footer-logo

75+ Ways To Lower Cooling Costs (without new HVAC)

Part 1 of 4

photo of new home

Image Source: ShutterStock

This Article Offers 75+ Modest Cost Ways to Lower Cooling Costs (& Heating Costs) Without Upgrading Your HVAC System.   There are many energy-saving upgrades you can do for your home that will provide year-round energy savings.  These suggestions allow your A/C to run less, last longer, lower cooling costs, and make the home more comfortable.  Most of these suggestions will also lower heating costs.

Another benefit from many of these suggestions is they will make your home quieter.  As you; increase attic insulation, seal air-leaks, and provide more coverage over windows, less outside noise will enter your home.   This article is for most cost upgrades and these suggestions are ranked in terms of cost versus savings.    In this article, we don’t suggest expensive upgrades, such as replacing windows.

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 and offer 24/7 Emergency Service.

 

In Texas, Cooling & Heating Represent 41% Of Total Residential Energy Bills

According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency ** Texas Homes Cooling & Heating Costs Represent 41% of  Total Residential Energy Bills.  In Texas, heating costs are 22% and cooling cost are 19%.

Perhaps surprising is that heating costs are more than cooling costs.  This is because 1/2 of Texas home have electric heat.   According to Center Point Energy *** “Natural gas prices are consistently 2 to 3 times lower than electricity prices.  If you have an all electric home, you can lower heating costs by up to 1/3 by upgrading to a Heat Pump HVAC System.  Since this article is not about expensive upgrades, we simply provide the costs to heat a home in DFW with several types of heating systems just below.

Heating Costs In DFW:

  • 80% GAS Furnace: 60.2 MCF of Natural Gas X $9.71 per MCF:         $585.00 Annual Heating Cost 
  • 97% GAS Furnace:  51.2 MCF X $9.71 per MCF:                                      $497.00 Annual Heating Cost
  • Standard Efficiency Heat Pump 7,450 kWh X 0.1098 per kWh:  $810.00 Annual Heating Cost (around 35% less expensive than electric furnace)
  • Electric Furnace: 11,775 kWh X 0.1098 per kWh:                             $1,295.00 Annual Heating Cost 

** 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

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

AlsPlumbing.com Heat Pump & Gas Furnace Heating Costs

 

Energy-Saving Home Upgrades — Ranked By Return On Investment

Click Here For The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Brochure Dedicated To Sealing Your Home From Air Leaks: DOE Sealing Your Home

There is a long list of expensive energy-saving upgrades you can purchase (such as new Low-E windows).  The inexpensive upgrades below represent the best investments (based on upgrade cost versus energy costs savings) to lower both cooling & heating costs.   Most of these are easily installed as a Do It Yourself.  If these upgrades are professionally installed, some items won’t save the cost of installation labor (such as outlet & light switch gaskets).

  • Programmable or Smart Thermostat
  • Sealing Air Leaks
  • Solar-Reflective Window-Film (tinting) on west & south facing windows (not required nor recommended with newer, Low-E windows)
  • For Summer: Adding Insulating Draperies on west and south facing windows (will double efficiency of Low-E windows)
  • For Winter: Insulating Draperies on north windows in winter (will double efficiency of Low-E windows).
  • Attic Insulation
  • Radiant Heat-Barrier (in the attic)

The Recommendations Presented Below Are In The Order Of Their Cost Versus Savings.

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 warmer during the summer while you are at work).

NOTE: Programmable thermostats are designed to reduce cooling and heating demand during times when the home is not occupied, or at night.  They provide little or no 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

You may be aware of the Nest Smart Thermostat, a sophisticated device with many capabilities.  The Nest Thermostat’s Buyer Satisfaction Rating Score is 4.5 Stars (out of 5) with 12,600 buyer reviews on Amazon alone!   

The difference between the Nest Smart Thermostat and a Programmable unit is:

  • Nest learns your cooling / heating habits
  • Nest programs itself — or you can program it if you prefer.
  • 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 adjust the reset time based on the outdoor temperature.
  • Another huge feature is the Smart Thermostat’s ability to sense and control indoor humidity level (using the A/C).

Early-On: Nest’s “Early-On” feature combines the thermostat’s schedule with the knowledge it has gained with the “Time-to-Temp” feature.  It knows when to start the HVAC to restore the desired temperature at the preset time.  If you told the Nest you arrive home from work at 5 pm and you want the house to be 70 degrees, Nest will begin to cool / heat the house at the correct time based on outdoor temperature.  It won’t start cooling or heating earlier or later than required.  Programmable thermostats can only reset at the times you tell them to.

  • Nest Connects To Your Home’s Wi-Fi
  • You Can Operate It From Your Cell Phone with the Nest App.
  • It Details Your Heating / Cooling Energy-Use History.
  • It Notifies Your Cell Phone If Your Home’s Temperature Is Too High Or Too Low, due to a possible shutdown of the HVAC system.

 

Sealing Air Leaks

Cold Travels Toward Warmth Because Cold Air Is More Dense Than Warm Air

Air leaks work in reverse based on the season:

  • You lose cooled air in summer, because cooler air pushes through air leaks that are closer to the floor.
  • You lose heated air during winter, as heated air rises and exits the home through air leaks closer to 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 are unsealed openings through a building’s “envelope” (its walls, foundation, and roof).  These air leaks are typically responsible for a large portion of a home’s energy use and can also create indoor air quality problems.

