Saving Energy at Home: Heating and Cooling Your Home for Less


September 9, 2016

Ed note: The following is from the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Information Series.

When you think about heating and cooling your home, do your thoughts turn to money and energy efficiency? The more efficient heating and cooling systems are, the less they cost to run. That means your utility bills can be lower. Energy efficiency is good for the environment, too.

Before you invest in a new system, ask about the EnergyGuide label — it lets you know how energy efficient a model is compared to others like it. Products that meet certain energy efficiency criteria will have the ENERGY STAR logo. If you want to increase the efficiency of your system but you're not in the market to replace it, consider a professional or do-it-yourself home energy assessment. It can show you how specific fixes — like sealing air leaks or beefing up insulation — could help you save money and boost efficiency.

Think "Efficiency"

More than half of the energy use in a typical home goes toward heating and cooling it, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). There's plenty to consider when you look at new heating and cooling systems: the latest options, the cost to buy them, how much energy they use, and the cost to operate them.

By choosing the most energy-efficient equipment that meets your needs, you may be able to spend less money to heat and cool your home. And it's good for the environment, too; energy efficiency can reduce air pollution and help conserve natural resources.

Here's how to tell how efficient a system is:

Once you know which systems are appropriate for you, tools are available to help you find out about the energy efficiency of specific models:

How Else Can You Save on Energy?

Being an energy-smart consumer means getting the most from the energy you use. You can:

Do a home energy assessment.

It will tell you how efficient your heating and cooling systems are and where your home is wasting energy — say, through air leaks or under-insulated attics and ducts. Your utility company may offer free or low-cost energy assessments, or it may recommend a local company or organization to do them. Check with your state or local government energy or weatherization office for recommendations, or visit energysavers.gov for more resources.

Seal air leaks and insulate:

If your home has very old or inefficient windows, think about replacing them.

Look into special energy efficiency offers.

Ask your local utility or system salesperson about cash rebates, low-interest loans, tax breaks, or other incentives for buying energy-efficient products, and how you can qualify. You can learn about tax credits and incentives at energy.gov/savings.

Notice the small stuff.

Small savings add up. Other energy-saving ideas include:

If you use heating oil, consider shopping around to make sure you're getting a good price. Research a company and its service before you sign a contract. If you live where you can choose your natural gas provider, shop for a good price on gas.

Shop smart for "energy-saving" products and services.

Be skeptical of gadgets and products that promise drastic reductions in home cooling costs or extreme energy savings. Verify product claims with an independent source you trust. Resist high-pressure door-to-door sales calls for furnaces, windows, and other home improvement products. Find a contractor who's licensed and reputable, and remember that the Cooling-Off Rule gives you three business days to cancel a contract if you sign it in your home or at a location other than the contractor's permanent place of business.

Where to Learn More

To learn more about saving energy in your home, visit:

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