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10 tips for saving on heating and cooling bills

By Andrew Johnson

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Aug. 29 2011 11:32 p.m. MDT

Maintenance of heating and cooling systems is essential for efficient operation.

Andrew Johnson

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The typical home produces twice the greenhouse gas emissions as the average car, thanks in large part to the energy costs associated with heating and cooling, according to the federal government’s Energy Star heating and cooling guide.

What costs energy also costs money: with rate hikes, Utah families are paying much more for electricity and gas in 2011 and because of that, many are looking for ways to cut back on their energy usage. Saving energy does not necessarily mean sacrificing the convenience of air conditioning, however. Here are 10 simple ways to help save money and the environment:

1. Set

Set your thermostat to 78 F in the summer and 68 F in the winter. This can save significantly on energy costs.

2. Program

Program your thermostat to have energy-saving temperatures during the times you will be away from home and at night. According to Energy Star, “proper use of pre-programmed settings [can] save you about $180 every year in energy costs.” Energy Star recommends setting the thermostat at least 8 F lower in the winter and 7 F higher in the summer during the times of day you are away from home. Once you have set a schedule for your home, resist making changes, as these can become expensive.

3. Check

Check periodically your thermostat is at the right temperature for the time of day and it is turning on and off at the specified times.

4. Tune Up

Tune up your system with the help of a qualified technician who can ensure all its components are functioning properly. This not only saves money on energy, but also on future repair costs.

5. Clean

Clean both the indoor and outdoor coils on your cooling system, preferably before warm weather starts. Replacing the air filter regularly can also help prevent dust and dirt from building up in the rest of the system.

6. Upgrade

Upgrade your home’s heating and cooling systems if they are more than 10 years old. Older units often suffer from disrepair, which can make them less efficient in doing the work of actually cooling or heating. Newer units can usually do the same work while using much less energy.

7. Install

Install the right window coverings to cut down on energy costs. John Barnes with Sunburst Shutters says when installed properly, plantation shutters are more efficient than any other window treatment.

“Polywood shutters are up to 70 percent more energy efficient than wooden shutters, and 1600 percent more efficient than regular aluminum mini-blinds. That amounts to significant savings for the average homeowner,” according to the Sunburst Shutters website.

8. Insulate

Insulate windows, doors, attics and basements. This will trap the cool/warm air in your home’s “envelope” so your cooling and heating systems can work more efficiently.

9. Seal

Seal off air leaks. Typically air leaks can be felt around doors and windows, but a professional contractor can help locate other hidden air leaks that may be letting your home’s air escape.

10. Circulate

Circulate your home’s air in the summer and winter with the help of a ceiling fan.

While certainly not an exhaustive list, these 10 items will keep both the costs to your wallet and the environment at a minimum.

Andrew Johnson is a writer, blogger and journalist, and makes his home in Salt Lake County with his two kids.

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