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Energy and Weatherproofing Tips

Source:  U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) 
Heating and cooling your home uses more energy and drains more energy dollars than any
other system in your home. Typically, 44% of your utility bill goes for heating and 
cooling. What's more, heating and cooling systems in the United States together emit over
a half billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, adding to global
warming. They also generate about 24% of the nation's sulfur dioxide and 12% of the 
nitrogen oxides, the chief ingredients in acid rain.

 No matter what kind of heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system you have in 
your house, you can save money and increase comfort by properly maintaining and upgrading
your equipment. But remember, an energy-efficient furnace alone will not have as great
an impact on your energy bills as using the whole-house approach.By combining proper
equipment maintenance and upgrades with appropriate insulation, weatherization, and 
thermostat settings, you can cut your energy bills and your pollution output in half. 

 Household Heating Systems 
Although there are several different types of fuels available to heat our homes, about 
half of us use natural gas.

Ducts 
One of the most important systems in your home, though it's hidden beneath your feet and
over your head, may be wasting a lot of your energy dollars. Your home's duct system, a
branching network of tubes in the walls, floors, and ceilings, carries the air from your
home's furnace and central air conditioner to each room. Ducts are made of sheet metal,
fiber glass, or other materials. 

Unfortunately, many duct systems are poorly insulated or not insulated properly. Ducts 
that leak heated air into unheated spaces can add hundreds of dollars a year to your
heating and cooling bills. Insulating ducts that are in unconditioned spaces is usually
very cost effective. If you are buying a new duct system, consider one that comes with 
insulation already installed.
Sealing your ducts to prevent leaks is even more important if the ducts are located in
an unconditioned area such as an attic or vented crawl space. If the supply ducts are
leaking, heated or cooled air can be forced out unsealed joints and lost. In addition,
unconditioned air can also be drawn into return ducts through unsealed joints. In the
summer, hot attic air can be drawn in, increasing the load on the air conditioner. In
the winter, your furnace will have to work longer to keep your house comfortable. Either
way, your energy losses cost you money. 
Although minor duct repairs are easy to accomplish, ducts in unconditioned spaces should
be sealed and insulated by qualified professionals using the appropriate sealing
materials. Here are a few simple tips to help with minor duct repairs.
Ducts—Out of Sight, Out of Mind 

The unsealed ducts in your attics and crawl spaces lose air—uninsulated ducts lose heat,
wasting energy and money.

Heat Pumps 

 If you use electricity to heat your home, consider installing an energy-efficient heat
pump system. Heat pumps are the most efficient form of electric heating in moderate
climates, providing three times more heating than the equivalent amount of energy they
consume in electricity. There are three types of heat pumps: air-to-air, water source,
and ground source. They collect heat from the air, water, or ground outside your home and
concentrate it for use inside. Heat pumps do double duty as a central air conditioner.
They can also cool your home by collecting the heat inside your house and effectively
pumping it outside. A heat pump can trim the amount of electricity you use for heating as
much as 30% to 40%. 

Look for the ENERGY STARŪ label when buying a heat pump. 

Solar Heating and Cooling 

Using passive solar design techniques to heat and cool your home can be both environmentally
friendly and cost effective. Passive solar heating techniques include placing larger, 
insulated windows on south-facing walls and locating thermal mass, such as a concrete 
slab floor or a heat-absorbing wall, close to the windows. In many cases, you can cut 
your heating costs by more than 50% compared to the cost of heating the same house that
does not include passive solar design. 

 Passive solar design can also help reduce your cooling costs. Passive solar cooling 
techniques include carefully designed overhangs, windows with reflective coatings, and 
the use of reflective coatings on exterior walls and the roof. 
However, a passive solar house also requires careful design and site orientation, which 
depend on the local climate. So, if you are considering passive solar design for new 
construction or a major remodeling, you should consult an architect familiar with passive
solar techniques. 


Fireplaces 

 When you cozy up next to a crackling fire on a cold winter day, you probably don't 
realize that your fireplace is one of the most inefficient heat sources you can possibly
use. It literally sends your energy dollars right up the chimney along with volumes of 
warm air. A roaring fire can exhaust as much as 24,000 cubic feet of air per hour to the
outside, which must be replaced by cold air coming into the house from the outside. Your
heating system must warm up this air, which is then exhausted through your chimney. If 
you use your conventional fireplace while your central heating system is on, these tips 
can help reduce energy losses. 


Gas and Oil Heating Systems 

If you plan to buy a new heating system, ask your local utility or state energy office 
for information about the latest technologies available to consumers. They can advise you
about more efficient systems on the market today. For example, many newer models 
incorporate designs for burners and heat exchangers that result in higher efficiencies 
during operation and reduce heat loss when the equipment is off. Check the Shopping Guide
under Major Appliances for additional information on how to understand heating system 
ratings. 

Look for the ENERGY STARŪ and EnergyGuide labels. 



Air Conditioners  Narration by Bill Richardson,
Secretary of Energy 
 

It might surprise you to know that buying a bigger room air-conditioning unit won't
necessarily make you feel more comfortable during the hot summer months. In fact, a room
air conditioner that's too big for the area it is supposed to cool will perform less 
efficiently and less effectively than a smaller, properly sized unit. This is because 
room units work better if they run for relatively long periods of time than if they are 
continually, switching off and on. Longer run times allow air conditioners to maintain a
more constant room temperature. 

Sizing is equally important for central air-conditioning systems, which need to be sized
by professionals. If you have a central air system in your home, set the fan to shut off
at the same time as the cooling unit (compressor). In other words, don't use the system's
central fan to provide circulation, but instead use circulating fans in individual rooms. 
The shopping guide in the back of this booklet will help you find the right size unit for 
your needs. Look for the ENERGY STARŪ and EnergyGuide labels. 



Programmable Thermostats 

You can save as much as 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills by simply turning
your thermostat back 10% to 15% for 8 hours. You can do this automatically without 
sacrificing comfort by installing an automatic setback or programmable thermostat. 

Using a programmable thermostat, you can adjust the times you turn on the heating or 
air-conditioning according to a pre-set schedule. As a result, you don't operate the 
equipment as much when you are asleep or when the house or part of the house is not 
occupied. (These thermostats are not meant to be used with heat pumps.) Programmable 
thermostats can store and repeat multiple daily settings (six or more temperature settings
a day) that you can manually override without affecting the rest of the daily or weekly
program. When shopping for a programmable thermostat, be sure to look for the ENERGY
STARŪ label. 

See the contact list for places to get more information on heating and cooling. 

         U.S. Dept. of Energy