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75+ Ways To Lower Cooling Bills

Without Upgrading HVAC system

Part 4 of 4

photo of new home

Image Source: ShutterStock

This is Part 4 Of 4 Of Our Article Offering 75+ Ways to Lower Cooling (& Heating) Costs Without Upgrading Your HVAC System.   This section is about Energy-Use Behavior. 

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 Plano, TX; Murphy, TX; and Wylie, TX.  We service all homes in southern Collin County, TX and Denton County, TX 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.

Our Energy-Use Behaviors Represent 59% Of Total Household Energy Use

The Biggest Opportunity For Energy Savings Comes From Modifying Energy-Use Behaviors

41% Of energy use is attributed to the structural components of the home.

Click Here To Learn About The Number 1 Way To Use Less Energy: Lower Energy Costs With Attic Insulation

 

59% Of Our Household Energy Use Is Due To Our Energy-Use Behaviors.    

Become “Energy-Use Aware” – and you’ll significantly reduce cooling costs and heating costs.  When aware of the largest  energy users, it’s easier to lower total energy usage.

A study found that home energy use can be up to triple in identical homes occupied by different people.     A study was done to evaluate energy consumption of 10 identical Habitat for Humanity, all-electric homes.   The highest home’s energy consumption was 2.6 times that of the lowest.   These findings reveal how differences in human energy use behaviors significantly affect energy consumption.

Source: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b353/062043c1b22101e84878b6d749bf3d0fb398.pdf

This Article Does Not Suggest Lifestyle Sacrifices Such As:

  • Cooling & Heating set to uncomfortable temperatures.
  • The Water Heater set so low that it runs out of hot water.
  • Sitting in a dark house.

These Areas Have The Largest Impact On Energy Bills

2015 Household Energy Consumption By Type:

  • 15%  Heating.                           NOTE: This number is higher with electric heat (versus gas).
  • 17%  Air Conditioning
  • 14%  Water Heating                NOTE: This number is higher with an electric water heater.
  •  12% Cooking, washer, dishwasher, dehumidifier, pool pump, pool heater, hot tub
  • 10%  Lighting
  •   7% Refrigerator
  •   7% TV’s & Related Equipment
  •   5% Dryer                                NOTE: This number is higher with an electric dryer.
  • 13% — All other uses

Source: https://www.eia.gov/consumption/residential/

 

Cooling & Heating Represent 32% Of Household Energy Use

A Neglected HVAC System With A Clogged Furnace Air Filter — Can Increase Cooling Bills By Up To +65% (details below).

A Clogged Air Filter (alone) Increases Cooling & Heating Costs By Up To +15%

 

Energy-Use Behavior: Check Furnace Air Filter Each Month — And Replace As Needed.   

If The Air Filter Looks Dirty, It Is — And It Needs To Be Replaced.

A Dirty Furnace Air Filter reduces air-flow through the furnace.  The furnace is designed & installed for the airflow a clean air filter allows.

  • A dirty air filter can cause a furnace to overheat.  Then the furnace shuts down to protect itself.  It will restart once cooled down.
  • When a furnace overheats and has to shut down — it shortens its life.
  • A dirty filter can cause your A/C to freeze up.
  • If the outside A/C unit operates with this condition — it will damage it.
  • Reduce cooling & heating costs by up to -15% with a clean furnace filter,

dirty and clean furnace air filter

NOTE:  If a filter becomes clogged badly enough, it will buckle and the air will bypass it.  This allows dust & dirt to rapidly accumulate on the A/C Cooling Coil (more on this below).

Click Here To See A Badly Clogged Air Filter: Completely Clogged Air Filter

Click Here To Se An: Air Filter So Clogged That It Buckled

 

Air-Filter MERV Ratings — And Their Effect On Air-Flow Through The HVAC System

  • MERV is the air filter’s efficiency-rating.   MERV stands for: “Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value”.   MERV ranges from 1 to 20.
  • A MERV-1 air filter is made of spun fiberglass.   These are designed to protect the HVAC System — and do little to clean the air.

