When Chicagoland dials up the heat, keeping cool can seem like a daunting task. And it can certainly be an expensive one. In fact, in the average home, half of the total energy bill can be attributed to cooling (and heating) costs. If you can improve cooling efficiency, you can take a bite out of your energy expenses – and stay more comfortable through the summer, too. Here are some areas to focus on:
Change Your A/C’s Air Filter
A dirty, clogged air filter not only decreases your A/C efficiency, it can actually damage your system.
Your air filter functions as a sieve, straining out dust, pollen, mold spores and other airborne particulates that can coat and obstruct your system and degrade your indoor air quality. But the more particles it removes from circulation, the more particles are obstructing airflow through the filter medium itself. This means that the A/C’s fan motor has to work harder, and risk burning out sooner – and that cool air doesn’t circulate through your home as well as it should. You can improve cooling efficiency in your system by making sure that you inspect your filter once every month, and replace as needed.
Keep Up With Your Annual HVAC Maintenance
Yearly maintenance is the best way to enjoy a long, efficient life from your HVAC appliances. An annual tuneup can ensure that all your systems are operating at peak efficiency, and include repairs on any small or unnoticed issues, and identification of problems that could grow into more serious damages without early attention.
Consider A Programmable Thermostat
Dialing back the air conditioning during the cooler night hours and while you’re away from home can help save you money, but resetting the thermostat multiple times per day can be a hassle. A programmable thermostat automates this, while still allowing you to override the settings when your daily schedule changes.
Programmable thermostats have a number of programming options, including offering two schedules (one for weekdays, one for weekends); three (one for weekdays, one for Saturdays, and one for Sundays); and allowing a different schedule to be programmed for every day of the week. Most models also automate temperature changes for long periods of home vacancy, such as vacations.
Seal Your Ductwork
The purpose of ductwork is to transport cooled and heated air to all the various living areas in your home, but leaky ducts often deliver that cool air to crawlspaces and building cavities instead. Improve cooling efficiency by up to 20 percent by making sure you’re not losing conditioned air, causing your A/C to work harder to compensate and bring living areas to a comfortable temperature.
Insulating your ductwork should be the second step in your duct improvements. Insulated ducts prevent conditioned air from picking up environmental heat – something especially important if your ducts pass through attic spaces, as heat concentrates in un-ventilated attics during the summer.
Consider Energy Star High-Efficiency HVAC Appliances
A well-maintained air conditioner should last you 12-15 years, but a number of recent technology improvements, including the R-22 refrigerant phaseout, has meant that newer models of air conditioner are more efficient than older ones were, even when they were newly installed. A home energy evaluation can tell you how efficiently your current system is performing, and whether an upgrade makes fiscal sense.
You also should be mindful of how the various systems in your house work together. If, for example, you’ve recently sealed your home, improved insulation and installed energy-recovery ventilation, you may find that your air conditioner is oversized for the cooling load your home requires. You may be able to improve cooling efficiency and lower energy costs by switching to a smaller model.
Talk to Your Contractor
During your annual tuneup, ask your contractor to take a look at how well the HVAC equipment was installed; an improper installation can cost you up to 30 percent of your system’s efficiency. If installing new equipment, make sure your contractor is licensed, bonded and insured, and work with a contractor you can trust.
To learn more about how to improve cooling efficiency this summer in your Chicago area home, and to speak with local HVAC experts, please contact us at Black Diamond Plumbing & Mechanical today.
Written by Rick Sperando
Image provided by Shutter Stock.