Year-round comfort at home depends on your heating and cooling system, and whether you realize it or not, nearly half of your energy spending is devoted to it. To ensure that youre getting the most for your dollars, take steps now to assess and improve the efficiency of the system and your home overall.Give HVAC equipment an annual tune-up. Just like that valuable piece of machinery in your driveway, a heating and cooling system needs annual maintenance to keep on running efficiently. So plan to have a contractor pay pre-season calls (spring for cooling, fall for heating) to address elements in ENERGY STARs Maintenance Checklist. Install a programmable thermostat. By programming its settings to match your away-from-home schedule, you can save around $100 in annual energy costs. If you have a heat pump, be sure to choose a set back thermostat designed for that system to avoid bringing on the heat pumps more costly backup heat.Seal all heating and cooling ducts. Did you know that up to 20 percent of potential comfort escapes through poorly sealed and insulated ductwork? Ducts running through the attic, crawlspace, garage and unheated basement should be first on your maintenance list; use duct sealant (mastic) or metal-backed tape rated UL 181. By the way, never duct tape to seal ducts! Run-of-the-mill duct tape doesnt have the required staying power to seal all seams and connections and will dry up and fall off with months of installation. After properely sealing the ducts, follow with an insulation wrap, and repeat the process with ducts that you can access in the heated or cooled parts of your house. Improve home insulation. When correctly installed, every type of insulation contributes to comfort and reduces energy bills. Its performance is measured by R-value, the ability to resist heat flow. The higher the value, the stronger the insulating power. R-value requirements vary for different areas of the home, and the climate you live in will determine overall needs. Refer to the U.S. Department of Energys Insulation Recommendations for more details. Upgrade your system. A furnace or air conditioner thats over 10 years old may be due for replacement with an ENERGY STAR qualified model. Add the programmable thermostat and change those filters regularly, and you could find yourself saving up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs.Improve air quality and humidity. When added to your HVAC system, a whole-house air cleaner helps your family breathe more easily and your heating and cooling equipment work more efficiently. The Aprilaire Model 5000, for example, clears the air of most airborne pollen and mold, respirable dust and virus-sized particles, killing bacteria and spores and trapping the rest. Hardworking, energy-saving humidifiers and dehumidifiers, which, depending on your climate, can also add comfort and improve health while protecting the overall structure of your home.
A little effort planning for heating and cooling efficiency throughout the year can yield plenty of energy savings benefiting both your wallet and your comfort!
Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the shows podcast or sign-up for Toms free weekly e-newsletter, visit the programs Web site.