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This is Part 1 Of our 3-Part Article discussing 25 uncommon ways to lower heating costs.    Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C in Plano, Texas provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  We sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (part of American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (part of York HVAC).

Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C also provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home.  Additionally, Al’s sells and installs Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  We are near your home in Plano, TX;  Allen, TX; and Frisco, TX.  We service all homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties with no additional travel charges.

Call Al’s today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience.

Click Here For Part 2 Of Our Article: Lower Heating Costs — Part 2

25 Uncommon Low To Modest Cost Ways To Lower Heating Costs

(And Most Way Lower Cooling Costs Too)

gold medallion home badge live better electrically

Image Source: Flikr

Shown: Gold Medallion Plaque On Many All-Electric Homes.

Note:  Not every all-electric home has a Medallion.

On A Side Note:  

If Your DFW Home Is All-Electric —  and you’re considering replacing your HVAC System. 

A Heat Pump HVAC System can lower heating costs by 1/3 or more — as compared to an electric furnace. 

Example:  Heating-Costs Comparison — A 2,000 Square Foot DFW Home With 4 Occupants:

  • Electric Furnace
  • 11,775 kWh X $11 per kWh
  • $1,305. Annual Heating Cost – Electric Furnace.
  • Heat Pump — Standard Efficiency
  • 7,450 kWh X $11 cents per kWh
  • $ 810.00 Annual Heating Cost – Heat Pump.
  • A standard-efficiency Heat Pump achieves over 1/3 savings (or more) in heating costs over an electric furnace.

Click Here To Learn All About Heat Pumps: AlsPlumbing.com Heat Pump Benefits (Part 1 of 4)

photo of colorful fall leaves

Image Source: ShutterStock

This Article Isn’t About Heat Pumps —

Or Any Other Expensive Energy-Saving Home Upgrades

It Outlines Ways To Lower Heating (& Cooling) Costs Without Replacing Your HVAC System.

Price Tags For Some Expensive Energy-Saving Upgrades:

  • Replace HVAC System: $10-$15,000.  It Depends on the size of your home and the efficiency of the new HVAC system.
  • Solar Panels: $10-50,000.  These operate year round, and can furnish most or all of the A/C’s needs.
  • Replacement Windows: $4-25,000.  Depends on the number, brand and grade of windows chosen.
  • Something worth noting — today’s modestly-priced vinyl replacement windows’ performance is similar to premium brands.
  • Note: Before you decide on replacement windows — we suggest you check out: Window World of Dallas (Al’s doesn’t get paid for mentioning Window World).

 

Lower Heating Costs — At No To Modest Cost

1. Compare Your Electricity Retailer’s kWh Charge To The Lowest Price Retailer

Go To PowerToChoose.org.

To see electric kWh rates from many electricity retailers.  Plans can be ranked (for cost per kWh).

  • There are 3 rates per kWh:  500 kWh  /  1,000 kWh  /  2,000 kWh
  • Check previous bills to determine your average kWh per monthly usage.  This will determine which rate is most important to you.
  • Plans are for 3, 6 or 12 months.  You can filter results by: “Contract Length”. 
  • Also Check the Monthly Base Charge.

Note: Some plans have a minimum charge for a Specified Number Of kWH.

If you use less — you still pay the minimum charge.

All You Need To Compare Is The Energy Charge (per kWh) & The Base Charge For Each Electricity Retailer 

  • All of DFW is served by ONCOR — our local electricity Distributor.
  • So Oncor’s Transmission & Distribution Charge will be identical.

When This Was Written — The Highest Priced Electricity Retailer

Was +65% Higher

Than The Lowest Priced Retailer (zip code 75081)

  • A LOWEST Rate =  8.5 cents per kWh (based on 2000 kWh per month).

Plan Information (as stated by the provider):

  • 12 Month Contract
  • Energy Charge (2,000 kWh) at 8.5 cents per kWh = $174.00
  • Base Charge = $2.00 per month

Lowest Priced Retailer’s Bill = $ 170.00 (2,000 kWh) + $2.00 (base charge) = $172

In addition to the Energy Charge, this charge is added to your monthly bill:

  • Oncor’s Electricity Transmission and Distribution (TDU) Charge  = $0.0368 per kWh (with any retailer)

COMPARED TO;

  • A HIGHEST Rate = 13.8 cents per KWH (based on 2000 kWh per month).

Plan Information (as stated by the retailer):

  • 12 Month Contract
  • Energy Charge (2,000 kWh) at 13.8 cents per kWh = $276.00
  • $9.95 base charge.

