Have you been paying high electric bills this summer in order to cool your home? Has your cooling system struggled to make your home comfortable on hot days in the summer and early fall? Hoping to avoid high electric bills, have you decided to turn up the thermostat a few degrees and tolerate a warmer house in order to save money?
If any of these questions apply to your situation, you should consider taking steps to lower the cooling load in your home. What’s the cooling load? It’s simply the amount of energy that’s required for your cooling system (either air conditioner or heat pump) to bring your home to a comfortable temperature. But there are a number of steps that you can take to reduce that load, and thereby 1) ease the workload on your HVAC equipment, forestalling breakdowns and extending service life; 2) increase energy efficiency; and 3) pay lower energy bills.
The bonus when you lower the cooling load in your home is that most of the steps that accomplish that goal also will lower the heating load during the winter months, bringing about the same positive results as reducing the cooling load.
How to Reduce the Cooling Load in Your Home
The following steps should lower the cooling load in your home. Some you can do yourself, while others may need a trusted professional.
• Seal the outer perimeter of your home with caulk, weatherstripping and/or spray foam, depending on the size, location and type of cracks and gaps in the walls and foundation. Seal the attic floor and attic hatch, as well, since otherwise, heat and air will transfer between the outside, the attic and your living spaces. Finally, seal any leaks in your home’s ductwork.
• Upgrade insulation in your home, so less heat escapes during the winter and less heat infiltrates in the summer. Both air sealing and insulation will go a long way toward reducing your home’s cooling and heating loads.
• Replace old, inefficient windows. Many window products are on the market now that offer maximum protection against the transfer of heat through windows. This has a positive outcome in both summer and winter.
• Inspect the AC or heat pump filter every month, and change it when it looks dirty or clogged. A fresh filter will allow for smooth airflow in your home, while improving indoor air quality. Your HVAC equipment has to work harder and expend more energy when a clogged filter is impeding airflow.
• Use ceiling fans to add a cooling effect in occupied rooms. When blowing on a person, the fan doesn’t actually lower the temperature but it does make the air feel cooler, which has the same effect. Then you can raise the temperature on the thermostat by a few degrees and not lose any comfort. This saves energy and lowers energy bills.
• Get in the habit of closing window coverings (curtains, shades, drapes, etc.) against direct sunlight during the cooling season, and do the opposite in the winter when you want solar heat to help make your home more comfortable.