HEATING & COOLING
HVAC takes 43% of the energy used in the average home.
Don't wait until your existing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment fails, or your choices could be limited to whatever is in your contractor's warehouse. Consider how long the average system lasts (noted on our respective site pages), though regular maintenance can add years to its useful life.
If your equipment is reaching its life expectancy, it's time to think about replacing it --- especially given the rebates for low- and medium-income households and tax credits for taxpayers who install "qualified" electric heat pumps to heat and cool their homes. Learn more about the rebates and tax credits, below, and from the Energy Star program.
Attend an LCAN B4UBuy workshop; separate sessions are available for heating and air conditioning.
Modern Heat Pumps Deserve Consideration
An air-sourced heat pump looks like a regular AC unit. In warm weather, an air-source heat-pump HVAC system removes heat from inside your home and dumps it outdoors. The difference? It can run backwards: It can extract heat from outdoors and send it indoors to warm your home in cold weather.
Modern heat pumps are roughly 3X more efficient than conventional gas-fired or electric base-board heating systems—so cost equally less to operate!
A properly sized heat-pump HVAC system would meet all of your cooling needs. However, because our winters can get very cold, you may need a hybrid system that uses a heat pump year-round boosted on the coldest days by a gas-fired furnace. (Baseboard back-up heat works, too, but is costly to install and operate.) Tell your contractor how much you set your thermostat back (if at all) at night and/or on work or school days.
Tighten "Building Envelope" Leaks
Holes in the foundation, walls or attic waste energy and money. The typical Louisville home has at least three square feet of little holes, many of which can be fixed simply by weatherizing. When a forced air system runs, those holes become equivalent to four times bigger passive holes! It's best to hire a building performance auditor to identify those holes, so you can fix them, and cut your carbon and costs indefinitely. Or refer to this list of typical envelope leaks from SmarterHouse.org.
Insulating the attic and foundation (and rim boards atop it) stops the "stack effect" --- that allows air and moisture to leak where do you don't want it to go --- and pays big dividends on your utility bill, to the environment and toward your comfort.
Seal Ducts Leaks
Don't spend money to condition air and then try to distribute it through leaky ducts. If your performance auditor says your ducts are excessively leaky, seal them. You can seal the gaps you can reach by painting a sealing compound onto them; wear old clothes. Better, ask your HVAC contractor about internal sealing, which gets the gaps you can't reach, such as inside walls and ceilings. Learn more here.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
They are inexpensive, save energy and have quick pay-backs. Learn more.
Replace Filters as Needed
A clogged filter makes your HVAC system work harder. The necessary frequency varies, depending on how many cats, dogs and people are living in the household and the frequently of housekeeping. Use your utility bill as a monthly reminder to check your filter(s). A gray look means it's time to change. Not sure? Place the filter under the shower, turn on the water and see how dirty the water running through it is.
Consider a Humidifier
If you have a forced-air furnace, adding a humidifier to it will improve your comfort, reducing dry eyes and itchy skin. You can turn it up slowly over a few days until water condenses on windows, then slowly set it back over a few days until water no longer condenses---wiping up the water as often as necessary. If you already have a humidifier, make sure your HVAC contractor checks it during its annual service visit to ensure it's still working properly and hasn't become clogged.
Use a Ceiling Fan
Using a ceiling fan in an occupied room allows you to adjust the thermostat 2°F higher in summer and 2°F degrees lower in winter and remain comfortable. Turn it off if no one is in the room. And don't worry about switching the direction of the fan's blades, if you don't have a step ladder. Learn more here.
Use Blinds or Curtains Wisely
If it's a cold, but sunny day, open the blinds or curtains to let the sunlight indoors. Conversely, if it's a hot, sunny day, close them to keep the interior space cooler.