Highest Priced Retailer’s Bill = $276.00 (2,000 kWh) + $9.95 (base charge) = $286

Their Bill is +$114 / +65% higher — than the least expensive retailer’s plan. 

In addition to the Energy Charge, these charges will be added to your monthly bill (with any retailer):

  • Oncor’s Electricity Transmission and Distribution (TDU) Charge = $0.03827 per kWh

Electricity Retailers’ Rates Change All The Time — Get Their Latest Rates At: PowerToChoose.org

 

2. Lower Heating (& Cooling) Costs By Up To -40% 

By Sealing Air Leaks  

Texas Building Code for new homes is based on the 2015 National Energy Conservation (Building) Code.  DFW is in Climate Zone 3.

  • In DFW today — the maximum number of Air Changes Per Hour (ACH) = 3. 

Note: A Blower Door Test (provides uniform testing performance) is required for all new homes built in Texas — see Blower Door details below.

  • This means a newly built DFW home can leak enough air to exchange its interior air (with outdoor air) — up to 3 times each hour.
  • Today’s most stringent Energy Codes require not more than 0.5 ACH (1/2 of air exchanged per hour).  Below this amount of ventilation — indoor air-quality would be poor.

Source: https://www.energydepot.com/RPUres/library/ventilation.asp

Source: https://www.tdlr.texas.gov/ihb/pdf/TB1202.pdf

Air Changes Per Hour — Based On Decade Of Construction

Air Changes Per Hour by decade of construction couldn’t be found when this was written.   California did research on homes built by decade.   This is what they found for Climate Zone 3 (same as DFW).

        Year Built        Air Changes Per Hour (ACH)

  • Pre 1960         14+   ACH
  • 1960’s              11.5
  • 1970’s              10
  • 1980’s               9 
  • 1990’s               8
  • 2000 +             6

A 1970’s California home leaks twenty times more air than today’s Energy Codes allow (.5 ACH).   Though no Texas data was available,  California and Texas have similar climates.

 

Where Homes Leak Air:

  • 31% Floors, Walls & Ceilings
  • 15% Ductwork (heat & a/c going into your attic)
  • 14% Fireplace (if damper is open when fireplace not in use)
  • 13% Plumbing Penetrations
  • 11% Doors
  • 10% Windows
  •   4% Bath & Kitchen Venting
  •   2% Outlets & Switches

Source: U.S. DOE

Source: https://ww2.energy.ca.gov/2014publications/CEC-500-2014-014/CEC-500-2014-014.pdf

A Blower-Door Test Identifies Where A Home Leaks Air

blower door test

Image Source: Shutterstock

DIY efforts to seal air leaks can have a dramatic impact on your heating z7 cooling costs and increase comfort-level.   A blower door test is a standardized way to measure a home’s air leakage.   This test creates the effect of a 20 mph wind blowing on all 4 sides of the house at once.  The Blower Door depressurizes the home (creates a vacuum).  This dramatically increases the amount of air leakage into the home during the test — making the leaks easy to locate.

Image Source: YouTube Embedded Video Link

Shown: This 5-Minute Video Demonstrates A Blower Door Test

Click On The White Arrow In Center Of Image Above To View The Video

Note: You can purchase a Blower Door Test from a service and do air sealing yourself at a modest cost.   Many companies will do the Blower-Door test for free — if you are hiring them to do the air sealing.

NOTES: 

  • It’s not possible to reduce an existing home’s air leakage to meet today’s energy standards of 1/2 ACH.
  • Today’s new homes are built much differently than homes in previous decades.
  • Sealing air leaks can result in -40% lower energy bills (heating & cooling).

The Univ. Of Nebraska Says: “Sealing Air Leaks Reduces Heating & Cooling Costs By Up To 40%.”

Click Here To Read Their Article: U of N — Save Up To 40% By Stopping Air Leaks

3. Seal Attic Ductwork

ductwork for hvac system

Image Source: ShutterStock

Older homes had no ductwork sealing.  Others had duct-tape — which fails in as little as 1 week during DFW summer.

It’s common for ductwork to get bumped when workers are in the attic — and this can result in huge gaps

Click Here To See Leaking Ductwork: Leaking Ductwork – Example #1

Click Here To See Leaking Ductwork: Leaking Ductwork – Example 2

Click Here To See Leaking Ductwork: Leaking Ductwork – Example #3

Click Here To See Leaking Ductwork: Leaking Ductwork – Example #4

Click Here To See Leaking Ductwork: Leaking Ductwork – Example #5

 

3. Seal Leaks In The Ceilings

You might think “How can a ceiling leak air?”  The air leaks are at the openings in the ceiling.   Most older homes have large gaps around electrical boxes.  Because these leaks are in the ceiling (heat rises), they present tremendous heat loss — with cold air coming in at leaks near the floors.

