Back in the Black: Tips for Saving Money on Energy Bills
Keeping your energy budget “in the black” is pretty important, especially as we head towards spring and you’ll be heating or cooling your home full-time (and maybe even both in one day given our Valley weather!) If your energy bill seems to be getting away from you, there are a few things you can do to lower it. If your bill has climbed dramatically in the past few months, or is more expensive than it was this time last year, you’ll want to read this blog. We’ll talk about home sealing, duct testing, troubleshooting systems, and other factors that could save you money.
Utility Bill 101
It’s a fact that your bill gets higher the more energy you use. Whether that’s electricity to an AC system or gas to your furnace, the more you run your equipment, the more you will pay the utility company to do so. One simple method of saving money: Use the equipment less. It sounds dumb, but there are a lot of ways to simply use the heat and AC less than you are right now. Personally, we’re big fans of programmable thermostats that can be set up to only heat or cool your home when you’re there to feel it.
If your equipment is broken or not optimized, it will not work efficiently. That means you’ll pay more money for the same (or less) result. A spike in your utility bill from one month to the next is good reason to call a contractor, because it can mean something has broken in the HVAC system and the system is running more to accomplish the same results.
You probably wouldn’t run a race on an injured leg — in fact, you can’t even train in the same way! Healing is the first step in any physical endeavor, and HVAC systems aren’t too different. Running a broken system will cost you more money and cause more damage until it’s fixed. Just like pushing yourself too hard on an injured leg, you can do real damage to your system if you persist in using it without fixing major problems.
If your goal is to run your HVAC system more cost-effectively than in the past, the first step of that race is repair. Fix any problems that have cropped up, get the furnace serviced and tune-up your AC while you’re at it. Once everything is running correctly, you can start the next step in the process: optimizing the system.
Optimizing the System
So now your system is really humming. What’s next? Well, now we’re in the realm of making sure your system is working as best it can. If we continue with our running analogy, now that the energy has healed, we can start training effectively. And system optimization is training! There are a whole host of things you can do to make your HVAC run better or for less money.
Duct sealing and cleaning is a great option and one that often gets forgotten. Badly-sealed ducts carry air about as well as a bucket with holes drilled in the bottom. To make up for the air that gets “lost” along the way, the system runs more often and costs you more money—plus the house isn’t as comfortable as it could be if the air was being delivered properly.
We mentioned thermostat replacement already, but it bears repeating: new thermostats are a great way to get more out of your current HVAC setup. Many of our clients have seen reductions in their heating bills after installing programmable thermostats, especially the ones whose old thermostats were broken in the first place.
Optimization can also include your home itself, though — and that brings us to the next topic: your house itself.
Heating and cooling accounts for a lot of the energy you use. For most of our clients, the biggest chunk of the utility bill comes from their HVAC system, and that’s not necessarily abnormal or even a bad thing. But it can be the motivation you need to look closely at your home and see how well it’s using the energy you spend money on.
Really, when we get down to it, you’ll want to update insulation and find different ways to achieve a well-insulated building. You may get a lot of mileage out of a tube of caulk and a plan for sealing up your home’s cracks. This is obviously a lot easier to do if you’re building a new house, but it’s still possible to make an old house more sealed. From new types of insulation to anti-moisture retention methods, this can be a rewarding home-improvement project in more ways than one.
When you seal your home, you’re trying to stop heat loss from occurring, and the other way to do that is to address the biggest sources of heat loss: your windows. Windows can let out a lot of warmth, especially if they’re old or single-paned. Brand new double-paned windows are a great way to retain heat in your house, and the savings on your bill can be drastic.
Money Now, Savings Later
Furnace repair, window replacement, new thermostats (or maybe even new HVAC equipment) — all of these things cost money. And we understand that spending money isn’t much fun. But it’s also not much fun to have an HVAC system that isn’t working right and doesn’t keep you and your family comfortable.
And while doing something about it will likely cost some money, a broken or poorly-optimized system is already costing you money. Repair bills and utilities may seem small month-to-month, but all together you might be spending a lot more every year than you need to! There are a lot of things that can be done about that—more even than we have room for in this post. But we guarantee your budget has room for one or two. And that’s what staying “in the black” is about: looking to the future and planning ahead!