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Saving Energy in Your West Texas Home: Tips for Everything From the HVAC System to Lighting

A home is comprised of many integrated systems that provide comfort services, including conditioned air, lighting and hot water. While these all consume energy, there are some products that work to prevent energy losses, such as attic insulation and air sealing materials. If you're concerned about saving energy in your West Texas home, use these helpful tips to minimize unnecessary energy consumption and improve your whole-home performance.

Efficient Home Heating and Cooling

The heating and cooling systems offer many options for saving energy in the home if the right strategies are implemented. Consider the following ways for saving energy in relation to the HVAC system:

  • Air filter - Many homeowners don't realize the important role the air filter plays in energy savings. A clogged air filter can increase heating and cooling costs by as much as 15 percent. Moreover, a dirty and clogged filter makes the HVAC system work harder by increasing the pressure drop across the blower. Check the air filter monthly and replace it as soon as dust, dirt and other particulates have begun accumulating on the filter.
  • Thermostat - The latest programmable thermostats offer smart, convenient features for saving energy in the home while maintaining maximum comfort. For instance, you may program temperature changes to reflect your household’s schedules for work and other activities. In this way, it isn't necessary to manually change the temperature during work and sleep hours. Depending on the thermostat type, you may monitor compatible home comfort systems, such as ventilation and humidity management systems for maximum comfort, savings and health.
  • Furnace and A/C upgrades - When it's time to upgrade the HVAC system, make sure you choose a contractor who correctly sizes the new equipment using industry standard best practices. Ask for a cost analysis so you can see the lifetime costs of competing systems. The lifetime cost is the true price tag of your investment. It takes into account purchase and installation costs, as well as estimated operating and maintenance costs. This also shows you the return on investment (ROI), which is the time it takes a higher-efficiency system to pay for itself in energy savings.
  • Maintenance and care - HVAC systems are sophisticated machines that require annual professional maintenance to ensure all parts are operating at optimal levels. Maintenance is also important in order to catch potential problems and prevent expensive repairs.
  • Ductwork - During professional preventive maintenance visits, ask your HVAC technician to inspect the ductwork system. Leaky, damaged and uninsulated ducts lose or gain heat, which can increase heating and cooling costs by up to 30 percent.
  • Ceiling fans - The wind chill effect created by ceiling fans can make a room feel up to four degrees cooler during the summer. Ceiling fans should rotate in a counter-clockwise direction during the cooling months. During the winter, change the direction so the fans rotate clockwise in low speed. Run ceiling fans while the heating system is on to force warmer air near the ceiling to the lower parts of the room.

Water Heating Efficiency

The water heater shouldn't be overlooked when saving energy in the home. Heating water for bathing, cooking and cleaning can account for as much as 20 percent of the energy budget. Start with practical methods for conserving water and making your home's water heater more efficient, and don't forget to include the water heater in annual professional maintenance.

  • Temperature - Hot water temperatures in excess of 140 degrees can cause scalding in seconds. Moreover, temperatures this high consume more energy and quicken the rate of water heater corrosion. Lower the water heater’s temperature to 120 degrees. You should still receive ample hot water and save money at the same time.
  • Water conservation - Install low-flow faucets and shower heads on all outlets for saving energy in the home.
  • Timers - If your household only needs hot water a few times a day at specific times, consider installing a timer. Timers shut down the water heater for the hours not in use. If you're going to be away from home for more than a couple of days, turn the water heater off. It generally only takes the water heater an hour or so to reheat a tank of room-temperature water upon your return.
  • Insulation - Install insulation wraps on all hot water pipes in the home, including the water heater’s inlet and outlet pipes. You’ll receive hot water faster at the outlet and an increase in temperature. If you have an old water heater, a water heater blanket insulation can help reduce standby heat loss. Standby heat loss is the heating and reheating of stored water due to heat energy losses through the sides, top and bottom of the tank. Standby heat loss can account for more than half of the water heating bill.
  • Homeowner maintenance - A couple times a year, drain about a gallon of water from the drain bib at the bottom of the tank. This helps flush sediment and debris from the water heater, which would otherwise accumulate on the bottom of the tank and hinder heat exchange. Check the temperature and pressure (T&P) relief valve located on the top/side of the water heater for leaks. If it's leaking, call your technician right away. The T&P relief valve prevents tank ruptures.
  • Professional maintenance - The water heater should be serviced annually to make sure all components are operating efficiently and safely. Your technician should perform a complete tank flush, clean combustion components on gas water heaters, inspect the flue and check the anode rod for deterioration. Keeping the water heater in good working order helps it heat water more efficiently, which saves you money and helps the water heater last longer.

Appliances and Electronics

Many appliances and electronics consume energy 24 hours a day whether they're in use or not. You can trim waste from your energy budget by putting a stop to these energy vampires using practical methods.

  • Battery chargers - Unplug cell phone battery chargers and laptops when fully charged.
  • Computers -Place computers and monitors into sleep mode when idle for 10 minutes.
  • Small appliances - Microwave ovens, coffeemakers, toaster ovens and other small appliances in your home consume electricity when not in use. Plug these appliances into power strips so you may completely turn them off when not in use.

Use large appliances wisely and efficiently for saving energy in the home.

  • Refrigerator - Keep the refrigerator and freezer stocked. A full refrigerator uses less electricity. Clean the heat exchange coil in the back of the refrigerator, or you may ask your service technician to do this task during HVAC maintenance.
  • Cooking - Use microwaves and toaster ovens rather than a conventional oven when it's hot out. Keep the stove reflector pans clean to reflect heat upward more efficiently.
  • Clothes washer and dryer - Wash and dry several loads of clothes at once. Wash full loads of clothes and use cold water as much as possible. Use the energy-saving setting if the washer has it. Clean the lint filter after each use.
  • Dishwasher: Turn off the dishwasher after the wash cycle and let the dishes air dry. Use energy-saving settings if available.
  • Energy Star: When it's time to upgrade appliances, including water heaters and the HVAC system, look for Energy Star qualified equipment. Equipment with the Energy Star logo has passed stringent tests for efficiency, performance and system features.

Bright Savings for Lighting

According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), lighting costs account for up to 10 percent of the energy bill in the average home. For households that have switched to compact fluorescent (CFL) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), lighting costs have dimmed considerably. Here's why:

  • Indoor lighting - CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent lighting, and CFLs last up to 10 times longer. LEDs offer even more savings of up to 80 percent. Moreover, LEDs last up to 25 times longer than incandescent. CFLs and LEDs emit much less heat than incandescent, which will help reduce heat gain during the West Texas cooling months. Make sure you're using the correct lighting for the fixture.
  • Outdoor lighting - Outdoor lighting like solar walkway lamps can add beauty to a home, not to mention an extra level of security. Implement motion detectors and timers for all outdoor lighting, such as porch lights in the lawn, driveway and backyard. Make sure you're selecting the correct outdoor lighting for the application.
  • Lighting devices - Using indoor lighting devices is a convenient tool for saving energy in the home. Motion detectors may be used indoors as well as outdoors. They're helpful in large rooms or rooms where the light switch may not be by the entry door. Consider dimmer devices that are compatible with CFLs and LEDs. In this way, you may conserve energy in addition to using energy-efficient lighting.

For more tips about saving energy in the home, contact us to find a West Texas contractor near you.

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