The unpredictable nature of Central Oregon weather can greatly impact utility bills. From hot summer days to subfreezing winters, varying conditions put a heating and cooling system to the test. Here are four ways to help keep heating and cooling bills low, while still keeping you comfortable in any season or weather that comes our way.
Regular Maintenance of the Current System
The heating and cooling equipment in homes are typically the appliances that draw the most energy, accounting for an average of 45 percent of a home’s energy bill, according to the United States Department of Energy. Making sure a system is properly maintained will keep it running efficiently and increase its longevity. Each season, take care to replace and clean the air filter. Be sure to clear the unit of any vegetation that might restrict the surrounding air movement. Snow in the winter time may also need to be shoveled away, taking care not to damage the coil on a heat pump. On a gas furnace, deep snowfall may also block flues that will need to be cleared for proper operation, and don’t forget to check air ducts for small leaks or holes. “Depending on the type of system, we recommend homeowners schedule a yearly or bi-annual maintenance to ensure a system is running correctly and catch any small issues before they grow into bigger ones,” says Rob Gassner at Ponderosa Heating & Cooling.
Thermostats have changed a lot in the last 10 years. Out are mechanical mercury thermostats. In are the digital and smart electronic versions. Along with this technology, the accuracy of indoor temperature has improved. Teamed with indoor sensors or zoning, a high level of comfort is possible. Smart thermostats also allow for programming selections to accommodate sleep or occupancy schedules — cooling or heating an empty home is not efficient. Remote access features over Wi-Fi can also add peace of mind while traveling.
The summer sun will also impact the comfort of a home. South and west facing windows will receive the most sun and can add to the heat load of a home. During the hottest part of a day, keeping blinds down will reduce solar heat gain. In the winter, opening up the blinds during the day may help heat absorption. Anticipating the weather can also help keep the environment comfortable. “When we experience extreme cold and heat, keeping set points ‘swings’ to a minimum will reduce the time needed to get your home back into your comfort zone,” says Rob. For example, on a hot summer day, getting a home from 80 to 72 could put a strain on a system and have it work at max capacity. Also, don’t block vents which will make a system work harder than it has to. “Systems are designed to have a certain amount of air volume pass thru the furnace,” says Rob. “Blocking and closing ducts may seem like a savings, but it can cause blower issues.”
Upgrade Your System
With today’s newer efficiency ratings, Rob says there can be an immediate difference in your heating bill and the comfort of your home when you invest in an updated, energy-efficient heating and cooling system appropriately sized for your living space. Over time, dirt and wear slowly reduce the efficiency of a system. Like any major appliance in a home, the time for replacement is before a major breakdown. “These major failures really tend to happened at the worst time,” Rob adds. Reviewing these tips is the first step toward keeping your heating and cooling systems healthy today and tomorrow. PonderosaHeating.com