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

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

This is Where Most Homes Leak Air:

  • 31%  Floors, Walls, & Ceilings
  • 15% Ductwork
  • 14% Fireplace
  • 13% Plumbing Penetrations Through Walls
  • 11% Exterior Doors
  • 10% Windows
  •  2% Electrical Outlets & Switches

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

Note:  The older the home, the more air it leaks.   All the air leaks in a typical home would be the equivalent to having one window open all the time. **

** Source: https://www.nrdc.org

Places Where Air Leaks Are Hiding,

Or In Plain Sight

recessed light

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

They Create A Hole In The Ceiling That Leaks Air 24/7.  New Recessed Lights Are Sealed.

Image Source: ShutterStock

 

The photo we show (in link just above) shows a typical way to close this gap.  An additional molding is installed in front of the existing baseboard trim.  While this won’t provide an airtight seal, it’s often sufficient.

Another school of though is to caulk the gap closed.  You can perform a test by caulking a small area of the gap (behind a piece of furniture).  If you can easily see the caulk from across the room, the gap is too wide for caulk, and the additional molding is a better solution.

If the gap is narrow, and the caulk is not highly visible, caulking is an easier way to go.  However, this method may present a problem in the future if floor coverings are replaced.  The caulk will be stuck to both the floor covering and the base trim.  This can make it difficult to remove the floor covering without damaging the base trim at a later date.

Insta Trim may be the best of both worlds.  Insta Trim is a self-stick, flexible product that closes 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.

The Amazon web page includes this description: “Covers up to a 3/8 in. wide gap.  Use InstaTrim as a wood trim alternative on baseboards & floors.  Keep moisture from seeping through gaps around a sink or along a backsplash.

Apply InstaTrim around window and door molding to keep your energy bills low, or use it on a toilet base to keep the bathroom sanitary.  InstaTrim has patented, self-centering wings that assure uniform positioning on any surface.  The odorless adhesive gets stronger over time, but never dries out.  It’s easy & quick, with no mess or waste.  No special tools are needed. ”

Shown: Insta Trim 

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

Image Source: Amazon Product Link

 

Hidden Holes In Ceilings & Walls

  • Oversized hole cut in wall for plumbing to come through:

 

Click on the arrow in the center of the image for a YouTube Video explaining how to close up holes in drywall at plumbing penetrations. 

Image Source: YouTube Embedded Video

Note:  The thing to keep in mind is that plumbers cut larger holes in walls than the pipes require.  This allows for shifting a pipe or fixture to align plumbing components.  In newer homes, these gaps are sealed.  In older homes, they were left open, and create large areas where the home leaks air.

 

  • Standard-Depth Wall Cabinets Recessed Into An Exterior Wall In Bathrooms:

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

Note: In years gone by, some home builders inset 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 each time you raise / lower the toilet set.

In many cases, there is little to no insulation behind the cabinet on outside walls.  Plus, most cabinets have holes to allow for different shelf placements.  Every hole without a shelf bracket creates another air leak.  The combination of little / no insulation + many holes for shelf placements can make one of the coldest places in your home just above the toilet.

The only way to remedy this is to; remove the existing cabinet, insulate + drywall + air seal the gaps — then install a correct cabinet that’s designed to be hung over a toilet.  There are also free standing cabinets that sit on the floor, and don’t have to be hung on the wall.

Air Leaks At Exterior Doors

brick home

Image Source: ShutterStock

Exterior doors are frequently a source of substantial air leaks.  They can be on the sides or top, and many are at the bottom of the door.

Click Here To See A Gap Under Entry Door: Air Gap Under Entry Door

Many door threshold weather strip products can’t be used on older DFW homes.  This is because many of these products fit under the door, and there is often no room for them.  In this case, what is needed is a weatherstrip product that sits in front of the door (on the inside).

Something to know about many of this style of door sweep are “stick on” and / or all rubber.  These often fall off over time, plus they are too flexible to provide a tight seal.   The best solution is a door sweep made of metal & rubber.  This metal is strong enough to hold the rubber tightly.  This style is installed with screws, so it won’t fall off.

Shown: Indoor Door Sweep For Entry Doors 

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

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

 

A problem with many door sweep weatherstrip products is they are only as wide as the door (which they should be).  This often does not cover the gap between the door and the door jamb / surround.

There is a product, to be used in addition to the existing 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 would.  Door sweeps are not sold in wider than 36″ because the metal could catch on your foot when you open or close the door.   This product also works on interior doors.  If you have a room that is not heated, this could keep cold air from seeping under the door during winter.

Additional Indoor Seal Used With Existing Door Sweep Weatherstripping

Shown: Indoor Draft Stopper For Entry Doors 

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

Image Source: Amazon Embedded Link

 

Weather Strip For Bottom Of STORM Door

Many storm doors have a gap at the bottom.  When new, they have a weatherstrip that wears out over time.  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

 

footer-logo

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 and offer 24/7 Emergency Service