There are some tasks that can be performed by the homeowner and others that must be performed by a licensed air conditioning and heating service technician. The more the homeowner can, or is willing to do, the lower the price of the service calls will be. Below are some air conditioner and thermostat placement tips to keep your bills low:
Interior Homeowner A/C Maintenance
Although there’s really no written-in-concrete order of tasks, the thermostat is a good place to start. If it is battery powered, it’s recommended to change the batteries. There’s no sense in risking them failing in the middle of sultry summer night. You can also go for thermostat placement.
Thermostat placement, calibration and cleaning is also a good idea at this stage. If the unit is one of the older round types, it is advisable to invest in a 7-day programmable thermostat. This will allow the home to remain in the comfort zone only when needed, not 24 hours a day.
The next thing to do is to inspect the duct system. Insulated metal ducts are generally problem-free, but many homes are built using flex ducts. These are inexpensive and easy to install. Essentially, they consist of an insulated foil tube with an interior metal wire coil to keep them round and expanded. The downside is that they degrade in the attic heat and either collapse, restricting air flow, or rip.
When they rip, 2 problems arise. First, heated or cooled air escapes, depending on the season. Secondly, dust and bits of attic insulation infiltrate the duct and are delivered into the home via the diffusers or air grills. Small rips may be patched using metalized duct tape (never use plastic-type duct tape in the attic; it won’t last), but it’s a better idea to replace the entire run.
Exterior Homeowner A/C Maintenance
Next, inspect the air conditioner condenser. In most cases, this is the unit that sits on a concrete or plastic pad outside the home. The top and interior should be free of all debris. Be certain there is no power to the unit when performing this task.
There are metal cooling fins located on the exterior sides. Be very careful when working with these because they are extremely sharp and will cut to the bone. Since they are very thin, they bend easily but must be straight to be effective and energy efficient. It’s easiest to straighten them with a condenser fin comb.
Next, use a soft brush or a garden hose with high-pressure nozzle to clean between the fins to optimize air flow. Finally, back inside the home, change out the return air filter and make a note to change it every month on the day when the electric bill is paid. Steadily increasing utility rates are a great incentive to perform this important money-saving task.
Benefits of a Home Energy Audit
A home energy audit is important for energy conservation by homeowners. Considering the high cost of energy today, lowering utility bills by making a home more energy efficient is essential. An energy audit can help identify areas of a home that are economically fixed to save on heating oil, electricity, water, or gas bills.
A home energy audit helps reduce utility bills year round; however, energy savings are most important during winter and summer. These are two times during a year in which a drafty walls and windows, poor insulation, and inefficiency of heating and air conditioning systems (HVAC) dramatically increase utility bills.
Home Audit: Conducting a Self Audit
The following check points for energy conservation and include what to look, along with cost effective corrective measures:
Electrical Outlets/Switch Plates – check for air leaks on exterior walls, loose outlets and switches, and difficulty with inserting or holding electrical plugs. These are signs of poor insulation or indications of worn electrical parts. Remove cover plates and install a thin piece of foam insulation to seal air leaks, available at most hardware stores. Loose and worn plugs or switches must be fixed by a licensed electrician or handyman.
Windows – use either an incense burner for smoke or the back of a wet hand to check for air leaks, concentrating on window seals and frames. Re-caulk windows if wooden, replace glass pane inserts if vinyl or metal windows, use foam insulation strips around edge of window frame, and use caulk to seal edge of window frames at walls to seal air leaks.
Exterior Doors – test doors using the same procedures for checking windows. Do it yourself by using caulk to seal edge of door frames and install a new door sill or use foam insulation strips around edge of door jamb to seal air leaks.
Faucets – check water faucets for leaks. All faucets must be checked for even the smallest leaks, including faucets for clothes washer and exterior faucets. Leaky faucets should be fixed by a licensed plumber or handyman.
Light Fixtures – test ceiling light fixtures, especially recessed lights, using the same procedures for checking windows. Do it yourself by inserting fiberglass insulation in cracks between electrical boxes and ceiling, after light fixtures are removed to seal air leaks. Another option is to hire a licensed handyman to complete work.
Air Filters – check for dirty HVAC air filters. These filters must be replaced on a monthly basis to reduce dirt build up in HVAC equipment and ductwork system.
Attic Insulation – measure thickness of the insulation. If less than 11 inches of fiber glass or rock wool or 8 inches of cellulose, typically means less than R-30, more insulation is needed. Do it yourself by increasing the amount of insulation in the attic to between R-30 and R-60 or hire a contractor.
Crawl Space/Basement – if floors or selected floors in a home with a crawl space or basement are cold then new or more insulation is needed. Do it yourself by adding more insulation to increase insulation rating between R-25 to R-30 or hire a handyman.
Window Air Conditioners – check for air leaks around window air conditioning units using the same procedures for checking windows. Air leaks can be sealed using foam strip insulation. The window unit should be covered on the outside during winter to keep cold air from entering or warm air from leaving the home through the unit.
Cost Effective: Benefits of Self Home Audit
Completing a home energy audit is the optimal method for finding areas in a home that waste energy. Using the findings of a self audit to properly seal and insulate a home is important for energy conservation. Sealing and insulating are the most cost effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy efficient, in many cases a homeowner can do it yourself.
If a homeowner is not comfortable with a self audit, professional home energy auditors are available for completing a basic or even more detailed energy audit. These professionals use equipment such as blower doors and infrared cameras to reveal hard-to-detect areas of air infiltration and missing insulation. An important point to remember is that repairs resulting from an energy audit also increase a home’s value and return on investment.