Controlling air-conditioning, heating costs pay off in energy savings
If you are trying to save some money on your electric bill, here are the top energy users in your home and how to save while still keeping your cool.
Your air conditioning and heating costs account for a huge portion of your electric bill each month. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly half the energy used in your house is for cooling and heating.
The Department of Energy says more than 50% of your home’s energy cost are heating & cooling.
According to Dave Borowski, Director of Technical Training for Direct Energy Services, using something as simple as using a programmable thermostat can help control costs.
In the summer if you set your thermostat at 78 degrees you can save up to 15 percent on your utility bill. In the winter if you set the thermostat to 68 degrees while you are home, and lower the temperature when you are away or asleep, the savings add up, possibly as much as 1 percent for each degree. 
Of course, any savings would be minimized if your system isn’t running properly, which is why it’s important to use a licensed & insured HVAC specialist to inspect and adjust your heating and cooling systems.
“They are your home’s best defender of energy costs,” says Borowski. “They are the experts when it comes to getting the most out of your heating and cooling systems.”
Due to the sophistication of today’s systems, technicians must stay up-to-date on the latest technology, meaning homeowners should look for technicians who are certified under the North American Technician Excellence program.
Borowski says it’s important to find the right technician to install or service your system, and suggests asking your friends and neighbors for recommendations.
“You need to do your homework to separate the qualified from the not-so-qualified,” he says. “You need to find a person you’re comfortable with and someone willing to take the time to find out what’s best for you and your home.” Don’t hesitate to ask for referrals, copies of insurance and license – good contractors want to show them off.
Don’t take the infrastructure of your home for granted. Your ductwork plays a huge role in your heating and cooling needs and costs.
“Ductwork is the No. 1 problem for loss of energy in homes today,” Borowski says. “If you think you’re cooling system isn’t efficient, you need to have your ductwork checked out. Putting in a new air conditioning unit without addressing the ductwork is installing a new engine in your car & reusing the old oil.” Age, heat, dried out old duct tape, accidental crushing, moisture even the errant squirrel take a toll on ducting. More importantly today’s newer high SEER systems employ ECM motor technology where undersized ducting actually makes them use MORE energy – so duct testing & sizing is critical to energy conservation.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, air leakage from faulty ductwork in attics or crawl spaces can lose up to 40 percent of the heated or cooled air that passes through en route to the vents in your home.
You can play a part in efficient heating and cooling as well, starting with insulation, which, when installed properly, can save money on the cost of cooling and heating. Something as simple as weather stripping and caulking to plug the air leaks throughout your home will prevent hot air from entering your home, meaning your air-conditioning system has to work less hard to keep your house cool.
“You’re your own biggest ally when it comes to saving money on cooling and heating,” says Borowski. “By hiring the right people and properly maintaining your system, you’ll be helping reduce your energy costs.”