This post is the sixth in our series about how to save on your energy bills even when you’re spending more time at home, as the entire EnergySage team is, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic (here are the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth.) Continue to check our blog for more ideas for how you can take control of your energy bills in the coming weeks.
Depending on what part of the country you are in, you might be well on your way to summertime temperatures, or just emerging from winter. Either way, we’re in a transition period, adjusting to new temperatures week by week and spending far more time at home than we usually do. In this installment of Saving Energy with EnergySage, Keith Morency discusses the impact of heating and cooling systems on your energy bills, and steps to can take to mitigate both electricity consumption and costs.
What types of systems do you use for heating and cooling?
In order to minimize the amount of energy that you use during this period, it’s very important to understand the types of systems that your home or apartment relies on for regulating temperature. In most instances, we’re talking about either fossil fuel-based or electric systems.
If your heating system is powered by electricity, you’re likely using an electric furnace or baseboard heaters. Baseboard heaters are fairly obvious, but sometimes it can be harder to tell if you have a gas, oil or electric furnace. (Tip: if your furnace runs on gas or oil, there is usually a little window on the front of it where you can see flame – electric furnaces will not have this.)
If you use electric heat to keep your house warm in the winter, you’re going to see a spike in usage that can result in higher electricity bills. This can be made worse by homes that lack good insulation (is it time to replace your windows?) or by roommates constantly battling over the thermostat. You should try to keep your house as airtight as possible to keep warm air inside your home, and to maintain a reasonable, level temperature to prevent your system from over-stressing after repeatedly turning on and off. From there, proper layering and cozy blankets should be more than enough to get you through the winter.
Many of the same principles apply with a gas-heating system, but the impact these systems have on your electric bill will be minimal (instead, you’ll see the changes on your gas bill). Your impact on the planet, on the other hand, can be much higher, and these types of systems are often more expensive than electric systems. To save money and energy over the long term, you might want to look into air source heat pumps – we have a great write up on those here.
Since we’re entering spring, it might be nice to open your windows and let in that temperate air. But soon enough we’ll all be looking for ways to cool down our homes and apartments. For many, this means turning to in-window air conditioning units or to central air conditioning systems, powered by external condensers. These systems are almost entirely electric, and this can put a massive strain on both the electric grid and your electricity bill. For this reason, it’s important to take whatever measures possible to mitigate the amount that we rely on these systems (or, you can install a solar PV +storage system and control your own energy – you can save money, carbon emissions and support your local grid all at the same time!)
If you have fans, make the most of them by creating cross breezes throughout your home, circulating the warm air as best as you can. Of course, you are more limited by the number of layers you can shed in the summertime, so if you do have to turn on the AC, make sure that the machines you use are as efficient as possible (Another tip: when shopping for energy-efficient appliances, keep an eye out for the EnergyStar™ logo!) It’s also important to seal up your home tightly to keep the cold air in.
Additional EnergySage resources for saving energy
Looking for more ways to save on electricity bills? We’ve got you covered – check out the resources below to learn more: