Decorating & Design
November 4, 2009
Keeping Home Temperatures And Energy Bills Low
Heating and cooling our homes not only contributes to greenhouse gases—it also accounts for as much as 43 percent of our utility bill. Ouch! You may have already tried some easy options to lower those costs, from lowering your thermostat in the winter and raising it in the summer, to opening blinds during the day and closing them at night. Replacing your central or window air conditioner with an ENERGY STAR qualified unit can also go a long way to making a difference. Here’s what you need to know.
Get A Home Energy Audit First
A home-energy advisor can identify whether in fact your cooling system could be more energy efficient, in addition to other energy saving opportunities around your home. Even if your older, existing cooling system just needs a repair, for instance, it may actually be worth replacing it with a more cost-effective and efficient ENERGY STAR model.
Choosing The Right Air Conditioner For Your Home
Canadian summers can be extremely hot, humid and sunny. Everyone’s heat tolerance is different, and likewise their best choice of home cooling system. For instance, room air conditioners can cool up to three rooms at minimal cost, notes Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency, while heat pumps or central air conditioners can cool an entire home. Interior fans can also help distribute cool air within a house. Talk to a professional about choosing the right size of system for your space, so that you cool it as efficiently as possible.
Central air conditioners come in a variety of types: single package units, split-system units, multi-or mini-split units and small-duct high-velocity units. These typically have a lifespan of about 15 years. To qualify for the The Home Energy Retrofit program rebate, you’ll need an ENERGY STAR qualified system with a SEER of 14.5 or higher. (The good news is that a model like this will use up to 40 per cent less energy than one from, say, 10 years ago.) Hire a qualified contractor to install the unit according to manufacturers instructions, being careful to place the outdoor unit in cool, shady spot away from the neighbours, patios or bedroom windows, where noise may be a problem.
Installing an environmentally friendly heat pump onto an electric, oil or a conventional-gas furnace can also work in lieu of central air. If this was recommended in your Energy Efficiency Evaluation Report, you may be eligible for a $1,000 rebate if you install an ENERGY STAR qualified air-source heat pump for both heating and cooling that has a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) of 14.5 or higher and a minimum heating capacity of 12 000 Btu/hour.
Room air conditioners include Through-the-wall (TTW) units, window-mounted units and portable units. Talk to a professional about the best choices for your space. Remember, too, that old units should be properly disposed of at a hazardous waste site.
Maintaining Your New Cooling System
Once your new air conditioning units are in place, take steps to keep them working at maximum efficiency—with minimal impact on the environment. Keep your thermostat fairly high in the summer, for instance, at 25C. (If you don’t have a programmable thermostat already, it may be a smart idea to get one.) Change filters regularly and try the fan-only mode at night to help you take advantage of cooler outside air, as well.