Shown: MERV-1 Spun-Fiberglass Air Filter

Image Source: Amazon Associates Embedded-Link

  • A MERV-8 air filter removes particles as small as 3 microns in size — and catches at least 70% of these particles.
  • Particles up to 3 microns size-range include; pollen, dust mites, and mold spores.
  • The Energy Star Indoor Air Package & the U.S. Department Of Energy (DOE) — call for a minimum of  MERV-8.
  • The higher the Air Filter’s MERV Rating –the lower the air-flow through the furnace.
  • When an air filter is new — reduction in air-flow is is minimal with higher MERV rated filters.
  • The higher the MERV rating — the faster the filter clogs.   Why?   A more efficient filter catches more particles within the air.
  • The reduction in air-flow through air filters can more than triple when they nearly clogged.
  • Lower air-flow causes the HVAC System to run longer & harder — increasing cooling & heating costs — and wearing it out faster.

Source: http://www.homeenergy.org/show/article/nav/issues/page/4/id/667

 

NOTE: If you use a high MERV air filter — check it weekly.  If your furnace is in the attic — this is a lot of trouble and likely to be skipped.  If this is the case, you’re likely better off with a lower MERV filter.

Both the Energy Star Air Package & the U.S. DOE recommend a MERV-8 air filter (or higher) — this is a good guide.

 

Energy-Use Behavior: Have Cooling-Coil’s Cleanliness Checked — And Cleaned If Needed. 

Checking This Coil Is Typically Part Of A Spring A/C Tune-Up — (cleaning is often an extra charge).

NOTE: If you bought a used home — have Central A/C & Furnace Tune-Up at the beginning of the first cooling and heating season.  Then you’ll know the HVAC System’s maintenance is up to date.  Many of the photos in this section show neglected HVAC Systems.

Shown In this Photo — The A/C Cooling Coil (evaporator coil) Is On The Right Side Of The Furnace’s Opening.  

Image Source: ShutterStock

Click Here To See A Clogged Central A/C Cooling Coil: Clogged A/C Cooling Coil

Click Here To See A Molded Cooling Coil: Molded A/C Cooling Coil

Click Here To See A New Indoor Cooling Coil: NEW Central A/C Cooling Coil (evaporator coil)

Click Here To See An:  Indoor Cooling Coil That Is Completely Frozen — Due To Lack Of Air Flow Through It

** Source: https://www.airah.org.au/Content_Files/TechnicalPublications/hvac-factsheet-cleaning-coils-09-13.pdf

The indoor cooling-coil (evaporator coil) is inside the furnace or ductwork — and can’t be seen without removing a panel.   The cooling coil removes heat & humidity from air as it passes through.   Because the coil is wet anytime the A/C is running — it catches dust quickly and easily.  ALL air passing through the HVAC System must pass through this coil year-round.

Even the best furnace air filters allow some dust through.  If they were 100% efficient — so little air could pass through them that the HVAC System could not function.

Energy-Use Behavior: Check For Dirty Outside A/C Unit Coil (condenser coil) — And Cleaned If Needed

central air conditioner outside unit

Shown: Outdoor A/C Unit

Image Source: DreamsTime

Click Here To See: Before & After Cleaning Photos Of A Very Dirty A/C Outside Unit

Reduce Cooling Costs By Up To 35% By Keeping The Outdoor A/C Unit’s Coils Clean.

Example: A 5-ton air conditioning system, with typical efficiency — runs 1,500 hrs during a cooling season.

It costs $825 to operate this system with clean coils.

With a dirty coil  in the outdoor unit — the cost to operate the system increases by +37% to $1,125. **

NOTE: Savings from a clean HVAC Sytem extends beyond cooling costs savings.  It also makes the HVAC System last longer.    Dirty HVAC System components cause the System to run longer and harder.  If a dirty outside unit decreases cooling capacity by 30% — it stands to reason the system must run +30% longer for the same amount of cooling.   This causes it to wear out 30% sooner.

** Source: https://www.achrnews.com/articles/85141-clean-coils-make-dollars-and-sense

Let’s Do The Math

If A Central A/C System Has:

  • +15%:  Clogged air filter
  • +16%:  Dirty indoor coiling coil
  • +35%: Dirty outside unit coil
  • These 3 neglected components increase cooling costs by up to +65%!
  • That also means the A/C System must run +65% longer — and it’s wearing out +65% faster .

