In today’s drowning economy paired with higher energy costs than ever recorded, saving has become one of today’s consumer’s highest concerns.
For Good Reason………..
My name is Stephen Gamst and I’m an HVAC contractor in the Las Vegas valley, my job is to drive around working on homes and listening to people’s stories. And, there’s one thing in common with everyone’s story, “we’re not doing as well as we used to” they say. That’s understandable nationwide homes are being foreclosed on, people are not receiving raises or overtime like they used to. And. to make matters worse, energy companies have started charging more and more by the day. I’ve personally heard about a power company rate hike approximately every 12-18 months in my part of the nation.
Wait, so people make less money but we have to pay more? Yup, doesn’t seem fair does it? But, here we are in 2014. So I have put together all the knowledge of 3 generations of home service from my company and a team of my peers, competition and friends have collaborated to give you the home owner every tip, advice or possibility to lowering your monthly overhead. We will talk electricity savings, natural gas savings and general home tips to lowering that pesky power bill.
This topic is huge so we have broken it up into 3 parts
- The first part is about education, I will educate you on where you’re wasting and why, that way when I give you the solution later on you will understand how it will help you.
- The second part is general home advice and options for lowering heat gain.
- The third part of this article is about your HVAC equipment itself and where and how you can save there.
1. Where our homes are lacking and wasting.
Homes are never perfectly sealed, they all let out a little heat in the winter and they absorb heat in the summer. This is called heat gain or heat loss. In the summer we have heat gain, every part of your home gains heat at different speeds. Now where your wall doesn’t let that much heat through, windows on the other hand let in a lot of heat. Try touching your windows about 3 o’clock in the afternoon in the middle of summer, there hot right. That heat gain is warming your home and causing the air conditioner to run longer to cool the home. Translation: Windows let heat in and raise the power bill.
Another factor is the hot attic; your attic can reach temperatures of 140 degrees in the middle of summer. That hot dirty, dusty air space and you hopefully clean and cool air space inside is only separated by a layer of drywall and??? Inches of insulation. The thicker the insulation the less heat will migrate inside. But most homes do not have enough insulation in the attic to keep the heat out. Remember heat is attracted to cool so your dusty attic air naturally wants inside. Translation: your attic is full of 140 degree very dirty air that can travel indoors bringing with it a lot of unwanted dust, debris, allergens and this hot air is heat gain and keeps the air conditioning running longer so that equals high energy costs.
Your ducks are quracking… No really your air ducts have cracks and these cracks are actually sucking in dirty, un-healthy hot air in, and then distributing it throughout your home. Code in Nevada and many other states for installing ductwork in the attic is to assemble it with duct tape. The problem here is duct tape does not make a perfect seal when it’s new, and after a couple years in the attic getting hot then cold then hot again causes it to stop sticking and lose what little seal it did have. Now the duct tape no longer sticks so you have an air leak at every single joint, connection and seal. All these leaks can all add up to an equivalent of a 16” hole blowing right into your attic. Translation: everyone has air leaks in the attic, this can more than double the hvac portion of the energy bill and bring with it a lot of un-wanted dust and allergens into the home. Also causes you to dust more often and causes you to sneeze more often or many other allergies.
What is your air conditioners IQ…? Can it think, or does it just blast off? Many homes still rely on non-programmable thermostats that just maintain one temperature all day. That is ok if your home but, what about when your asleep or at work. A programmable thermostat can help there. Then your air conditioner or furnace that simply turn on full blast then off on then on full blast then off. Well this would be fine if it was always 110 degrees out. But what about when its 88 degrees out do you still need that air conditioner on full blast? No, would be the answer, so old school technology that cannot slow down on a cooler day is a waste of energy. Old technology of single stage systems has been outdated and replaced by a newer better technology and it’s called modulating variable speed systems.
You can ever do a test yourself to see how efficiently your home is running and how much energy you may be wasting and its very easy. Try it out here https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=HOME_ENERGY_YARDSTICK.showGetStarted&s=mega
2. General Home option to reduce heat gain and loss…
We will start on the windows….. They let in a lot of heat in the summer and they allow heat to leave in the winter. So how can I make my windows more energy efficient you ask? You can replace all your windows with a Low-E type double or even triple pain windows. This is a sometimes pricey option but it will certainly pay for itself by saving you energy month after month. And, when they are all paid off in a couple years they will continue to save you money and that is savings right into your pocket. Another thing you can do to windows is making sure you have sun screens on the outside and blinds or shades on the inside. This will drastically lower your power bill by allowing in less heat; therefore your air conditioner can cool the home faster and shut off or slow down. The last thing I will mention about windows is patios or shades on the outside. Anytime you can shade the windows or the walls you are in fact keeping the suns penetrating rays off your home and you will benefit by seeing lower power bills and more comfort.
Insulation is king…. Your attic is remember; up to 140 degrees in the summer, don’t you agree that we need a large layer of insulation between us and that killer heat in the attic? I’m sure you do and I’m here to tell you it is very easy to add insulation to your attic. We simply buy insulation from home depot and rent a blower, we then use a long 5 inch hose to crawl around your attic and blow insulation into all the cracks and crevices in your attic. You can add as much or as little insulation as you want and the price is not tat bad. Insulation in the attic can lower your energy costs by as much as 50% I have personally seen a power bill go from $415.00 a month to $275 a month by simply adding insulation.
3. How is your air conditioner wasting energy? How can I lower my AC unit’s energy bill?
Air Conditioning technology has come a long way in terms of comfort and efficiency, A 10 year old unit is probably running at about an 8 Seer; Todays units are as high as 20 Seer. What is a Seer rating? A seer rating is an us government rating for measuring energy consumption vs. cooling output. Basically it’s like MPG for electricity. So if you had an 8 seer air conditioner and you replaced it with a 16 seer air conditioner you would save 50% on the energy bill. Just as if you bought a new car that got twice the millage per gallon then the old one you would spend half the money on gas. Upgrading your air conditioner to a newer high efficiency air conditioner is one sure way to save in the long run. If your old power bill is $400 a month and you install a new high efficiency 16 seer unit for instance you could save as much as $150 a month on electricity alone. At that rate the new air conditioner will pay for itself in less than 4 years as long as you didn’t over pay for the system. Tip: a 16 seer unit American Standard unit which is number 1 on consumer reports, done right should cost around $7,000.00 depending on size. And at $150 a month savings it will take 3.88 years to pay itself off, then you get to make $150 a month in savings. If you’re wondering if you should replace your current system try this neat tool from energy star to answer your question at this energy star checklist.
Don’t cool your attic please…I guarantee your ductwork leaks unless you paid to have it sealed by a pro. Like I said earlier code for installing ductwork is to use duct tape and that doesn’t last more than a couple years in a 140 degree attic. So a huge yes huge hole in your homes energy bill is the duct work. Leaks allow hot air into the home and they blow cold air into the attic. This has to stop for so many reasons, it wastes energy up to 50% and it also brings in a lot of dust and allergens into the home. What can I do to stop my ducts from leaking? You can have them inspected by a professional to determine whether they need replaced with new properly sealed (with silicone), or maybe they are still in good shape but are just leaky in this case I suggest having them hand sealed. Sealing your ductwork can be as easy as crawling through the attic with a bucket of silicone and painting your entire duct system at every seam. This silicone will dry and be a perfect seal that will never leak again. Having your ducts sealed is in my opinion mandatory for anyone who cares about their health and their pocket book. Don’t let hot dirty attic air invade your home anymore sealing is a dirty job but there are pros willing to do it for under $1000 and it will save you that much in health problems alone and talk money, yes it will save you a ton of that too.
Replace your thermostat with a programmable one. Non-programmable thermostats do their job ok but they don’t help with energy savings. If you install a new programmable thermostat you can program it to raise the temperature of the home when you’re at work or anytime someone is not home. Do not shut the air conditioner off when going to work, because if you do your home will get so hot that when you do get home from work and turn it on your system will run for many hours straight trying to cool off your 90+ degree home. That also wastes energy the best thing to do when leaving for work is turn it to 82 degrees, 82 is warm enough to not stress the system very hard but also not so hot that it takes hours to cool back off. Want even more, a Wi-Fi thermostat like the nest or a nexia system thermostat is not much more $$ but they also can be controlled from your smart phone so you can shut the system off or turn it on from work in case you forget. They also have the capability to auto program, meaning if you leave the house and forget to turn off the thermostat the Wi-Fi___33 stat can sense this from the lack of movement, light or sound and it will turn itself up saving you energy.
Here are some more new tips on energy savings at energy star Click for more tips.
There are a lot of energy saving ways and options and depending on your budget at the time you will have to decide which is best for your home. But they all save money so in time they will all pay themselves off in the form of energy savings. If you were to do all of the things I have listed above your homes air conditioner would turn on, pull air from your home and into the furnace. There it would get cleaned through the filter and cooled from the evaporator coil and then blown back through a perfectly sealed duct system and into your home, with none wasted or put into the attic. Nor would you be pulling in any un-wanted dust or hot air from the attic. This would achieve what we call as the perfect circle you pull out 2000 units of air cool it, filter it and put back in exactly 2000 units of cool clean air. This puts the home in an equal pressure to the outside so you don’t even have dirty hot air coming in from the outside because there is no pressure difference. Then your high efficiency low-E windows won’t let out as much cooling so your air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard and it can run on as low as a 30% speed. This will stretch out the savings even more and you my friend will have a power bill lower than you ever imagined. $400.00 a month can drop to as low as $105 a month if all the above steps are taken properly.
And that is energy savings 101 by Las Vegas Air Conditioning Inc.
For more tips and free advice or to learn how to fix your own air conditioner visit our website at www.lasvegasair.net or email us with any questions are article subject requests. I give you my word if you ask for it, I will write about it.
By Stephen Gamst a family man with a beautiful wife and 1 lovely daughter.
“Air Conditioning it’s what we do it’s not a job…. It’s our life”.