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As the warmer months approach, there are many actions you can take around you home to maximize your energy savings, offsetting those already high utility bills while still maintaining a cool house. Below I’ll outline a few steps you should consider now before the mercury begins to climb!
Save Energy by using LED Lights
One of my personal favorite energy saving techniques is to replace those old incandescent lightbulbs with LED. LED lights consume MUCH less power than their predecessors all while producing super high quality light. Common LED lightbulbs use as little as 5 to 8 watts compared to incandescent bulbs that use between 40 and 75 watts. If you’re wonder exactly how that translates to the utility bill, or you want to learn about other benefits of LED lights, check out this awesome post! LED Lights for Energy Savings! If you don’t have time for the deep-dive, just know that investing in LED lights will instantly reduce your power bill.
Replace your HVAC Filters
No matter the type of air conditioner you have in your home, it has some sort of filter that needs to be replaced or cleaned on a regular basis to ensure efficient operation. In common central A/C systems, there is one and sometimes two or more filters on the return air (suction) side of the air handler. They may be located on the ceiling or on a wall in your home, behind a louvered door or hatch. These filters should be replaced regularly, as often as every 30 days to keep your A/C running efficiently.
As dust accumulates on the filter, the airflow back to the air handler is reduced, in turn reducing the amount of heat transfer that the system is capable of per unit of time. This means your A/C’s compressor will be working harder (using more energy) to provide the same amount of cooling. While filters may be easy to overlook, your power bill will be VERY noticeable when your A/C is consuming much more power. If you want to get a better understanding of exactly how much power your HVAC system uses and why these energy savings ideas are so important, take a look at Keeping Your House Cool in the Summer!
Replace Weather Stripping for Energy Savings
Lots of energy is wasted in the summer months due to leaky doors and windows. As I noted in the last section, losses related to your air conditioner will cost you dearly in the long run, this is no different. When you set your thermostat to 70° F in the summer time, your A/C is removing the heat in your home’s air via a vapor compression cycle.
Your A/C and Energy Savings
With all of this A/C talk, I’d like to explain exactly how it cools your home and why it costs money to do so.
In order to take the heat from within your home and move it outside, power must be added to the system (your A/C in this case) because heat wants to flow the other way. The second law of thermodynamics says that heat wants to move from the hot source to the cold source. We’re doing the opposite here so it takes extra power!
The A/C’s compressor (which is the appliance we provide power to) compresses refrigerant in a sealed system. When the refrigerant gets to the compressor, it has already picked up heat from your air via the evaporator. After compression to vapor state, it releases that SAME heat to the outdoors through a state change (vapor to liquid) inside of the condensing coil. The now liquid refrigerant travels through an expansion valve and then back to the evaporator where it picks up MORE of the heat from your home’s air.
Why this matters (and why you had to read about thermodynamics!)
Now, imagine this A/C has been working very hard to reduce your indoor temperature to 70°. It finally gets to that temperature and turns off – yay! No more power consumption! But then you open the front door and a bunch of warm air rushes in – A/C comes back on and runs until its 70° again.
The cost of ignoring science
Leaky doors and windows may not seam like a huge deal because you can barely notice the outdoor air seeping in. You may not notice at all! But in reality, many small leaks due to poor weather stripping can add up to the equivalent of leaving one door open all day. In a prior post I broke down the cost to run a 3 ton air conditioner for 1 month (roughly $100). If your leaky doors and windows add up to 10% energy loss, you can directly equate that to losing $10 per month!
Replace Doors and Windows
If new weather stripping just doesn’t get the job done, you may need to think about replacing doors and windows in your home. This is a daunting reality for many because of the high cost of windows and doors. What is even worse is thecost of having someone install them! Because of this, I take an approach based in the reality of my life – I do it myself! I know not everyone is in a position to DIY a front door or a window, but I’m willing to bet more there are many of you that have never given yourself a chance. I believe in you! Either way, replacing doors and windows will lead to an instant energy savings which translates to money in your pocket!
Attic Insulation for Energy Savings
Another super important energy saving feature of a home is insulation. Most homes have insulation in the exterior walls and in the attic (on top of your ceiling). The attic insulation plays a huge roll in keeping that nice cool air in your house from sapping the energy out of the warm outside air, and kicking your A/C on. Take a look at your attic insulation if you haven’t done so in the past. Over time it tends to compress under it’s own weight and in turn loses it’s ability to insulate. Many homes have blown in insulation in attic – you can hire a company to replace this or you can rent a machine and DIY! Either way, this is a crucial factor when it comes to saving energy.
All the Small Things
I can only dream about having a super energy-efficient home. The reality is, my home is aging and I’m constantly trying to keep up with it. As a homeowner, it can seem impossible to keep the house clean sometimes let alone finish projects and take on new ones. That’s why I keep it simple – set some overall goals and try and do one or two things a day, or a week, in support of those goals.
If your goal is to save energy (probably is since your reading this), then caulk that window or fix the weather stripping when you realize it’s a problem. Buy a few extra filters for you A/C and put some dates on them with a marker to remind yourself when it should be replaced. Go buy a box of LED lights and replace your old ones as they burn out. Making your home more efficient and saving money doesn’t have to be hard, just take it one day at a time and if you have any questions or want to comment on how you save energy, let us know in the comments!