 

Energy-Use Behavior:  Keep Your HVAC System Properly Maintained.    

This includes a Central A/C Spring Tune-Up  & Fall Furnace Tune Up Each Year.

This will maximize efficiency — and can identify components that are close to failing.

Replacing failing components at Tune-Up time can prevent breakdowns when the need the HVAC System most.

 

Water Heating Represents Up To 14% Of Total Energy Use

residential gas water heater

Image Source: ShutterStock

How To Reduce Water Heating Costs

Residential Water Heating Is 14% Of Total Household Energy Costs.

Electric Water Heating Cost Is About 65% Higher Than Gas.

 

Energy-Use Behavior: Reduce Water Heater Thermostat to 120 ºF.

For each additional 10ºF (over 120ºF) — water heating costs increase by 3% (gas water heater) or 5% (electric).   Water heaters are set to 120ºF  at the factory when new.

  • Add a Water Heater Blanket to reduce water heating costs by 7%–16%.  NOTE: Higher savings occurs if water heater is located in the garage or attic.
  • NOTE: For electric water heaters — don’t cover where you set the thermostats (or mark where they are).
  • NOTE: For natural gas units — don’t cover the water heater’s top, or vents at the burner compartment (see photo above.)

Source: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/services/do-it-yourself-energy-savings-projects/savings-project-insulate-your-water

Source: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/articles/15-ways-save-your-water-heating-bill

Energy-Use Behavior: Use Cold Water For Laundry When Appropriate

  • Use cold water for laundry when possible.  Set rinse temperature to cold (most newer washers only allow cold rinse).
  • Fix dripping faucets.  A leak of 1 drip per second increases gas water heating costs by $1 per month, per faucet.
  • Going on vacation?  Give your water heater a vacation too.
  • Turn a gas water heater to “pilot”.  Turn off an electric water heater at the circuit-breaker panel.

Source: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/articles/15-ways-save-your-water-heating-bill

 

Lighting Represents Up To 10% Of Total Energy Use

photo of led light bulb

Image Source: Pexels.com

Energy-Use Behavior: Switch To LED Bulbs.

  • A 100 watt incandescent light bulb generates 341 BTU of heat per hour.  90% of its electricity use generates heat.
  • Eight 100-watt incandescent light bubs generate as much heat as a typical electric heater set to low.
  • During summer, your A/C must then remove the heat the light bulb adds.
  • A 100 watt-output Compact Fluorescent Bulb (CFL) creates 102 BTU per hour.  35% of its electricity use generates heat.
  • A 100 watt-output LED creates 3.4 BTU per hour.  10% of its electricity use generates heat.
  • If you are using incandescent or halogen bulbs — you’ll reduce lighting energy-use by up to 90% with LED lighting.
  • This could reduce Lighting Energy Consumption from 10% to as low as 1%.
  • You will also lower cooling costs — because LED bulbs produce only 10% of the heat as incandescent light bulbs produce.

TIP:

  • LED bulbs described as “soft white” produce  a slightly yellow light.   Bulbs with be marked with: “2,700 K”.
  • LED bulbs described as “soft white” produce  a slightly yellow light.  Bulbs with be marked with: “3,000 K”.
  • LED “cool or daylight white” produce a slightly blue light.   Bulbs will be marked with: “4,000 — 5,000 K”.

 

Click Here To See A Comparison Photo Of LED Lighting Colors: Lighting Color-Range For LED Bulbs

 

Refrigeration Consumes Up To 7% Of Total Household Energy Use

photo of refrigerator

The Removable Grill Is Located Just Below The Doors

Image Source: Pexels.com

Energy-Use Behavior: Replace A 15+ Years Old Refrigerator.

  • Refrigerators 15 years or older use twice as much energy as a new ENERGY STAR refrigerator.
  • Get A Free Refrigerator.  Over the life of the new refrigerator — it may pay for itself in energy savings.
  • The more electricity a refrigerator uses, the more heat it produces.  The you pay for the A/C to remove that heat.

