15 Easy Tips to Energy Efficient Heating and Cooling
Did you know that heating and cooling systems use more energy in the home than any other system? While that’s a big chunk of your monthly electric and heating bills, there are great opportunities to reduce energy usage with some simple passive cooling and heating techniques. These techniques don’t require expensive installations or big outlays of cash either. Not only will they save you money, they’re also environmentally friendly and will make you more comfortable in your own home. Here are our 15 Easy Tips for cooling and heating strategies for any climate.
1. Choose a Light House Color
Aesthetics shouldn’t be the only factor in choosing an exterior house color. Dark colored homes absorb 70%-90% of radiant energy from the sun that hits the home’s surfaces. Some of the absorbed energy is transferred into your home by way of conduction, resulting in heat gain. In contrast, light colored homes reflect most of the heat away from the house. So next time you need a new coat of paint, don’t forget to keep your air conditioning and heating bills in mind while choosing your color!
2. Use Trees and Shrubs for Shading
Shading is the most simple, effective way to cool your home and reduce energy consumption. Up to 40% of the costs of cooling can be saved by shading techniques such as landscaping with trees, shrubs and vines. Shading is crucial in a passive cooling system. The more shaded a building or home is—especially the windows and the roof, the better.
Landscaping is an environmentally friendly way to reduce energy costs. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that by planting just three properly placed trees, $100-$250 in energy costs can be saved annually.
How you use trees depends on the particularities of your climate. In cold or temperate climates, it's best to use deciduous trees—those trees that shed their leaves for a part of every year. Deciduous trees block the sun in the hot summer months, but still allow in the winter sun. It's best to place deciduous trees on the west or east side of the house to reduce the summer heat from sunrise to sunset, and in most cases, in the sunnier side of the home (south in the northern hemisphere; north in the southern hemisphere.) And if you are shading with evergreen trees, make sure that you don't plant them too close to your home and keep their canopies well-trimmed to allow the sunlight in.
Shrubs protect the lower portion of the walls from heat gain by blocking sunlight. They also act as a wind break in winter to help protect the house from cold air.
3. Curtains and blinds are an excellent solution for budget-conscious weatherization do-it-yourselfers. Similar to house colors, a drape or blind made of light-colored fabric will reflect the sun rays, making for a cooler environment. In contrast, drapes made of dark-colored fabric will help retain heat. A double-layered curtain is also recommended for both summer cooling and winter heating.
4. Close drapes and blinds during the day on windows that get direct summer sunlight. This will keep your room much cooler in the heat of the day. And do the opposite in winter—take advantage of the sun to help heat your house.
5. In the summer, do what grandma did. Keep the windows closed and the shades drawn during the hottest part of the day, and open the windows at night when the air is cooler.
6. Turn off incandescent lights and switch to energy-efficient LED or CFL bulbs. LEDs give off 90% less heat and save 75% more energy!!
7. Don’t place lamps or television sets near your air conditioning thermostats—the heat from these appliances will cause the air conditioner to work harder, thus using more energy.
8. In the heat of day, cook with a microwave or an outdoor grill—the microwave generates very little heat and is more energy-efficient than an oven or stove. As for the grill, the heat is kept outdoors and not in your kitchen!
9. Seal off the laundry room, and if your community allows it, line-dry clothes (they will smell wonderful, an added bonus.)
Wash and dry your clothes early in the morning or later in the evening when you can tolerate the extra heat. A washer and dryer use a lot of energy so make sure your dryer is vented to the outside. If you find that your clothes feel stiff, toss them on your dryer’s fluff cycle for a few minutes.
10. Air dry your dishes—this will help reduce heat from the drying cycle of your dishwasher—and for general energy efficiency, only run a full load of dishes.
11. Ventilate with a window fan—make sure to open all interior doors for better air flow.
12. Close basement doors—remember that “hot air rises and cool air falls.” This will keep cool air where it’s needed, inside your living space.
13. Turn off your heating system in summer. If you have an unexpected cold spell, it’s easy to turn it on again. A fireplace damper should also be closed in the warmer months to minimize cool air loss.
14. Ceiling fans are efficient and use 1/10th the amount of energy as air conditioners. Ceiling fans can be used alone or with an air conditioner. When used together, you can set a programmable thermostat 9 degrees higher for the same resulting temperature. This represents a savings of 30% of air conditioning costs and energy consumption.
15. Use Programmable Thermostats. You can save as much as 10% a year off of your heating AND cooling bills by turning back your thermostat 10%-15% for eight hours a day. A programmable thermostat lets you adjust the times you turn on your heating and air conditioning, allowing you to use less heat and A/C when you’re sleeping or not at home.
Good luck and have fun trying out some of these techniques!
Don't forget to check out our 360Chestnut store for these amazing and inexpensive energy-saving devices. Learn more about the different ways to get started on your energy efficient improvement projects.