Challengicious Monday: Save Energy Through Heating and Cooling

>> Monday, April 12, 2010

Mondays are challengicious at The Conscious Shopper. Here's your next energy-related challenge:

Save Energy Through Heating and Cooling


To complete this challenge, you can...

BABY STEPS
  • Change your air filter regularly. Most of the time, that means monthly, but you can get filters that last longer. Just remember to change them when they are supposed to be changed. You can even get reusable furnace filters.
  • Don't make your A/C or furnace work too hard.
    • Keep doors and windows closed tightly.
    • Run exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen only when you need them.
    • Close the flue in your fireplace when you're not using it.
    • Uncover all your vents.
  • Keep your air conditioning unit properly maintained. Think of it like a car - sometimes it's going to need a tune-up.
  • Cover bare floors in the winter and uncover them in the summer. Adding rugs can improve your comfort level when you're cold, while a bare floor can be cool and soothing on those hot summer days.
  • Avoid using your oven on hot days.
  • Block the sun.
    • In the summer, keep the curtains drawn when the sun is on that side of your house, or install outside awnings over your windows.
    • In the winter, use heavy drapes as extra insulation over leaky windows, but keep south facing windows uncovered to allow the sun to warm your home naturally.
JOGGING STRIDE
  • Raise your thermostat a few degrees in the summer and lower it a few degrees in the winter.
    • Shoot for a daytime temperature of 78 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter. For each degree that you raise or lower your thermostat, you will save 3-5% off your heating/cooling costs.
    • Use a programmable thermostat to automatically raise or lower the temperature settings when you leave home or at night. (If you have a heat pump, it's probably best to ignore this advice unless you have a special programmable thermostat that can raise and lower the temperature gradually.)
  • Install and use ceiling fans. But remember that fans cool people, not rooms, so they will only save energy (and money) if you use them correctly. That means:
    • Turn the fan off when you leave a room. Think of a fan like a light - it does no good when no one is in the room to use it.
    • In the spring and fall, use ceiling fans instead of turning on the A/C.
    • In the summer, keep your thermostat set a few degrees higher than your comfort level, and turn your ceiling fans on high. Ceiling fans work along the same lines as a breeze on a hot day.
    • In the winter, reverse the direction the fan turns (usually just by flipping a switch), turn the fan on low, and keep your thermostat set lower. The fans will push air toward the ceiling, forcing the warm air down into the room.
    • Make sure you get the appropriate size fan for your room. A small fan in a large room is not going to do a good job.
  • Landscape smart.
    • Plant medium-height trees on the east and west sides of your home to block the sun when it's low in the sky.
    • Plant tall deciduous trees on the south side of your home. They'll block out the sun when it's high in the sky in the summer but allow the sun through when it's at a lower angle in the winter .
    • Plant dense evergreens on the north side of your home where they'll block cold winter winds.
MARATHON RUNNER
  • Seal leaks and add insulation. Use this DIY Guide to Sealing and Insulating from Energy Star.
    • Seal and repair leaky air ducts to cut your heating/cooling costs by up to 30 percent.
    • Add insulation, and make sure it's installed properly. The best place to add insulation? The attic.
    • Check for air leaks around windows, doors, outlets, entrances to attics and crawlspaces, and in attics and basements. Conscious Shopper reader Frank directed me to this smoke test that you can use to find leaks around your windows and doors (although he says you could easily do it with a cigarette or smokey incense).
  • Install energy efficient windows and doors.
  • Upgrade to a more efficient A/C unit. If you live in a moderate climate, consider getting a heat pump - they are 30% more efficient than a typical air conditioner. Or take a look at geothermal heat pumps, which cost more but are even more efficient and last much longer.
Most of these steps are completely free, and those that do cost money should save you money over the long run. As we go through these Saving Energy challenges, keep reminding yourself that saving energy = saving money.

I'm planning on switching to a reusable filter this month. We do the rest of the Baby Steps and Jogging Stride steps except for the landscaping tips because we're renting. I need to check for and seal air leaks, but I can't do the other Marathon Runner tips because of the renting thing.

Sealing leaks and adding insulation is actually a huge thing and may take you more than a week to complete. Don't worry - most of the steps in the next few weeks are super easy, so you should have plenty of time to focus on caulking and insulating.

Will You Take the Challenge?
____________________

You have hereby been challenged to go green in a year without going broke!
Check out the last challenge, or view the whole list of Challengicious Mondays. Sign up for my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter, and join my "Go Green without Going Broke" group on Facebook!

6 comments:

Penny Basket April 12, 2010 at 5:37 AM  

These steps are definitely worth taking. We're staying in a house with only ceiling fans in use. There is an air conditioner which we never use, it belongs to the landlady.
Thanks to the huge tree in front of our house, it's cooler inside.

Michelle,  April 12, 2010 at 7:56 AM  

The rental house I live in stays on the cool side, and I have realized that the heat pump is not something I would install in a house I own. I am grateful that there are three ceiling fans here, they are a definite plus. I bought a re-usable filter, but it was a cut to size thing that ended up getting stuck in the unit and had to be gently pulled out, I will have to look and see if I can find a better one here soon.
I really like that since I work at home now, I don't have to be in the freezing temperatures of an office only to go outside to the hot. My body does much better with gradual changes than it did with the extremes.
Have a wonderful day!

Nana Sadie April 12, 2010 at 9:14 AM  

A total electric townhouse with a landlord who gets irate over high energy costs, but isn't all that willing to do the important things like insulate and caulk has made me do all the baby steps already.
(68 in winter? I'm at 60)

So I've met this challenge probably as far as I can. Oh, I'll start changing the filter every month - I was doing every 3 and thought that was the best! Ok...I'll ACCEPT the challenge!

Keep doing what you do, I get so many great ideas!!! Thank you!
(((hugs)))

Erin aka Conscious Shopper April 12, 2010 at 11:32 AM  

@Nana Sadie - How often you need to change the filter depends on what kind of filter you buy. If you get the three month kind, it's okay to change it every three months. Just don't wait three months to change the one month kind.

@Michelle - Heat pumps are better for warmer climates. In Maryland our heat pump broke like clockwork every winter the first time the temp dropped below freezing. In our apartment in NC we had no problem with it.

Condo Blues April 12, 2010 at 10:51 PM  

I can't say enough good things about switching to a reusable furnace filter. I vacuum it every month to clean it. My husband bought it because it's supposed to be a super duper allergy filtering filter. Also we're kinda lazy when it comes to shopping :)

Heating & Cooling Toronto February 5, 2014 at 8:45 PM  

Keeping your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter is essential to the comfort of your family. Homeowners are always looking for ideas to maintain the comfort of their home while reducing the amount they spend on energy costs each month. Making some simple changes in how you operate your cooling and heating system will help you to save money on your energy bills.

Heating & Cooling Toronto

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