Source: https://www.energystar.gov/products/appliances/nows_time_flip_your_fridge_and_save

Energy-Use Behavior:  Keep The Coil (at bottom of refrigerator) Clean. 

  • A clean coil reduces refrigeration costs by up to -30%.
  • Do this annually if you don’t have shedding pets.   
  • With shedding pets, do this every six months.

Click Here To See: A Dirty Refrigerator Coil — Before & After Cleaning. 

Source: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/refrigerator-cleaning-tips_b_2067458

Most newer refrigerators have a removable  grill under the refrigerator door(s).  The coil is located behind the grill.  Coil are accessible from the front — so you don’t have to pull the refrigerator out to clean the coil.

  • A vacuum cleaner crevice-tool removes most dust.

Click To See A Refrigerator Coil Being Cleaned With A Vacuum Cleaner Crevice Tool: Cleaning Coil With Crevice Tool

  • If you can’t get the the entire coil with a crevice tool — purchase a brush designed to clean refrigerator coils.

Click Here To See A Refrigerator Coil Being Cleaned With A Coil-Brush:  Refrigerator Coil Cleaning Brush

 

Energy-Use Behavior: Full Refrigerators Run Less. 

  • When the refrigerator has open space — the cool air escapes whenever the door is open. 

Energy-Use Behavior: Refrigerators Are An Expensive Source Of Light.

  • Are you one of the folks who open the refrigerator take something out, use it and return it without ever closing the refrigerator door?  It takes only 10 seconds for most of the chilled air to exit your refrigerator while the door is open.

Energy-Use Behavior:   Hot & Cold Don’t Mix.

  • When saving left-overs, leave them out until they are room-temperature.  Putting hot food the refrigerator makes it run more.

Energy-Use Behavior:   Do You Have A Hog In Your Garage?

Keep your old refrigerator or freezer in a Texas garage causes it to run nearly all the time during summer.  You can buy a compact freezer or refrigerator that can be kept inside the home without taking much space.  Because it’s new — it’s as efficient as you can get at this time.  And it won’t have to operate in extreme temperatures.   Even if the compact freezer or refrigerator must be in the garage — it will use a fraction of the energy of a 15+ years old refrigerator or freezer.

Shown: 4.4 Cubic Foot Upright Freezer

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

 Shown: 3.2 Cubic Foot Refrigerator

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

VCR’s & Related Equipment Represent Up To 7% Of Total Household Energy Usephoto of television

Image Source: ShutterStock

Energy-Use Behavior: Turn off Set-Top (cable) box when not in use. 

VAMPIRE ENERGY USE

According to the scientists at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “A regular set-top box uses the same amount of electricity as a newer refrigerator.”  Using that much electricity generates a lot of heat.  Lower both your electricity and cooling costs by shutting set-top cable boxes off when not in use.  These boxes function much like a computer that communicates with remote content-sources.   

Note:  If it feels warm when it’s off — it’s using electricity.

  • Today’s HD televisions produce a lot of heat.
  • ENERGY STAR’s list of LCD TVs includes models with screen sizes from 16-65 inches and using 18-198 watts.
  • Plasma TVs ranging from 42-65 inches use 90-214 watts.
  • Much of that energy use generates heat while the TV is running.

Energy-Use Behavior: When not using an electronic item — turn it off.

  • We tend to leave a lot of things running when they are not being used.  Great examples are; TV’s, computers & video games.

 

5% Of Total Household Energy Is Consumed While Drying Clothes

clothes washer and dryer

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay 

Your dryer pulls its air from inside the house and exhausts it outdoors.  This is air you’ve paid to cool or heat.  The dryer create heats, uses energy, and exhausts large quantities of air from the house while pulling in outdoor air.

  • Electric clothes dryers consume 4,000 to 6,000 watts.

Energy-Use Behavior: Clean the dryer lint-trap each time you use the dryer. 

  • A dirty lint screen reduces air flow and increases drying time.  Plus, built up lint is a fire hazard.

Energy-Use Behavior: Don’t dry… dry clothes.

  • Set the dryer so it does not continue running once the clothes are dry.

Energy-Use Behavior: Open the window nearest the dryer.

