Everybody loves to save money, but sometimes we don’t really connect how much money our homes are actually costing us, especially when it comes to our utility bills. We just tend to pay our monthly bill without giving it too much thought. However, a home’s heating and air comprises 40%-50% of the utility bill. If you add up the dollar amount over a year or more, it’s a significant expenditure. I’d highly recommend that you think about the efficiency of your HVAC system, whether it’s been maintained, how old it is, and whether it’s recently been checked by a professional. From there, you can take a few steps on your own to get the most efficient use out of your system.
By not changing the filters in your house, you’re slowing down the airflow to the HVAC system. It can only put out as much cold or warm air as it’s able to take in. So, if the filter is clogged up and there’s not much air getting in, you won’t have very much conditioned air or heat coming out of your vents, either. Dirty, clogged, or even the wrong kind of filter will harm the system both in the short term and long term. The system might even starve for air to the point that it could overheat or freeze up. All of these issues can be prevented by simply changing the filter.
Gas or Electric?
Most people don’t think about whether they have gas in addition to electric as an option in their home. If you have gas availability, it’s much more efficient for both HVAC and water heating. Whenever it comes time to replace a water heater or an HVAC system, gas is something you should definitely consider because of its efficiency.
Flush the Water Heater
In terms of plumbing, flushing your water heater can have a significant impact on efficiency. (Hard water causes buildup on the heating elements at the bottom of the heater.) The US Department of Energy says that ¼ inch of scale buildup caused from calcium or hardness in the water reduces the efficiency of an appliance by 30%. It’s very important to make sure your water heater is flushed so that any sediment buildup is removed.
Address Water Hardness
A water softener or water treatment system is probably the most significant step you can take to improve efficiency in your home. (Not to mention, you’ll have to use less soap with soft water.) Think of it this way: if you’re putting fuel adulterated with water into your car’s gas tank, the poor fuel quality will make its way through your car’s internals and mess everything up. A car just isn’t made to run off of fuel with water in it. The same thing goes for your plumbing system—water would be considered poor quality if it has hardness (calcium) in it. As it makes its way through the pipes, water heater, faucets, and drains, it’s going to cause problems in the system. It might lead to buildup in appliances like the washing machine or dishwasher and cause them to fail quickly.
Set A Lower Water Heater Temperature
I would encourage everyone to know the satisfactory temperature of hot water in their home. It’s pretty simple to find this out—you can even use a cooking thermometer or grill thermometer to take the measurement. Just turn on a faucet or shower, get a cup, and use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the water you use every day. (It should be at a comfortable level.) The important thing here is you don’t want your water heater to be set too high. If you don’t ever run out of hot water, there’s no need to turn the water up way hotter than you need. It’s actually better to turn the hot water on or close to all the way on instead of mixing it with a lot of cold water to reach a satisfactory temperature. Remember, you’re paying to heat the water up from its incoming temperature (generally 50 to 60 degrees F). The higher the water heater’s setpoint, the more it’s costing you to heat the water. If you’re not even using water at that high of a temperature, setting it lower will prevent you from overpaying on your utility bill.
If you want a professional opinion, we can send a couple of different people to your home and give you an efficiency report. We have someone who specializes in HVAC, plumbing, and water treatment, and they are aware of how those components affect a home’s overall efficiency. To find out more, request an appointment, contact us, or give us a call at 540-483-9382.