The majority of your energy usage at home is used to heat and cool your home.
It’s not even close. So let’s take a look at your home’s Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) and see how you can save on your consumption. At the end, we’ve included some links to government programs available to help pay for upgrades…but please read first so you are making the right decision for your home.
Your thermostat is the brains behind your home’s heating and cooling. Based on your input, it will try to ensure that your home is in your preferred temperature range. They will not save you on your consumption if they are not used properly. The most important aspect about your thermostat to save energy is to properly set the temperature so that your HVAC doesn’t need to work as often. The chart below goes over some recommended settings for Summer and Winter. If you’re able to handle a hotter home in the summer and cooler in the winter adjust accordingly. This will start your process of lowering your need to use your HVAC.
You can do all the upgrades to your equipment that you want but if your home is not properly sealed and insulated, then it will not retain its temperature well causing you to use more energy and increase your costs. It may sound obvious but keep your windows and doors closed when your equipment is running. Leaks can occur in any home in a variety of places. Keep an eye out for potential air leaks and seal them if you can.
- Doors – If you can see light coming from the edges of your doors when they’re closed then they aren’t sealed properly. The expensive solution is a new door and frame. The inexpensive solution is to head down to Penner’s (or your hardware store of choice) and to purchase new weatherstripping. While you’re looking at your door, have a look at the caulking around it. If it appears to be cracked, then air is getting through. Try to remove the existing caulking and apply a new seam using appropriate caulking found at the store.
- Windows – New Energy Star windows can save you on energy costs as they are well insulated, but they can be expensive. Older windows can still be optimized with weatherstripping. In the winter months, some people apply a plastic film to the windows which will improve their insulation capabilities. Same as doors, check the caulking around your windows for cracks and correct where needed.
- Exterior Wall Outlets – Often overlooked, the power outlets that are installed on your exterior facing walls can leak air and if you have enough of them, the total leakage can be extensive. Simple foam covers can be easily installed to help seal the outlets.
- Insulation – Older homes can often have their wall insulation shrink and fall which can cause gaps in your wall insulation but it’s not a simple thing to identify. We recommend contacting a professional if you have an older home to look at the health of your insulation. You may also benefit from a top-up of ceiling insulation to help your home maintain a comfortable temperature.
VENTING & DUCTS
Now to take care of leaks within your home. When your home was built, there is a strong likelihood that the ducts that carries your air weren’t fully sealed. The leaks from ducts will heat and cool your joists, not you, so if you have the ability to seal them, do it. Exposed duct work can be sealed by the homeowner fairly easily. First, make sure you are using the proper tape. Standard duct tape is not meant to seal ducts. Use Air Duct Aluminum Foil Tape to seal exposed ducts (mastic tape is also used but ca. Search for leaks when your HVAC is running. You can often feel the air leaking from ducts so use the tape to seal it off. Look for Duct work that is hidden would require help from a professional which may or may not be cost-effective.
Your furnace is the motor behind both your heating and cooling (if you have central air). It has 2 main components; a heat exchange to heat the air, and a motor to move the air around your home. Most new furnaces will come equipped with an ECM motor so if you’re looking at updating your furnace, ensure that it has one. This type of motor is one of the most efficient options available. All new homes in Ontario are required to have one for efficiency. Your furnace is used in in the summer to move cool air around the home so it’s a year round contributor to your energy usage. As you have now optimized your temperature settings and sealed off your air leaks your furnace can be optimized.
- Air Filters – Change your filters once every 2-3 months or sooner if you’re doing a home renovation. A clogged filter can be a fire hazard and it causes your motors to work harder to move the air around your home. Air flow is reduced with a clogged filter and you could wear out your motor earlier so change your filter regularly.
- Does it need to run? Many homeowners run their furnace fan constantly and in some cases where moisture is a concern it might be necessary. Otherwise, you are likely wasting electricity. Change your thermostat settings to run on auto when the HVAC is active and you will cut down on your energy costs.
- Regular Maintenance – Having your furnace maintained regularly can ensure that it is in optimum shape. It may not have an effect on it’s consumption though.
Your AC can be an energy hog. Just like your furnace, the best way to save on air conditioning is to not use it in the first place. While this isn’t likely to happen there are a few things that you can do to lessen the need for it
- Spray It – Every so often during the cooling season, spray down the venting of your AC unit. This will remove dust and dirt that might clog it to allow for more efficient heat transfer. Your AC absorbs heat from your inside air and releases it outdoors so help it out. Any dents in the unit will lessen it’s efficiency as well so avoid bumping it as much as possible.
- Free Cooling – When the nights are cooler, open up your windows at night to let in the free cooler air. When the morning comes, close your windows to capture the cool air.
- Use Fans – When you’re in the same room with a ceiling fan, it can be 4F warmer without you noticing any difference. Fans help your body cool down by speeding up the evaporation process of your sweat. They only work when you’re in the room though, so turn them off when you’re not in the room.
- Use Blinds & Curtains – South facing windows will help the sun’s heat enter the home but when you use your blinds and curtains, you can help block out the heat. Trees are the ultimate energy saver for homes as they also help prevent winds chill your home in the winter. They take years to grow but are worth looking into for any green-thumb.
- Don’t add Unnecessary Heating to Your Home
- Older incandescent only use 15% of their energy creating light, the rest creates heat. LED light bulbs now come in virtually any colour and shape and also use up to 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs. The costs for LED bulbs are now comparable to older CFL bulbs but have no mercury and last 15x longer than CFLs.
- Advice on New Units – The lowest legal efficient AC unit in Ontario is now 14SEER. Most AC savings estimates were created for homes in the California area which can be misleading. If you are getting the same-sized unit then you will likely never save on electricity to make up for the added costs for an efficient unit. What you should look for is an opportunity to right-size your air conditioner. Many homes have units that are larger than what they need. Getting a right-sized unit will often cost you less up-front. Consult your AC rep to see if your air conditioner is the appropriate size.