  • It will then use outdoor air instead of (cooled or heated) indoor air.
  • Clothes dryers exhaust 100 — 225 Cubic Feet Per Minute.
  • A 2,000 square foot home with 8 foot ceilings contains 16,000 cubic feet of air.
  • It takes a clothes dryer as little as 71 minutes remove the entire home’s air.
  • Replacement air comes into the home at every leak.
  • Then the HVAC System must cool or heat another 16,000 cubic feet of air.

Pool Pump & Pool Heater

swimming pool

Image by engin akyurt from Pixabay 

Pool Pumps Are Somewhat Costly To Run. 

Energy Use Behavior: Run a pool pump only 8 hours each day.

  • A pool pump needs to run only 8 hours per day. *5
  • Pool Pumps use 2,500 kWh per year when running 24/7.  At At 10-cents per kWh = $250.00 per year.

Energy Use Behavior: Ways To Reduce The Costs Of Owning A Pool.

  • $1,800.00 Per Year For Electric Heat-Pump Pool Heater.           $150.00 per month — running 24/7 **
  • A Heat-Pump pool heater must run all the time.
  • If you use your pool frequently — save money with a Heat-Pump Pool Heater.
  • $3,600.00 Per Year For Natural Gas Pool Heater (temp = 78).  $300.00 per month — running 24/7 **
  • 8.35 BTU’s raises 1 gallon of water 1 degree. *4
  • It takes 8.35 (BTU) X 35,000 (gallons) = 292,000 BTU’s to raise the pool’s temperature 1 degree. *3
  • It would take a 100,000 BTU gas pool heater almost 3 hours to raise the pool temperature 1 degree. *3

Energy Use Behavior:  Only heat the pool when you plan to use it (with a gas heater). 

  • A gas pool heater can heat the pool somewhat quickly. *4

Energy-Use Behavior:  Install A Pool Cover if you heat the pool 24/7.

  • Installing a cover over the pool will reduce heat loss, especially at night.
  • Solar pool covers are available that can help heat the pool for free.  They can add 4-8 degrees to the pool. *3
  • Solar pool covers cost up to $250. *3
  • A 6-year warranty solar-cover lasts 1 season.  An 8-year lasts two seasons.  A 10-year cover lasts 3 seasons. *3
  • Pool cover reels are available in both manual or automatic.
  • Prices for manual reels are $200-500 *3.
  • Prices start at around $1,200.00 for automatic.  They last 4-8 years. *3

** Source: https://homeguides.sfgate.com/cost-comparison-running-electric-vs-gas-pool-heater-103068.html

*3 Source: https://www.riverpoolsandspas.com/blog/pool-solar-covers-prices-usage-longevity

*4 Source: http://www.inyopools.com/Blog/long-take-heat-pool/

*5 Source: http://www.inyopools.com/HowToPage/how_to_reduce_your_pool_pump_energy_bill.aspx?CommentPage=1

 

KITCHEN:

Energy-Use Behavior: Clean or replace the shiny liners under your burners.

  • Clean liners ones reflect more heat toward the cookware.

Energy-Use Behavior: Reduce baking during summer, especially during the heat of the day.

  • In addition to the electricity the oven uses, you must also pay for your a/c to remove the oven’s heat.  If a counter-top / toaster-oven will work, use it instead.
  • NOTE: Electric ovens generate less heat inside the home.  This is because a gas oven requires combustion-air.  It must exhaust some heated air in order to draw in fresh air.   Typically the air-vents are inside or visible at the bottom of the range’s backsplash.

Energy-Use Behavior: Run your dishwasher only when it’s full.

  • If there are 1 or 2 items you need, wash them by hand versus running the dishwasher.

Energy-Use Behavior: Turn your dishwasher’s heated-dry setting to off. 

  • Open the door when the the dishwater reaches the dry-cycle.
  • The dishes will be very hot and will quickly dry on their own.
  • During hot-heating cycles, your dishwasher can produce as much heat as an electric heater.

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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, 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 Plano, TX; Murphy, TX; and Wylie, TX.  We service all homes in southern Collin County, TX and Denton County, TX 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.