Most DFW homes have HVAC Vents in the ceiling.  Older homes will have gaps around the vents — and not visible due to the vent cover.  To seal the gaps, use caulk or spray-foam (for gaps too large for caulk).

Click Here To See Unsealed Opening In A Ceiling: Gap (At Recessed Light) – Example #1

Click Here To See Unsealed Opening In A Ceiling: Gap (at ceiling electrical box) – Example #2

Click Here To See Unsealed Opening In A Ceiling: Gap (around ceiling light cover) – Example #3

Click Here To See Unsealed Opening In A Ceiling: Gap (around bath vent) – Example #4

 

Older Ceiling Electrical Boxes Have Vent Holes For Heat To Escape (from incandescent light bulbs).

  • These vent-holes leak heat from your home 24/7.
  • Today’s LED light bulbs produce only 5% of the heat as incandescent bulbs.
  • So, you can caulk the vent-holes closed at the same time you’re calling around the ceiling electrical box.

Copy The Link Below Into Your Browser To See Vents In An Older Ceiling Electrical Box:   Older Ceiling Light Box With Vent Holes

 

4. Replace Old Recessed Light Fixtures

One Of The Worst Offenders On Heating Costs Are Old, Vented Recessed Lights

Image Source: YouTube Embedded Video

  • Older recessed light fixtures have vent holes to allow heat from the light bulb to escape.
  • Most of today’s new can lights don’t have vent holes.

5. -OR- Update Existing Recessed Light Fixtures With A Retro-Fit LED Light Cover

  • You don’t have to remove the old fixture.  These screw into the old fixture like a light bulb.  NO Electrician Needed.
  • The LED bulbs are available in cool-white or warm-white light.   You choose the brightness.
  • LED bulbs produce little heat (that your a/c must recool).
  • Once sealed to the ceiling, these fixtures won’t allow heat to rise into the attic in winter, or push heat (from attic) into the living space during summer.

You Achieve 3 Air-Sealing Solutions:

  • Seal air leaks around the old fixture
  • Stop air leaking through the old fixture
  • Dramatically reduce electricity usage (and the amount of heat your a/c  must recool).

NOTE:

  • Because most DFW homes have “Popcorn” Textured Ceilings — you will need to add caulk to seal the new fixture to the ceiling.
  • TIP: Put the caulk at the recessed portion of the new fixture – versus along the edge of the new fixture’s lip.
  • Then, if a fixture must be removed — the damage to the ceiling’s popcorn texture will be covered by the lip of the fixture once reinstalled.

 

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

Click On Image To; View Product, See Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com

 

Seal Leaks In Walls

photo of electrical outlet

Image Source: ShutterStock

SHOWN: Outlet with large gap between outlet & face plate

6. Outlets & Switches

Just like with the ceilings, the primary locations where walls leak air are at openings.  Note: Sealing air leaks is not limited to outside walls, air gets into the house from interior walls too.  As warm air exists the home through leaks — cold air enters the home near the floors.

Air Leaks Into The Home:

  • At outlet / light switch electrical box.
  • You can see these leaks because they are covered with the outlet trim-plate.
  • With the trim-plate removed — caulk all gaps closed around the electrical box.

 

Click Here To See Large Gaps Around An Outlet Electrical Box: Gaps Around Outlet Electrical Box

 

Image Source: YouTube Embedded Video

Shown:  Caulk Installed Around Edge Of Outlet Electrical Box.

 

AND 

  • Install Foam Gaskets (made specially for this purpose) to seal around the outlet / light switch itself.

Click On Photo To: View Product, See Details, or Purchase From Amazon.com

Gaskets Are Available For Both Outlets & Switches

 

7. Seal Where Plumbing Comes Through The Wall

photo of water and sewer pipes under kitchen sink

Image Source: CanStockPhoto

SHOWN: A Noticeable Gap Exists Around The Black Pipe Where It Enters The Wall.

In older homes, it’s common for gaps to exist where plumbing comes through walls.  These gaps are low in the walls, so cold air will come through the gaps in winter and cold air will exit through them during summer.

Click  To See Gaps Around Plumbing Pipe At The Wall:  Gaps Around Plumbing Coming Through Wall

 

This was Part 1 Of Our 3-Part Article Discussing 25 Uncommon Ways To Lower Heating (& cooling) costs.  Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C in Plano, Texas provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Al’s also provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home.  Al’s sells and installs Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  Al’s is near your home in northeast Dallas, TX;  Richardson, TX; and Garland, TX.  We service all homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties with no additional travel charges.

Call Al’s today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience.