Wednesday, December 26, 2012

5 Ways to Save Money Through Home Climate Control

-Philip J Reed on behalf of Redstone College

Homes that are too hot or too cold can be very uncomfortable. A lack of heating and cooling regulation is also an indication that the utility bills are likely higher than they should be. Controlling the climate in the house is probably the easiest way to save money on utilities. Below are five simple approaches to increasing the climate control in the house, thereby making family and guests comfortable and saving money.

1. Install a programmable thermostat. This is usually the first and most common suggestion made by experts because it really does save money. A programmable thermostat continuously maintains the heat at the programmed temperature, turning on the furnace or central air unit to adjust the temperature as needed. This saves the homeowner frustration at having to adjust the temperature manually because it is too hot or too cold for comfort. It also eliminates forgetting to change the temperature settings before going to bed or before leaving the house for extended periods of time.

2. Close the vents in unused rooms. It can be difficult to maintain a balanced temperature throughout the house, especially in a house with an upper and lower level. Thermostats are generally placed on the first floor, and hot air rises. This can make the upper level hotter than the lower level. If most of the family time is spent on the lower level, then closing or reducing the air flow from some of the vents upstairs can help balance the climate and save money. If there is a guest room or a storage room that is completely unused, close those vents entirely to allow the heat or air conditioning to flow to the other rooms in the house.

3. Make sure the windows and doors do not have leaks. This sounds like such a simple tip, but most homeowners do not do this regularly. Houses settle, which can sometimes cause gaps around the windows and doors. Even slight gaps can allow cold air into the house and heat to escape. To check windows for leaks, shine a flashlight in areas where there could be leaks and have a partner outside to see if the light shows. To check doors, close a piece of paper in the doorway. If the paper can be removed without tearing, there is too much of a gap. Some leaks can be sealed by simply installing weather stripping.

4. Install shutters on the windows. This may sound like an unusual idea for controlling the indoor climate, but shutters can keep the unwanted weather elements out of the house. In the winter they help to keep the cold wind from coming through the windows, thus lowering the temperature in the house and forcing the furnace to work harder to keep the house warm. In the summer they help keep the blazing sun from overheating the house, requiring the air conditioner or fans to run non-stop during the day to keep the house cool. It is important, though, to hire professional, qualified shutter installers to ensure the shutters fit properly and work correctly.

5. Have yearly inspections of the HVAC system. This is a good practice that saves more money than it costs. If the HVAC system is not working at peak performance, it uses more energy to maintain the climate in the house. A simple routine maintenance visit can ensure that the system is in good working condition. When hiring a company for routine maintenance, make sure the technicians have the proper HVAC training. Certified HVAC technicians can service a variety of heating and cooling systems and know how to identify issues that could become costly if not fixed. Spending $50 on a part for a furnace may save you hundreds of dollars down the road.

Saving money by controlling the climate in the house can be very easy. Set-and-forget ideas such as programmable thermostats and balancing household vents require no further thought than the initial set-up. Checking leaks and maintaining the HVAC system is a once-a-year task. Installing shutters is an attractive and money-saving investment that could add value to the house by dressing up the exterior. These are only five of the many ideas that can help a homeowner adapt their house to an energy- and money-saving dwelling quickly and easily.