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Go With The Airflow: How To Get The Most Out Of Your Air Conditioner With Efficient Airflow

Getting the best value for money from your air conditioning system is high priority for everyone. Whether you need your home to be cool or warm, you need to ensure that its airflow is efficient enough to run the system effectively and in a cost-effective way.

Although some of today’s smart thermostats are making claims to save money on energy bills, they’re not going to give the best effect if you haven’t optimized your home for efficient airflow. If you’re dreading opening your energy bill, there are a few things you can try to ensure your HVAC system works to cool and heat your house as efficiently as possible.

Avoid Closing All The Vents

If the lower floor of your home generally feels cooler than the upper floor, you might think that closing all the downstairs vents will help to push the air conditioning upstairs. However, this is a very bad idea.

If you close your vents your system will be using more energy since the system will have to work harder, pushing past the higher pressure which the closed vents have created. This is especially true if your system has a variable speed fan which automatically changes speeds. Older systems usually have a fan which operates at a steady speed, however even this is bad news when you close lots of vents as the fan will be slowed down and there will less airflow.

Also, if you don’t have sealed ductwork, the extra pressure may push air conditioned or heated air through cracks and into the attic rather than into the living space. Although you may think that closing vents will do the job, due to the design of HVAC systems, it won’t have the effect you’re hoping for.

Although it seems counter-intuitive to leave your vents open all the time, this is the best way to ensure efficiency and to make sure that your air flow is more efficient around your entire property.

Check Your Air Filter

Although manufacturers of air filters usually tell you that you need to change your HVAC air filter around every 3 months, you might need to do it more often depending on how frequently you run your air conditioning or heating. Check it each week for build up of dirt and debris, and as soon as it begins to look visibly dirty it’s time to change it.

You also need to think about how thick your air filter is. They all come with their own MERV rating (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) which will be a figure of between 1 and 16. Whenever possible, going for one with a higher number will help to optimize your air flow. 16 is the highest rating and will catch more particles than a lower rated filter, keeping your air cleaner and more free from allergens and particles.

However, not every HVAC system can handle higher rated air filters, so it’s very important to check to make sure that yours can cope with such a thick filter before you use one. While a thick air filter works well to catch allergens, it also restricts the airflow substantially, so your system needs a suitably powerful fan to handle it otherwise you run the risk of damaging your system and causing a costly breakdown.

Don’t Run The HVAC Fan Unless You Have To

Although popular opinion holds that running your HVAC fan all the time, even if your air conditioning isn’t on, will cool your house down more, however it doesn’t actually achieve that effect. Although running the fan permanently will work to circulate the air, it won’t necessarily be any cooler, and, in fact, running your HVAC fan all the time could make the house even more humid and it will also increase your energy bills.

Check The HVAC System Yourself

Although getting your HVAC system checked by a professional is important, you can inspect several of its components yourself to ensure that it’s running properly.

Check the A/C condenser outside and get rid of any obstructions like bushes or shades, and check the flames being produced by the furnace. If they’re flickering orange, you need to get professional help.

Check the air conditioner unit by removing its cover panel and inspecting its evaporator coils and fins. If you see dirt building up, you can clean it or vacuum it, however if you see ice on them, call a professional to help.

Insulate Your Attic

Having good insulation will keep your home cool in the summer months and warm in the winter, and your attic is a good place to start. You may also have poor airflow in the attic, so make sure that you have ventilation in there in the form of exhaust and intake vents. If your insulation is blocking the intake vents it will be restricting the airflow, so make sure that you remove any obstructions.

Improve Your Windows

Although investing in new windows can slash your energy bills, especially if your windows have single panes, there are ways of achieving the same results in a more cost-effective way. Fitting weather stripping around windows and doors and using plastic film to cover the windows in the winter will help to prevent drafts and cut costs.

While you’re looking for drafts, plug any other air leaks that you find around your home. Cracks and gaps can cause cool and hot air to escape outside your home and make your air conditioning system work harder, costing you more.

Closing Doors And Windows

Conditioned air escapes easily from your home if you leave your doors and windows open. We all need to air our homes from time to time, but when you’re doing this, make sure your air conditioner is switched off otherwise you’ll be paying to cool down your whole neighborhood.

Program Your Thermostat

If you’re always adjusting your thermostat your system will run for longer than required and that will lead to more frequent off and on cycles making your home less comfortable. Just program your thermostat to your chosen temperature and then leave it alone

Remember that setting your thermostat at a low temperature doesn’t mean your home will be cooled down any more rapidly, and in fact the system will simply run for longer, driving your utility bills up even higher.

Routine Maintenance


One of the most vital things about optimizing your home’s airflow is ensuring you get your HVAC system checked on an annual basis by a HVAC professional. Having routine maintenance every year will make sure that the system stays in top shape and functioning at its expected level of efficiency.

A qualified HVAC technician will be able to give your whole system a tune up, spot any potential problems before they develop into major issues that could cause a breakdown and make sure that everything is clean and oiled ready to function perfectly.

If you follow these tips, you’ll find that your home’s airflow will be greatly improved, saving you money on the cost of running your HVAC system to cool or warm your house, and keeping your home a more comfortable place to live.

High Temps, Low Costs: How to Lower Your Heating Bill In Winter

As anyone who lives in the Chicagoland area knows, the winters can be especially harsh, so as the cold season approaches it isn’t surprising that many families start to worry about how they’re going to be able to afford to pay their heating bills. Luckily, it is possible to save energy and save money while staying comfortable even on the coldest days of the year. Here are some top tips to help you reduce your heating bill and to ensure you stay cozy when the snow starts to fall.


