Heating and cooling systems are some of the most important investments you'll ever make in your home. Whether you're buying a new house, renovating an old one or making an emergency purchase because "old faithful" finally conked out, there's a lot riding on the choices you make: Your comfort and safety are at stake, but so is your wallet.
Americans typically spend about 46 cents of every dollar they pay in utility bills for "space conditioning." You can lower those costs by selecting the most energy-efficient equipment that meets your needs and fits your budget.
The EnergyGuide label on home heating and cooling equipment is intended to help you do just that. These labels provide a "snapshot" of the more in-depth energy efficiency and usage information that manufacturers are required to provide with their products -- generally through a fact sheet or industry association directory.
The total cost of an appliance has three components -- the purchase price, the cost of repairs and maintenance, and the cost to operate it. The more energy efficient an appliance is, the less it costs to run and the lower your utility bills. Using less energy is good for the environment, too; it can reduce air pollution and help conserve natural resources.
All products must meet minimum energy efficiency standards set by the Department of Energy. But many products beat the standard, use even less energy and cost less to run.
Most of the differences are on the inside -- in the motors, compressors, pumps and valves. So even if two models look the same from the outside, these less-obvious features can mean a big difference in your monthly utility bills.
Manufacturers must use standard tests developed by the Department of Energy to prove the efficiency of their products. Many have these tests performed by independent laboratories. The test results are reported on the EnergyGuide labels, and through fact sheets provided by the manufacturers or in industry association directories.
An Energy-Smart Deal on Home Heating & Cooling...
Before You Buy...
Conduct an energy audit. This will help you detect energy waste, gauge the efficiency of your current heating and cooling systems, and determine if conditioned air is being distributed properly. Your utility company may offer free or low-cost energy audits or a do-it-yourself kit. You also can hire a specialist to do a more comprehensive B and more expensive B energy audit.
Weatherize your home. Check the caulking, weatherstripping and insulation, and make any necessary repairs. This may enable you to install a smaller, less expensive heating or cooling system to get the same results.
Compare the performance of different brands and models. Study the product literature. Will the product do the job? How energy efficient is it? What's its repair history? Will it handle your needs today? Ten years from now? Does it fit your budget?
Estimate how much the appliance will cost to operate. The more energy an appliance uses, the more it costs to run. Consult the EnergyGuide labels, the manufacturers' fact sheets or the industry association directory to compare the energy efficiency of different models. The difference on your monthly utility bill can be significant, especially when considered over the lifetime of the product. You can save money over the long run by choosing a more energy-efficient model, even if it costs more initially.
Heating and air conditioning systems have a language all their own...
Being an energy-smart consumer means getting the most from the energy you use.
Consider installing ceiling fans. The air circulation promotes cooling in the summer and heating efficiency in the winter.