gaps permit air exchange with the outdoors. The process is driven by pressure differentials between the interior and exterior of the home. Often, indoor living spaces are slightly pressurized, so air is forced out through tiny openings, carrying heat energy out with it. Your furnace has to run longer to make up for the lost heat, so energy expenses rise. You can locate air leaks simply by feeling for drafts or using DIY methods such as smoke from a stick of incense to detect air movement around doors, windows and other suspect areas.

Heat transmits through solid surfaces like the ceiling and walls, moving from the warm indoors to the cooler outdoors. Insulation in the attic and walls slows heat loss that occurs due to radiation and conduction. Unfortunately, many existing homes are under-insulated by today’s standards and could benefit from an insulation upgrade, especially in the attic.

Trap Your Home’s Heat

Keep heat indoors as cooler weather arrives by following these energy saving tips:

  • Seal air leaks in the home with caulking and weatherstripping. Cracks and gaps no wider than 1/4-inch can be closed with common household silicone caulk. For larger openings, use expandable polyurethane spray foam. Replace worn weatherstripping with adhesive-backed foam weatherstripping tape or longer lasting rubber or vinyl strips. Install door sweeps to close the large gap beneath doors.
  • Your attic is the easiest place to assess and upgrade insulation. In most of the southeast, the Department Of Energy recommends attic insulation to a depth of R30 to R60. This R-factor is the equivalent of 10 to 18 inches of conventional fiberglass batts or 8 to 16 inches of cellulose loose fill. You can top-up existing insulation by adding new layers atop it, even if the new layer is a different type.
  • Window A/Cs are notorious sources of air leakage in winter and are difficult to effectively seal in place. Take window air conditioners out for the winter and close the window tightly. Or, at least purchase a commercially available window unit cover sized for your model and install according to instructions.
  • Make sure your fireplace flue is operative, closes completely and seals effectively.
  • Window glass is a major contributor to home heat loss. If your home has conventional single-pane windows, consider upgrading to dual-pane glass with higher insulating properties.

Heating Habits

The way you utilize your heating system has a big impact on your total energy consumption. These energy saving tips for utilizing your furnace can lower operating costs as well as reduce wear and tear on the heating system.

  • For the greatest economy, maintain indoor temperatures around 68 degrees while you’re up and around and 60 or less while the house is unoccupied or occupants are asleep. For every degree you lower the thermostat setting, you’ll cut your heating expenses by about 2 percent. Over the average length of the heating season, that’s a substantial savings.
  • Install a programmable thermostat if you don’t already have one. This will automate temperature changes to your home, keeping indoor comfort more consistent than manual adjustments and saving money as well—in the first year, proper use of a programmable thermostat can reduce heating and A/C costs as much as 20 percent over an old-fashioned manual thermostat.
  • Make sure the thermostat is centrally located in your home—not in a chronically cold wing of the house nor a perpetually sunny, south-facing room.
  • Resist the temptation to make drastic temperature changes. Cranking the thermostat way up won’t warm a cold house any quicker. It will more likely over-shoot the desired normal temperature and needlessly consume excess energy.
  • Your ceiling fan can be a comfort aid in winter, too. Reverse the direction from the counter-clockwise summer setting to clockwise. This pulls cold air up from the lower areas of a room and spreads it across the ceiling, pushing hot air that naturally accumulates near the ceiling back down into the living area to warm occupants.
  • Change the furnace air filter monthly during the heating season. A dirty filter reduces airflow. As airflow declines, the furnace runs longer cycles to compensate and energy consumption and utility costs rise. Reduced system airflow can also cause pressure imbalances that push warm conditioned air out of the house through air leaks or draw cold outdoor air in.
  • Schedule an annual heating system tune-up with your HVAC contractor now, before your furnace takes on the colder winter weather. Inspection and preventive maintenance by a qualified technician improves energy efficiency and comfort performance. It also reduce the chances of a major system breakdown later this winter when you really need the heat.

Light And Dark

As daylight hours wane and darkness falls earlier, lighting assumes a greater portion of monthly electricity usage. Energy saving tips to cut lighting costs include:

  • Remember to turn lights off when they’re not needed.
  • Replace incandescent bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs.
  • In areas where outside lighting is utilized, use halogen bulbs for longer service life and lower electricity costs.
  • Consider adding a timer to turn outdoor lights off after-hours and/or convert conventional floodlights to motion-sensor fixtures that only provide light when you need it.

Get Passive

Previous generations perfected the art of passive heating to keep houses warm in winter. These energy saving tips still apply today and can reduce heating costs by over 10 percent when properly exploited.

  • Make use of south-facing windows as solar collectors. Solar energy transmitted through window glass can raise the temperature in a room by 10 degrees. That’s a large load off your furnace and the bottom line of your monthly heating costs.
  • Keep south-facing windows uncovered during daylight hours. Make sure incoming sunlight isn’t obstructed by curtains or furniture. Interior walls and floors exposed to sunlight serve as heat sinks that absorb solar energy and gradually release it throughout the day and even into the night.
  • After nightfall, the transmission of heat reverses. Heat energy in rooms re-radiates out through window glass into the outdoors. Reduce heat loss at night by closing drapes and shades.

Water Works

Winter weather also costs more because hot water heating increases. Year-round water heating averages more than 15 percent of the home’s total energy consumption. Hot water usage is highest during winter. Here are some energy saving tips for winter hot water conservation.

  • Install an insulating blanket on your hot water heater. Insulation reduces thermal loss from the water heater storage tank and decreases heating cycles. If your water heater’s an electric model, you can probably do it yourself. For safety reasons, a gas water heater may require the services of a a qualified HVAC technician to properly size and fit the blanket.
  • Anywhere you can access hot water supply pipes, slip foam pipe insulation over the pipes to reduce heat loss in cold weather. Insulation can also protect your pipes from freezing during acute cold snaps.
  • Keep your water heater thermostat at 120 degrees or below. This is the most energy-efficient setting and also protects your family from the hazards of scalding.
  • Install low-flow showerheads and take shorter showers. In a typical home, showering is responsible for about 2/3 of your monthly water heating expenses. A family of four can save the energy costs of heating hundreds of gallons of water by reducing the duration of each shower by just a few minutes.

Before You Buy

Energy saving tips can help make you make good shopping decisions, too. If you’re thinking about upgrading your heating system or major appliances this winter, look beyond the upfront purchase price. Figure energy-efficiency and potential savings into the overall cost of the unit.  The Department Of Energy’s Energy Star rating system helps you identify at a glance the most efficient new furnaces, air conditioners, refrigerators, water heaters, washers and other big-ticket energy consumers.

A qualified HVAC contractor near you has more energy saving tips to help you get ready for cooler weather in the southeast. To find a contractor in your area, contact AirConditioningSouthEast.com.