Keep Your Heating Costs Low This Winter


Focus On Your Windows


Your windows are the source of much of the heat loss from your home, but there are a number of steps you can take to minimize heat loss and maximize the sun’s warmth. Firstly, on sunny days, always open the curtains on all of your home’s windows that face south as this will enable the sun’s rays to heat your property naturally. Of course, you must also remember to close your curtains once more as the night starts to fall as this will keep out the chill of the cold glass.


If you find that drafts are still coming through your windows, you can use a clear plastic heavy duty sheet on a frame, or alternatively, tape some clear plastic film onto the inner side of the window frames during the winter. By sealing the plastic tightly to the window frame, fewer drafts will be able to find their way into your rooms. You can also reduce heat loss by installing insulating, tight fitting shades or drapes on your windows. This will boost the energy efficiency of your home helping you to reduce your heating bill and to reduce your carbon footprint at the same time.


Make Some Temperature Adjustments


By using your thermostat properly you can slash your heating costs exponentially. If you are in the house during the day, turn down your thermostat to the lowest temperature that is still comfortable. If you are sleeping or away from home, you should turn down the thermostat to somewhere between 10 and 15 degrees for 8 hours of the day. This will cut about 10% per year off your cooling and heating bills. By investing in a programmable or smart thermostat, you can easily adjust your temperature in the most convenient way.


While nobody wants to stay bundled up in bulky coats and hats when they’re in their home, you can afford to turn your thermostat down a small amount and still be comfortable if you choose a setting between 60 and 70 degrees and keep a sweater on. Making a small sacrifice like this can cut your heating bill by up to a fifth, and that can amount to a pretty impressive saving.


Consider Investing In New Appliances



Although buying a new water heater or heating system might sound like an expensive waste of money, it’s important to consider the long term. Heating your home’s water accounts for as much as 11% of your utility bills and that means that changing your water heater for a more energy efficient one can make all the difference. If you have a traditional water tank heater, consider switching to a tankless one which only heats water as and when it‘s required to avoid the additional energy consumption of heating water which is not required.


You should also take a look at your furnace. If you have an ageing oil or gas fired furnace it’s important to be aware that their lifespan is only around 15-20 years and if your is approaching the end of its useful life it could be causing your energy bills to inflate. Replacing your older model with a new Energy Star certified unit could save you as much as 20% on your heating bills. If you’re planning to remain in your home for a few more years, making the upfront investment will pay for itself in a short time.



Find Those Leaks


Leaks and cracks around your home are the source of unwanted drafts and also contribute to your property’s overall heat loss, resulting in you having to crank up the thermostat and increase your heating bills in order to stay warm. One way to retain heat is to find any air leaks around your home and to seal the gaps to prevent warm air from escaping and cold air from getting in. Check gaps around any recessed lights, chimneys, utility pipe cut throughs and any areas behind closets and cupboards for hidden cracks and then seal them. It’s also wise to use weatherstripping or caulk to seal any air leaks around your windows and doors.


Schedule A Heating System Service


The last thing you want is to wake up on the coldest day of the year to find that your heating system has broken down. While many people think that they can save on the cost of regular maintenance when it comes to their heating system, skimping on this essential service can lead to a much more expensive bill if and when the system eventually breaks down. By arranging an annual service for your heating system you can make sure that it is working at the optimal level and that any problems have been spotted and rectified before they get out of hand and cause a major problem. An annual tune up will ensure that all the components are in good working order and that the system is functioning most economically to save you money and to keep your home toasty warm.



Keeping Your Heating System Clean


If you have a heat pump or a furnace, it’s important to always replace the filter on a monthly basis, or more frequently if necessary. Maintaining your heat pump, boiler or furnace is vital to keeping it in good running order. If you have a pellet or wood burning heater, you should always take care to clean its flue vent frequently as well as cleaning the interior of the appliance periodically with a wire brush as this will ensure your home is being heated efficiently.


Reducing Heat Loss From Fireplaces


While a fire in the grate is a cozy image, if your home has a fireplace, this can be a major source of heat loss. Warm air is drawn upwards through the chimney leaving your room cold and uncomfortable whenever there is no fire burning, so it is always important to keep the damper firmly closed. If you allow it to remain open it is similar to leave a window open, allowing warm air to escape at an alarming rate.


Whenever the fireplace is in use, you can reduce any additional heat loss by keeping the damper open in the bottom of the firebox. If your fireplace does not have dampers, you can open a window very slightly instead (no more than an inch) while also closing all of the doors which lead into the room. You can then reduce the setting of your thermostat to around 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit.


Another option for your fireplace is to install tempered glass doors as well as a heat-air exchange system. This will blow the warm air back into your room for a much more energy efficient alternative that will ensure your space stays extremely comfortable. You should also check the fireplace flue damper’s seal to ensure it is as snug as it can be to avoid drafts. Buying a grate which is made from C-shaped metal tubes will ensure that cool air from the room is drawn into the fireplace while warm air is effectively circulated back through the room.


On the other hand, if you have a fireplace but find that you never actually use it for its intended purpose it could be time to think of getting rid of it. If you plug and seal your flue, you’ll find that the room becomes a lot warmer but you won’t lose the attractive feature in your room.


Reduce The Cost Of Your Water Heating


Turning down your water heater’s temperature to “warm” or around 120 degrees Fahrenheit will make a big difference when it comes to saving energy and, as an added bonus, you’ll never need to worry about accidentally scalding yourself when washing your hands or running a bath.

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