Gear up for fall home energy management
Tuesday, September 14, 2021
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Given the unpredictability of Oklahoma weather, homeowners may still be running air conditioners and fans for several more weeks. However, energy management adjustments should begin now.
Nearly half the energy used in the home goes to heating and cooling, said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Extension housing and consumer specialist and interim associate dean.
“Making smart decisions regarding your home’s heating and cooling system can have a big impact on utility bills,” Peek said. “A few simple steps around the home can pay big dividends when the weather cools down. Think back to the deep freeze Oklahoma experienced in February this year and remember how your utility bills reflected the increased energy usage.”
The easiest and least expensive way to increase system efficiency is to change the air filter regularly. Check once per month and change them three times per year at a minimum.
“A dirty filter slows down air flow and makes the system work harder to keep you warm or cool,” said Scott Frazier, OSU Extension energy management specialist and associate professor in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering. “A clean filter also will prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system, which could lead to a costly repair or an early system failure.”
Like a yearly checkup or regularly scheduled vehicle tune-up, it’s important to do the same for an HVAC system. In the fall, check all gas or oil connections, gas pressure, burner combustion and heat exchanger. Improper connections can be a fire hazard and can contribute to health problems.
Frazier said a thermostat driven by smart technology is a wise investment for homeowners to help lower utility bills.
“A smart thermostat lets you control the home’s heating and cooling temperature settings from a smart device such as a cell phone, tablet or computer,” he said. “These thermostats are Wi-Fi enabled, which allows access to the temperature setting and other features through an application downloaded on your smart device.”
Another option is a programmable thermostat that allows homeowners to set the temperature for different times of the day. For example, the heat can be set to automatically turn down to a specified temperature when residents go to bed and automatically turn up in the morning as they wake.
Another area to check is a home’s ducts, which can be big energy wasters. Sealing and insulating ducts can significantly improve the efficiency of your air system. Start with the ductwork that runs through unheated/uncooled parts of the home such as the attic, crawl spaces and garage, then move to heated/cooled spaces.
Other energy wasters are drafty windows and doors. Add or replace worn weather stripping around doors and windows and caulk any gaps.
If your heat and air system is older, or simply isn't heating and cooling effectively, have it evaluated by a professional, Peek said.