thermostat

Fall into Energy Efficiency

Brittney Gordon-Williams

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

Fall is by far my favorite time of year. After the sweltering heat of a DC summer, no season makes me happier than the crisp mornings that come with September. It brings back memories of returning to school as a kid and all of the excitement that came with a fresh start to the school year. These days, fall means yummy seasonal flavors at the coffee shop and the chance to bundle up once again in my favorite jeans and sweaters. But, as I slowly start to feel the chill creeping into my home, I am reminded once again that fall is prime time to make sure that my house is prepared for the upcoming wintery months.

Did you know that the average family spends more than $2,100 a year on energy bills, with nearly half of that going to heating and cooling? Properly maintaining your home in the cooler months can save you money and will also protect the climate from harmful greenhouse gas emissions. So, what are the most important things that you should be doing to get your home ready?

1.)    Maintain your heating equipment: The number one cause for heating system failure is the neglect of your equipment. If your system is more than 10 years old, this is the time to schedule a pre-season check up with a licensed contractor. A contractor can let you know if your system is operating at peak performance. You should also check your system’s air filter every month, and when it is dirty, change it. At minimum, change your filter every three months.

2.)    Use a programmable thermostat: The best way to control your home’s temperature is to use a programmable thermostat. By using the pre-programmed settings, you could save about $180 every year in energy costs.

3.)    Seal air leaks in your home. As much as 20 percent of the air moving through your home’s duct system is lost due to leaks and poor connections. Sealing air leaks with caulk, spray foam, or weather stripping will have a significant impact on improving your comfort and reducing energy bills. If you are adding insulation to your home, seal air leaks first to ensure you get the best performance from your insulation. Seal duct work using mastic sealant or metal tape, and insulate all the ducts that you can access (such as those in attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements, and garages). Also, make sure that connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet floors, walls, and ceilings. These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.

4.)    Look for ENERGY STAR qualified products. Whether you are replacing light bulbs or appliances in your home, ENERGY STAR qualified products can help you save energy and reduce energy bills. The label can be found on more than 65 types of products ranging from heating and cooling equipment to ENERGY STAR certified lighting.

ENERGY STAR’s website has everything you need to get your home ready for fall. From tools to help you compare your energy use to similar homes across the country, to recommendations from EPA’s Home Energy Advisor, energystar.gov is your one-stop shop for all things energy efficient.  Starting this weekend, I am going to use these tips to make sure my energy bills don’t rise with the falling temperatures.

Brittney Gordon-Williams is a member of the ENERGY STAR program’s communications team. She came to EPA in 2010 after a career in broadcast journalism.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Program Your Way To Savings

By Brittney Gordon

Do you use a programmable thermostat? For many years I would have had to answer no to that question. I always tried to turn down the heat/air conditioning as I left for work in the morning and before I went to bed, but that strategy was 50/50 to say the least. If only I had known that for a very small investment I could have regulated the temperature in my home and saved about $180 a year.

A programmable thermostat comes with settings that allow you set the temperature of your house based on your family’s schedule. Use this chart to get started.

Here are some rules of thumb for properly using these thermostats:

  1. Keep the temperature set at its energy-saving set-points for long periods of time (at least eight hours).
  2. All thermostats let you temporarily make an area warmer or cooler, without erasing the pre-set programming. This override is cancelled automatically at the next program period. Beware: You use more energy and will pay more on energy bills if you consistently override the pre-programmed settings.
  3. Units typically have two types of hold features: (a) hold/permanent/vacation; (b) temporary. Avoid using the hold/permanent/vacation feature to manage daily temperature settings. “Hold” or “vacation” features are best when you’re planning to be away for an extended period. Set this feature at a constant, efficient temperature (i.e., several degrees warmer temperature in summer, several degrees cooler during winter), when going away for the weekend or on vacation. You’ll waste energy and money if you leave the “hold” feature at the comfort setting while you’re away.
  4. Cranking your unit up to 90 degrees or down to 40 degrees will not heat or cool your house any faster. Most thermostats begin to heat or cool at a set time, reaching set-point temperatures sometime thereafter. Units with adaptive (smart) recovery features are an exception to this rule.
  5. Many homes use just one thermostat to control the whole house. If your home has multiple heating or cooling zones, you’ll need a programmed setback thermostat for each zone to maximize comfort, convenience, and energy savings throughout the house.
  6. If your programmable thermostat runs on batteries, don’t forget to change the batteries each year. Some units will indicate when batteries must be changed.

If you need help installing your programmable thermostat, EPA’s ENERGY STAR program has everything you need to get started here.

About the author: Brittney Gordon is a member of EPA’s ENERGY STAR program communications team. The Baltimore native has worked for EPA since 2010.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

78 Degrees?

By Larry Teller

What temperature do you set on your house thermostat during these sultry summer days? (To clarify, I’m asking about the times of the day and week when you’re home but don’t have guests.)

I believe in 78 degree, and here’s why:

  • It feels fine to me, especially when coming into the house on a hot, muggy day (Contrast is often what counts in life),
  • The other day, when the air conditioner maintenance guy was leaving, and resetting the thermostat, he asked, simply, “78 degree?” He has no incentive to make me sweat, right?
  • My own agency offers energy-saving/pollution reduction tips for the cooling season, including
  1. Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs
  2. Use ceiling fans instead of, or when needed, to supplement air conditioning,
  3. Close shade and blinds when you can,
  4. Check and replace air conditioner filters,
  5. Plug duct leaks, and (here comes my favorite),
  6. Set your thermostat higher when no one is home, and program it around your schedule

Unfortunately, I’m often the only one in the house who agrees that 78 degree is about right. (Could it be because I pay the bills each month, and $400+ gas and electric bills in the summer make me cry?) You can imagine how righteous-but-weird I feel when I’m moved to sneak a hand around a living room wall corner, or do a tip-toe walk down the stairs at night, to raise the thermostat a degree or two. Logic and charm haven’t (yet?)helped in my house and, so, stealth is often the only approach available.

How do you handle this in your house? Advice is welcome.

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action; and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog post.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.