Take some time to analyze your heating and cooling bills. These bills are important to understand what’s going on and to help decide on the best home energy improvements.
Take time to analyze your heating and cooling bills, for a whole year. They can tell you a lot.
Comparing your heating and cooling bills
Once you have estimated your cooling and heating expenses, compare them to national averages and other benchmarks (see table at right), and ask yourself - according to the profile of your energy costs - which are the most cost-effective home energy improvements that you can undertake.
Note that being close to the average expenses, or even a bit below them, is not necessarily good. The good is to have energy bills well below the average levels, say, 1/2 or 2/3 or 3/4 of the average (two last columns in the the table above). And that’s possible in new construction and in large remodeling projects.
When asking yourself what to improve in your heating and cooling system, pay special attention to "energy wasters" like...
* Outdated and oversized furnaces, boilers and AC;
* Leaky ducts;
* Uninsulated and drafty walls;
* Under-insulated attics and floors;
* Windows with inefficient glazing and frames;
* Unshaded and unprotected windows, in homes with air conditioning;
* Central air conditioning (instead of other alternative systems)
If your equipment is outdated or oversized, consider replacing it. It’s possible to achieve energy improvements of 30-50%, by replacing old appliances with new efficient ones (see: Energy Efficient Appliances). Auditing the heating equipment involves assessing its size and age, the type of fuel being used, air leaks or lack of insulation in the ducts and pipes, or problems of malfunction and wear, often caused by lack of maintenance, oversizing or improper installation.
Also pay attention to your ducts. Duct sealing and insulation can also also provide big energy savings. See: Home Ducts Guide
But in most cases, reducing the heating and cooling bills to very low levels requires another type of strategy: high levels of air sealing and insulation all over your home's shell, and high-performance windows (or window films). The reason is obvious: most of the heat (or cooled air) generated in our homes is lost through the walls, the attic or the basement and floors, and only air-tightness and insulation can prevent it.
A relatively small and super-insulated home will have small heating needs that can be met by ductless space electric or gas heaters. See: German Style Super-insulated Passive Houses and
New Homes Insulation
The problem with high heating and cooling bills may not be so much the equipment, but poor levels of air sealing and insulation, and low-performance windows. And you should be aware of it, and carry out the needed energy improvements before buying new (and smaller) HAVC systems.