11 Tips to reduce your HVAC energy bills

Reduce your current bill written on chalkboard

Here in Virginia, 44% of our energy bill goes to heating and cooling our homes. For many of us, this means well over $500 a month during the cold and hot seasons. What a huge financial drain! Is there anything we can do to lower our HVAC energy bills?

There are many ways to reduce our energy consumption and still stay comfortable. This article will focus on tips to cut the bill year-round, both in the cooling season and in the heating season.

For specific tips to reduce the cost of heating our homes or tips to reduce cooling costs of cooling, check out these articles:

10 Ways to Save Money on Your Air Conditioning Electric Bill

12 Ways to cut your HVAC heating bill in Virginia

5 Energy-Saving Tips for Spring and Fall

Now let’s dive into how to lower your heating and cooling bills year-round…

Tip 1 - Change Your HVAC Filters

The easiest and most effective way to cut your HVAC heating bill is to change your air filters. Most people don’t change their filters often enough. Dirty filters become clogged and restrict airflow.

A clogged HVAC filter will reduce the efficiency of your HVAC system. This can happen in several ways. For starters, the system must work harder to pull air into it. On top of this, the restricted airflow could cause uneven cooling. As a result, the room with your thermostat may end up colder or hotter than the rest of your house. This causes your system to run even though the majority of your home is already overly cooled or overly heated.

This same dirty HVAC filter is going to reduce the lifespan of your HVAC system. On top of the high energy bills, you’ll end up spending money on repairing or replacing your system more frequently. Avoid unnecessary issues by changing your HVAC filter regularly.

Tip 2 - Clean Your HVAC Ducts

Dirty air ducts put unnecessary strain on your system. Having clear clean ducts will make sure your ac and furnace don’t work harder than necessary to keep your whole house comfortable.

HVAC ducts don’t become clogged as quickly as filters, but this doesn’t mean they don’t ever need to be cleaned. Dirty ducts will eventually restrict airflow. If your air ducts are over ten years old, it may be time to give your ducts a cleaning.

Tip 3 - Seal Your Central Air Ducts

What good is hot air if it never gets to you? Many homes have leaky air ducts that waste your conditioned air in the attic, garage, basement, and other areas outside of your insulated envelope. This is more of a problem than many homeowners realize.

The most common air duct leaks are just after the furnace and where the main duct trunk splits into branches. Smaller holes can be taped over with aluminum air duct tape and a layer of mastic duct sealant over the top. Larger gaps may require putty or even a realignment of your ducts. If you need any help with sealing up your duct system, we are happy to assist.

Tip 4 - Get Your HVAC System Serviced

According to Energy.gov, an air conditioning system needs to have its filters, coils, and fins serviced regularly. This allows it to “function effectively and efficiently throughout its years of service”. Fail to undergo this maintenance each year and the performance of your HVAC system will diminish while the cost of running the system goes up.

A common question is how often your system should be serviced. This depends on the age of your system and how much stress your system sees throughout the year. Check out our article on how often your HVAC system needs maintenance for a thorough answer to this question.

Tip 5 - Get a Home Energy Audit

This will let you know where heat may be escaping your home in the winter, and cool air escaping during the summer. It will help you prioritize what actions to take. The goal is to get the largest drop in your energy bill for your affordable efforts and investments in energy optimization.

When should you get a thermographic inspection? According to energy.gov, thermal scans should be done in the winter for northern states and in the summer for southern states.

Here in Southside VA, we recommend getting a winter assessment. According to EIA, Virginia heating accounts for 35% of our energy consumption, while cooling accounts for only 9%. That means it’s nearly four times as important to focus on heating losses as it is for cooling losses. Besides, most of the results from the winter thermal assessment will apply to cooling losses as well.

Tip 6 - Make Sure Your House Is Sealed Up Tight

Heating and cooling your home isn’t going to do you much good if all the cold air immediately leaves your house through air gaps and cracks. Most homes have multiple air gaps that add up to the same air loss as if you had a large air duct opening right through your wall.

Prevent this by completely sealing up any air gaps in your home. Start with the basics. Make sure your door’s weather stripping is still in good shape. Window seals are another unwanted entry point for hot or cold air. These can be sealed with caulk to keep your house comfortable.

Tip 7 - Replace Old Windows with Energy-Efficient Windows

Most older homes have poorly designed windows. Not only do they frequently leak air, but they also have poor insulating properties. If you have old wood-frame windows, there's a good chance they are a culprit of wasting energy.

