This article was crafted with the help of ABC Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electric.

The dreaded utility bills arrive once a month, every month, often meeting sighs of frustration or disbelief. Unfortunately, they are simply part of living in your home; but with a proper and efficient routine, you can save energy and lower the dollar amount on your bills. Follow the below tips from Erik Schroll of ABC Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electric in Chicago to minimize the sighs and maximize the savings:

Determine proper sizing

Before signing off on a new system, homeowners should double-check that the HVAC company is properly sizing it. According to Erik, the sizing of a system is an area where many less-reputable companies cut corners. “Never trust that the person who installed the previous system correctly sized it to begin with,” Erik says. “If the contractor simply walks over to the system and writes down what is on the nameplate, that is the ultimate red flag.”

A common misconception is that HVAC systems are sized based on the amount of square footage you have in your home; this may not lead to the most accurate results. Instead, contractors should determine your home’s heat-loss, heat-gain calculation. The heat-loss, heat-gain calculation is how much heat you’re gaining or losing in your home through places like your windows and insulation.

Get your system checked once a year

To achieve maximum energy savings, homeowners should get their system checked once a year. During this time, a professional will check the refrigeration levels. “If a system is undercharged, this means you don’t have enough refrigerant in your system to properly remove heat from your coil to the outside, so the system has to work much, much harder in the process,” Erik says. “This results in higher energy bills.”

During the annual tune-up, the HVAC contractor will also look for wear and tear on the system’s parts and check the filter; you should ask your technician about changing filters yourself, as dirty filters make systems work harder and increase energy bills. “The tune-up is very underutilized in this industry. For most homeowners, it is ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ People just don’t think about doing it, but it costs you more money in utility bills to not maintain your system.”

Install a programmable thermostat

Another way to save money on heating and cooling bills is the addition of a programmable thermostat. These thermostats can store unique settings for different times of the day, and they permit homeowners to set temperature cycles before leaving the house. During the summer, increasing the home’s temperature while your family is at work or school can add up to energy savings. According to the government program ENERGY STAR, homeowners can save an average of $180 annually by installing, setting, and maintaining a programmable thermostat in their home.

Homeowners should know there is an art to programming a thermostat in advance. One of the biggest energy suckers in an HVAC system is the system itself turning off and on when it has to make an extreme temperature change. So, if you turn your thermostat up too many degrees while you are away during a hot summer’s day, it can actually make the system work harder when you come back and set it to cool down, because it has so far to go to reach your desired temperature.

Your HVAC contractor should also be able to give you recommendations for your specific home, but here are some general rules from ENERGY STAR to follow when setting a programmable thermostat:

  • When using your home’s heat, set the temperature back eight degrees during the day as well as at night while you’re sleeping.
  • When using your home’s cooling system, set your temperature up seven degrees during the day and four degrees at night during slumber.
Additional tips to save you money

Looking for a few more ways to save money on energy costs? Consider installing a humidifier in your home. “Humidity makes you feel warmer,” explains Erik, “so if you add humidity to the air when it’s cold outside, you can actually lower the temperature in your house and still feel as comfortable.” Erik also recommends not running your bath or kitchen fans too often. In addition, new windows and doors help keep the temperature regulated inside of the home, and keeping curtains and blinds closed during hot summer days can make your house cooler.

With a few adjustments to your habits like the ones listed above, you too can soon find yourself saving energy and cash.

This article was crafted with the help of ABC Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electric, a Chicago expert in Heating & Air Conditioning. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.

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