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Heating and cooling

Heating and cooling your home, especially in Minnesota, can take a lot of energy-and money. The great news is that there are many things residents can do in their home to improve the efficiency of their heating and cooling systems.

Conduct an energy audit.

The most important step you can take for both heating and cooling is to conduct an energy audit. An energy audit is a personalized assessment of your house. An auditor will visit and give you advice about what needs work at your house, and where you can make the best investments. To schedule an audit, contact your local utility. To discover new ways to save energy, check out the Minnesota Energy Challenge website. While on the website, take the Energy Challenge!

You can also start with a do-it-yourself (DIY) energy audit. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s suggestions for a DIY energy audit.

Use your thermostat wisely.

Set it at 68 in the winter and 76 in the summer. When you are away or sleeping, drop (in the winter) or raise (in the summer) the temperature by 5 degrees. It's a common misperception that it takes more energy to cool off (or heat up) a house than it takes to keep it cool all the time. Turning up the thermostat in summer (or down in winter) will always save energy.

A programmable thermostat automatically adjusts the temperature when your home is empty, and when you go to sleep. When used properly, a programmable thermostat with four temperature settings can save about $180 a year in energy costs. Learn how to get this energy savings with ENERGY STAR's Guidelines for Proper Use of Programmable Thermostats.

Programmable thermostat setpoint times & temperatures (chart is from ENERGYSTAR.gov)

Setting

Time

Setpoint temperature (heat)

Setpoint temperature (cool)

Wake

6 a.m.

≤ 70° F

≤ 78° F

Day

8 a.m.

Setback at least 8° F

Setup at least 7° F

Evening

6 p.m.

≤ 70° F

≤ 78° F

Sleep

10 p.m.

Setback at least 8° F

Setup at least 4° F

Weatherize

You can reduce your home's heating and cooling costs through proper insulation and air sealing techniques. These techniques will also make your home more comfortable. Weatherization includes:

  • Caulking and weather striping around doors and windows that do not close tightly.
  • Sealing air leaks.
  • Adding insulation to walls and attics.
  • Tightening ducts.

The best place for Minnesotans to learn about these topics is EnergySavers.gov and Minnesota Office of Energy Security.

Keeping warm in the winter

Minnesota is known for its winters. The cold temperatures necessitate a few simple tasks are done each fall to prepare for winter. To be sure your heating system is running efficiently, you should follow these tips:

  • Don't block your vents or radiators. You may need to move couches and beds or disassemble radiator-top bookshelves.
  • Set your programmable thermostat to the winter settings (see above).
  • Schedule regular professional service for your furnace or boiler. Find out what maintenance is required to keep your heating system operating efficiently.
  • Change your furnace filter before heating season begins, and monthly throughout the winter. If you’ve never changed the filter, this YouTube video is a helpful guide.
  • If your system is old or inefficient, it may be time to replace it. Look for ENERGY STAR-rated systems and learn more about incentives and rebates for high-efficiency heating systems.

Your windows also need your attention each fall:

  • If you have older windows (single pane), use storm windows and remember to shut them! Storm windows can reduce heat loss through the windows by 25% to 50%.
  • Use the shrink-wrap type plastic film kits on the interior to stop air infiltration around leaky windows. They are inexpensive, effective, easy to install, and easy to remove in the spring.
  • Close your curtains and shades at night; open them during the day.
  • Keep windows on the south side of your house clean to let in the winter sun.
  • Weatherstrip or caulk older windows to seal air leaks. See weatherization links above for more information.

Keeping cool in the summer

In the summer, we’ve got to stay cool and comfortable. Beat the heat with these tips:

  • Close curtains in the morning to block the warm sunlight.
  • Keep cool and save with a ceiling fan. ENERGY STAR qualified ceiling fans are 50 percent more energy efficient than standard models. Make sure to turn the fan off when leaving the room, though. A ceiling fan doesn't cool a room - it only cools people, through a wind-chill effect against the skin.
  • If you use window fans, place them on the cool side of the house blowing into the house. Fans blowing to the outside can depressurize a house, creating dangerous backdrafting problems with water heaters or other combustion appliances. Attic fans and whole house fans are not recommended for the same reason.
  • If you use air conditioning, set your programmable thermostat to the summer settings (see above).
  • Get an annual air conditioning tune-up from a certified technician - dirt and neglect are the main causes of system failure. Keep filters clean or replace every month, and keep the outside fins on the air conditioner free of dirt and debris.
  • If your home's air conditioning (either central or room units) needs frequent repairs, the equipment is more than 10 years old, or your energy bills are significantly increasing it may be time to replace it with ENERGY STAR qualified systems.
Last modified on Thursday, March 20, 2014 13:35

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