According to ENERGY STAR, a joint program of the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, the average home is responsible for twice the greenhouse gas emissions of the average car. Furthermore, almost half of the average household’s energy bill consists of heating and cooling costs. This fact can be alarming to the environmentally conscious homeowner. Fortunately, there are many things homeowners can do to reduce their heating-and-cooling energy consumption and, consequently, their environmental impact.


The leading cause of HVAC inefficiency is simple dirt and disrepair. Homeowners should inspect their filter after every month of heavy use and change it when necessary. They should also schedule a professional maintenance check annually. These precautions will keep the system running as efficiently as possible for the longest amount of time.


No matter how well-maintained your HVAC system is, it will only be as efficient as its capabilities allow. Generally speaking, the older the system, the less efficient it is. Currently, the government requires air conditioning systems to have a minimum SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) of 13. Many older units, however, operate at 10 or even 8 SEER. Most professionals recommend that homeowners invest in a high-efficiency system if they plan on staying in their home for at least six years. In terms of heating, high-efficiency gas furnaces tend to work at a low level throughout the day, as opposed to working for bouts at a high level. This keeps the temperature relatively constant throughout the day, leading to lower energy use and increased comfort.


Programmable thermostats can be big energy savers for people whose homes are empty for regular periods of time. To get the most out of your programmable thermostat, make sure that it’s installed away from sources of heat or cold, including registers, fireplaces, lighting, and areas that are drafty or receive direct sunlight. Also, if you have multiple heating and cooling zones, it’s best to use a different thermostat for each zone. This will prevent your system from performing unnecessary work.

The Envelope:

Your home’s “envelope” is the entirety of its exterior—windows, walls, ceiling, and floor. According to ENERGY STAR, you can save up to 20 percent on your heating and cooling costs by sealing your home’s envelope. This might include adding insulation to the attic, replacing windows, or sealing air leaks in the ductwork. Consider hiring a certified Home Energy Rater to conduct an evaluation of your home.

Besides reducing your energy bill and environmental impact, an efficient heating and cooling system will increase the overall comfort level of your home. Consult an HVAC professional for more information on energy-efficient HVAC systems and to determine if one is right for you.

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