There are a couple approaches here that can work. The best approach is to replace old windows with energy-efficient double or triple-glazed windows. In some homes, a cheaper option may be to place storm windows in front of your single-pane windows.

Tip 8 - Improve Your Home’s Insulation

Your home’s building envelope refers to the area that is heated and cooled. Typically garages, attics, and many basements are not within the insulated and environmentally controlled building envelope.

Many homes don’t have great insulation. In Virginia, the IECC compliance guide requires R-values of 38 for your ceiling, 13 for your walls, and 19 for your floor. Frequently, older homes don’t comply with these standards. And even if your home does comply, adding more insulation will only help reduce your energy bill.

Re-insulating an entire house can be expensive. However, many owners of older homes may find that it is more expensive not to improve the insulation of their homes. Modern insulation is far superior to older insulating methods and can dramatically decrease the amount of heat loss your home suffers.

You probably don’t need to completely re-insulate your home. In many cases, just adding insulation to your attic and around your HVAC ducts can dramatically improve your home’s ability to retain climatized air. This will cause your heating and cooling system to run less often and save you money.

Not only does Solutions Heating and Cooling take care of your HVAC equipment, we also have an attic insulation team. Give us a call to see if your attic insulation is good to go, or in need of improvement.

Tip 9 - Slow-Tweak Your Thermostat

You will read suggestions on the web to change your thermostat by 10 degrees to save hundreds of dollars on your bill. But here at Solutions Heating and Cooling, we are all about keeping your home comfortable. We will not suggest living in an uncomfortable house just to cut your bill down.

But you can make very subtle adjustments to the thermostat that you can easily acclimate to. Try changing the thermostat by just one degree from where you normally have it. One degree warmer in the summer or one degree cooler in the winter. A week later, you may find that the change is completely unnoticeable. You may even decide to tweak your thermostat another degree.

In my home, we slowly tweak the thermostat up during late spring and down during autumn. During summer, we are totally comfortable with the thermostat set at 78 degrees, while in winter we feel great at 72 degrees. But that’s our personal comfort zone. Yours may be different. Just give the slow-tweak process a try and see how much you can save without causing discomfort to the household.

Tip 10 - Work with Seasonal Temperatures Instead of Against Them

Do you find yourself fighting the change of weather? We tend to acclimate to the season, then find it challenging to adjust to the new hot or cold that we haven’t faced for a few months. This can add a lot to the energy bill before we get acclimated. But there are great ways of working with the seasons and minimizing the heating and cooling energy.

Instead of turning on the heat in the morning and AC in the afternoon, try getting outdoors and doing your high-energy tasks in the morning. Save your low-energy task and relaxation time for the warmer part of the day.

Also, make sure to let the morning air cool off your home before the heat of the day sets in. Then close up your windows and enjoy that fresh air for the rest of the day. Combine this with some other suggested points, like the use of cool treats, fans, and shade. You'll find that you are just as comfortable as you were before.

For more information on seasonal HVAC energy conservation, check out these articles

5 Energy-Saving Tips for Spring and Fall

10 Ways to Save Money on Your Air Conditioning Electric Bill

12 Ways to cut your HVAC heating bill in Virginia

Tip 11 - Upgrade Your HVAC System

Sometimes, you can plant trees, paint your house, seal up the windows and doors, swap appliances, and still end up with a high ac electricity bill. In this case, you may just need to upgrade your HVAC system.

Older HVAC systems don’t take advantage of modern-day efficiencies. No matter how well they’re maintained, they still end up using a lot of electricity to operate. If this sounds like your HVAC system, it may be time for an upgrade.

LEAP-VA has an article that helps to tell if it’s time to replace your heat pump and how to choose an efficient unit. When replacing your HVAC unit, make sure to get an Energy Star compliant heat pump. These will have a minimum rating of 15 SEER. SEER stands for “seasonal energy efficiency ratio,” and refers to its cooling efficiency. The higher the SEER rating, the better.

There’s also a rating for heat pump heating efficiency (HSPF). You want this to be 8.5 HSPF or higher to be Energy Star compliant. Likewise furnaces annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating should be better than 85% for oil or 90% for gas.

Many homeowners become overwhelmed with all these specifications, trying to pick the right HVAC equipment. We are happy to help you with selecting and installing an energy efficient unit that fits your needs. And reduces your heating and cooling bills.

Give Solutions Heating and Cooling a Call

No matter what your HVAC needs here is Southside Virginia, we are happy to give a helping hand. Feel free to call us at the number below: