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75+ Ways To Lower Cooling & Heating Costs

Without Replacing HVAC

Part 1 of 4

photo of new home

Image Source: ShutterStock

This 4-part article describes 75+ ways to lower cooling (& Heating) costs without replacing your HVAC System.   These recommendations have no or modest costs.   These suggestions will make your HVAC System run less and last longer — and make your home more comfortable.  The energy-saving upgrades are shown in the order of return on investment.   An added benefit; as you increase attic insulation, seal air-leaks, and provide more coverage over windows — less outside noise enters your home.   

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 tank water heaters.  We also sell and install 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 can arrange an appointment at your convenience.

In Texas — Cooling & Heating Are

41% Of Total Residential Energy Bills

According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency ** In Texas —  Cooling & Heating Costs Are 41% of  total residential energy bills.  Texas heating costs are 22% and cooling cost are 19%.  The reason heating costs are so high is because 1/2 of Texas homes have electric heat. According to Center Point Energy: “Natural gas prices are 2 to 3 times less than electricity prices.” ***  If you have electric heat, your heating cost savings may be more than cooling costs savings.

Texas Annual Heating Costs — By Type Of Fuel:

  • $585.00 — 80% GAS Furnace 
  • $497.00 —  97% GAS Furnace
  • $    810.00 – Standard Efficiency Heat Pump (around 35% less expensive than heating with an electric furnace)
  • $1,295.00– Electric Furnace 

** Source: https://www.eia.gov/consumption/residential/reports/2009/state_briefs/pdf/tx.pdf

*** Source: https://www.centerpointenergy.com/en-us/Services/Pages/natural-gas-electricity-cost-comparison.aspx?sa=mn&au=bus

 

On A Side Note:  While not part of this article — electric heating costs can be dramatically reduced by replacing a Central A/C with a Heat Pump.  A Heat Pump is an air conditioner that runs in reverse to provide heat during winter.

During summer, a Heat Pump removes heat from the home and sends it outdoors.  In winter, a Heat Pump removes heat from outdoor air and transfers the heat into the home.   A Heat Pump is connected to an electric furnace because, at times, it’s too cold outside for the Heat Pump to be able to extract enough heat from outdoor air to meet the home’s heating needs.  During these times, the electric furnace will add only the additional heat needed.

Click Below To Read Our Article On The Heating Costs With Electricity Versus Natural Gas Heating: 

AlsPlumbing.com Heat Pump & Gas Furnace Heating Costs

Energy-Saving Home Upgrades — Ranked By Return On Investment

Most or all of The Upgrades In This Article Can Be Do It Yourself.

  • Programmable or Smart Thermostat
  • Sealing Air Leaks
  • Solar-Reflective Window-Film (tinting) on west & south windows — film not required nor recommended with newer, Low-E windows.
  • For Summer: Add & close Insulating Draperies on west and south facing windows during the day.
  • For Winter: And & close Insulating Draperies on north windows in winter.  Close other draperies after dark.
  • Add Attic Insulation
  • Add Radiant Heat-Barrier (in the attic)

Programmable Thermostat

programmable thermostat

SHOWN: Programmable Thermostat

Image Source: ShutterStock

Programmable Thermostats are inexpensive and easy to install.  Programmable or Smart Thermostats are the most cost-efficient way to lower cooling & heating costs.  They will set your A/C cooler or warmer when you want (such as during the day while you are at work).

You program the thermostat to automatically set the temperature at the time you select.  Once programmed — the thermostat needs no further attention — unless you decide to change the preset temps or times.

NOTE: Programmable & smart thermostats reduce cooling & heating demand during times when the home is not occupied, or at night.

They provide little value for homes that are always occupied — or homes where the heat is not reduced at night.

Smart Thermostat

nest thermostat in heating mode

SHOWN: Nest Thermostat

Image Source: ShutterStock

Click Here To Learn More About The Nest Thermostat:  AlsPlumbing.com Nest Thermostat

The Nest Smart Thermostat is a sophisticated thermostat with many capabilities.  The Nest Thermostat’s Buyer Satisfaction Rating Score is 4.5 Stars (out of 5) — with 18,500 buyer reviews on Amazon alone!   

The difference between a Nest Smart Thermostat and a Programmable Thermostat:

  • Nest learns your cooling & heating preferences
  • Nest programs itself — or you can program it.
  • Nest learns how long it takes to restore the temperature.  This ensures your home is the desired temperature at the correct time.
  • Nest goes on-line to get the outside temperature.  Then it adjusts the temperature reset-time based on the outside temperature -and- how long your HVAC needs to achieve the reset temp.
  • The Nest Thermostat can sense and help reduce indoor humidity level (using the A/C).
  • Another valuable benefit is that Nest can notify your cell phone if the home’s temp get too high or too low — indicating a possible shutdown of the HVAC system.

Sealing Air Leaks

According to the U.S. Dept. Of Energy (DOE) — Air-Leaks Account For Up To 30% Of Total Cooling & Heating Costs.

Click Here For The DOE’s Brochure About Sealing Air Leaks In Your Home: DOE Sealing Your Home

Air leaks reverse based on the season:

  • In summer — cooler air exits the house through air leaks near the floor.
  • In winter —  warm air rises and exits the home through air leaks near the ceiling.

opened window

A 1970’s DFW Home Enough Air Leaks To Equal A Window Being Open All The Time

Image Source: ShutterStock

Air leaks come through unsealed openings in a home’s “envelope”.  The envelope is all surfaces that separate indoor air from outside (walls, ceiling, foundation, and roof).

Where Homes Leak Air:

  • 31%  Floors, Walls, & Ceilings
  • 15% Ductwork — leaking cooled or heated air into the attic.
  • 14% Fireplace — damper left open, or damper that can’t close correctly
  • 13% Plumbing Penetrations Through Walls
  • 11% Exterior Doors
  • 10% Windows
  •  2% Electrical Outlets & Switches
  • The older the home, the more air it leaks.

Source: U.S. Department Of Energy (DOE)

Click Here To See A House Diagram With Common Air Leaks Identified: 

House Diagram Showing Common Air-Leaks

 

Where Air Leaks Are Hiding — Or In Plain Sight

Recessed Ceiling Lights

recessed light

Image Source: ShutterStock

Shown: Old, Recessed, Ceiling Lights Have Vent Holes For Heat From The Bulb To Escape.

Older Recessed Light Fixtures Create A Hole In The Ceiling That Leaks Air 24/7.  Newer Recessed Light Fixtures Are Sealed.

Click Below To See All The Vent-Holes In Older Recessed Light Fixtures:

Close Up Of Vent-Holes In Old Recessed-Light Fixture

Here’s An Inexpensive & Easily To Install Retrofit Light For Existing Recessed Light Fixtures

To Make Them Air-Tight

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

  • Retrofit LED covers screw into the existing recessed light — the same as installing a light bulb.
  • The only change is to remove & discard the ceiling trim ring on the old fixture.
  • Then add caulk to the inside edge of the new LED fixture and push into place.  The caulk provides an air-tight seal.
  • Should you ever need to remove the fixture — it will damage the “popcorn” texture from the ceiling where its caulked — where you won’t see it.
  • Replace the LED fixture, remove old caulk and recaulk on the inside edge.
  • NOTE: Don’t put caulk on the outside edge of the LED Fixture.  Should you need to remove the LED fixture — the caulk will damage the ceiling’s popcorn-texture where you will see it.

 

Gap Between Flooring And Base-Trim 

When older homes were built — builders left a gap between the floor and the drywalled walls.   In newer homes (2000 and newer) — that gap is sealed.

Gap Between Drywall & Floor

With older homes — builders raised the base-trim in carpeted rooms — creating as second gap.  This was done to make the base-trim appear the same size as in rooms with hard-surface floor covering.   In carpeted rooms, the gap between floor and walls can be sealed with caulk.

Gap Between Baseboard Trim & Floor Covering:  Gap At Baseboard Trim & Flooring

  • To do this — the carpet must be pulled back and out of the way.
  • An easy time to add caulk is when new carpet is installed.
  • Also, many carpet installers will restretch carpet.  If your carpet has raised areas — it needs to be restretched — providing another opportunity to seal the gap below the base trim.

Click Here To See Carpet That Needs To Be Restretched: Carpet Needing Restretched

 

When Changing From Carpet To Hard-Surface Flooring

Closing the gap at the bottom of the base trim with an additional trim-molding helps minimize air leaks.

Additional Trim-Molding Added In Front Of Base-Trim: Additional Trim-Molding At Base-trim

The type & size of trim molding required is based on the size of the gap.

 

InstaTrim — An Easy To Install Solution To Close The Gap Below Base Trim 

Insta-Trim is a peel & stick, flexible product to close baseboard trim gaps.  Click on the image below for additional photos showing how the product is applied for various needs.   This product comes in 1/2″ or 3/4″ and several colors.  It’s also paintable.  This product eliminates the need for wood moldings — and is cut with scissors.

Amazon’s Web Page Has This Description:  Use InstaTrim as a wood trim alternative on baseboards & floors.  Keep moisture from seeping through gaps around a sink or along a backsplash.  No special tools are needed.”


Shown: InstaTrim 

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

Image Source: Amazon Product Link

 

Hidden Holes In Ceilings & Walls

When older homes were built — there is typically a gap around anything that came through the drywall (examples below).  These gaps were not sealed.  It wasn’t required by Building Code, and most people didn’t think about gaps leaking air.

Older Homes Often Have Air-Leaks’ Gaps That Aren’t Easily Visible.  Everywhere the ceilings or walls have been penetrated (an opening created) — they leak air unless the air gaps are sealed.  In newer homes, these are sealed by the home builder.  To know if gaps were sealed by the builder — remove some electrical switch and outlet covers and check for unsealed gaps.

  • Seal small gaps with caulk.
  • Large gaps can be sealed with spray-foam.  This product is messy to work with,  It’s easier to use caulk everywhere it can close the gap.
  • For large holes — add drywall to close up the opening.
  • It’s not necessary to finish the gap (between new & existing drywall) with drywall-mud & sand it — if the area won’t be seen.
  • Simply seal any remaining gaps with caulk.
  • When you reinstall what was covering the gap — you won’t see your work.

Several Examples Of Air-Leaks That Can’t Be Seen Without Removing What’s Covering Them:

 

Standard-Depth Wall Cabinets Recessed Into Walls In Bathrooms

In older homes, some some home builders inserted a standard-depth kitchen cabinet into a bathroom wall.  This created a proper depth cabinet above the toilet — so you don’t bang your head.

On outside walls — there no room for insulation behind the cabinet.   Plus, most cabinets have holes to allow for different shelf placements.  Each shelf bracket hole creates another air leak.  To eliminate air leaks –these holes must be sealed in both exterior and interior walls.

Shown: Shallow-Depth Cabinet Designed To Be Over A Toilet 

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

Image Source: Amazon Product Link

The Only Way To Remedy This In An Outside Wall:

  • Remove the existing cabinet.
  • Insulate + drywall + air seal gaps with caulk.
  • Install an over-the-toilet cabinet designed for that purpose.   It will be around 7 inches deep — See illustration above.
  • There are also free-standing cabinets that sit on the floor.

Air Leaks At Exterior Doors

brick home

Image Source: ShutterStock

Exterior doors are often a source of substantial air leaks.  Gaps  can be along the sides or at the top.  The worst gaps are at the bottom.

Click To See A Gap Under An Entry Door: Air Leak Under Entry Door

Click To See A Thermal-Image Of Cold Air Coming Under An Entry Door:  Thermal-Photo Shows Air Leak Under Door

 

Many newer door-threshold (at the bottom) products can’t be used on older DFW homes.   If the product installs under the door — there is often not enough room for it in older DFW homes.   If there’s an existing threshold product — it can be replaced with a similar height product.

In an older DFW home, you can weatherstrip a gap under a door with a “door sweep”.  It attaches to the door on the inside.  The best door sweeps are made of metal & rubber.  The metal holds the rubber more tightly in place.  This style is installed with screws — so it won’t fall off.

Shown: White Indoor Door Sweep For Entry Doors 

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

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

This product can be used in addition to a door sweep.  This product is 39″ wide (exterior doors are up to 36″ wide).  This provides an additional seal — in front of the door’s interior trim.  This product is soft, which eliminates it being a hazard like the edge of an metal door sweep.   If you have a room that is not heated, this product can be used on interior doors too.

Additional Indoor Seal Installed Over A Door Sweep Weatherstripping

Shown: Indoor Draft Stopper For Entry Doors 

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

 

Weather Stripping At Corners Of Exterior Doors

It’s common for air to be leaking in at the lower corners of exterior doors — in most cases you can see daylight.

Click To See An Example: Air Leak At Bottom Corner Of Exterior Door

There are weatherstrip products specifically designed for this need.  They are typically foam + a vinyl cover.   Most self-stick into place.

Shown: Door-Corner Weatherstrip

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

 

Weather Strip For Bottom Of STORM Door

Many storm doors have a gap at the bottom.  When new, there’s a weatherstrip that wears out.   If you have this need, there is a replacement weather strip.

 

Shown: Weatherstrip For Bottom Of STORM Door 

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

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

This Was Part 1 Of Our 4-Part Article:  Click Here To Read Part 2:  AlsPlumbing.com Part 2 of Our 4-Part Article

 

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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 (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 Allen, TX; Frisco, TX; and McKinney TX.  We service all homes in southern Collin County TX & southern 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.