An Energy-Smart Deal On Home Heating &
- Ask your builder, installer, or home supply outlet about the EnergyGuide label, and the
fact sheets or product directories that go with them.
- Use the information to compare the energy efficiencies and operating costs of competing
brands and models.
- Consider both purchase price and estimated operating costs when deciding what to buy.
Heating and cooling systems are some of the most important investments you will ever
make in your home. Whether you are buying a new house, renovating an old one, or making an
emergency purchase because "old faithful" finally conked out, there is a lot
riding on the choices you make. Your comfort and safety are at stake. So is your wallet.
Americans typically spend 45 to 60 cents of every dollar they pay in utility bills for
"space conditioning." You have an opportunity to lower those costs--by a little
or a lot--when you select the most energy efficient equipment that meets your needs and
fits your budget.
The efficiency and operating cost information on home heating and cooling equipment is
intended to help you do just that.
Is there really that much of a difference among equipment on the market?
All products must meet federal minimum energy efficiency standards set by the
Department of Energy. That's the law. But many products beat the standards and use even
Why should I care about energy efficiency?
Because the more efficient a product is, the less it costs to operate. That's money in
your pocket. And because using less energy is good for the environment. It can reduce air
pollution and help conserve natural resources.
Shouldn't I leave these decisions to folks who know more about heating and
cooling systems than I do?
They may build it, sell it or install it--but you are the one who is paying the tab. So
it's up to you to question not just the sticker price, but the "second price
tag" that will show up on your monthly energy bills.
What makes one system more efficient than another?
Most of the differences are on the inside in the motors, compressors, pumps, valves,
gaskets, and seals, or in electronic sensors that make today's products more
Why can I trust the EnergyGuide?
Manufacturers must use standard tests developed by the Department of Energy to prove
the efficiency of their products. Many have these tests performed by independent
laboratories. The test results are reported in the EnergyGuide materials.
Before You Buy...
- Use an energy audit to help pinpoint your needs. Audits help detect energy waste and
gauge the efficiency of your current heating and cooling systems. Do-it-yourself kits are
available. Ask if your utility offers free or low-cost energy audits. Or hire specialists
to do a comprehensive audit. These audits will cost more.
- Make sure your home is properly weatherized. Check the caulking, weatherstripping and
insulation. You may be able to install a smaller, less expensive heating or cooling system
to get the same performance results.
- Investigate the options. Study the product literature. Will the product do the job? Will
it handle your needs today? Ten years from now? What are your budget limits? How much
noise does it make? How energy efficient is it? What is the repair history on this brand?
- Ask about special energy efficiency offers. Ask your local utility or salesperson
whether there are cash rebates, low interest loans, or other incentive programs in your
area for buying energy efficient products--and how you can qualify.
- If you need to hire a contractor, get at least three bids before signing a contract. Get
all of the details in writing. Check experience, references, and Better Business Bureau
records. Ask whether you will need a permit, who will get it, and what it will cost. Can
you save money by buying the equipment and materials yourself? Beware of contractors whose
price is too good to be true. Know your cancellation rights.
- If you are buying a home, look into getting an energy-efficient mortgage (EEM). EEMs
allow home buyers to qualify for a larger mortgage. Lenders use the lower monthly energy
bills you'd pay in an energy-efficient house to offset a higher mortgage payment. Ask your
lender if local EEMs are available - or contact federal lending programs like the VA, FHA,
Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
Different Ways to Say
- Furnaces and boilers - annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE)
- Room air conditioners - energy efficiency ratio (EER)
- Central air conditioners and heat pump cooling - seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER)
- Heat pump heating - heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF)
Heating and cooling capacity is expressed as "BTUs per hour." The larger the
area you need to heat or cool, the more BTUs per hour you will need.
Tips for Lowering Your Monthly
Being an energy-smart consumer means getting the most
from the energy you use.
- Shade your room air conditioner from direct sun. This will reduce its workload. Clean
the filters monthly and replace as necessary. This will save energy and reduce dust and
pollen in the air. Don't leave it turned up to the highest setting when you go out. Set
the controls to a lower setting to reduce operating costs.
- Because dust can sabotage heating efficiency, vacuum air vents, baseboard heaters, and
radiators regularly and keep them unrestricted by furniture, carpet or curtains. If your
baseboard heaters have movable deflectors or vents, open them for the winter and close
them for the summer.
- Schedule annual tune-ups for your heat pump, furnace or boiler. Check with your utility
company to see if they provide this service.
- Leaky ducts are prime sources of energy waste. Hire a professional to seal and insulate
ducts. That can save 10 to 15 percent on your home heating bills. More savings are
possible if you have proper insulation where conditioned space is next to unconditioned
space. Check your attic, attic stairway, attached garage walls, and basement.
- If your home has crawl space under it, open the foundation vents in the spring to
promote air flow. Close them in the winter.
- Prune back shrubs that may block airflow to your air conditioner or heat pump.
- Think about installing ceiling fans. The air circulation spreads cooling in the summer
and boosts heating efficiency in the winter.
For More Information
These sources of consumer information can help you
make informed decisions about energy efficient products or
Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Clearinghouse
U.S. Department of Energy - EREC
P. O. Box 3048, Merrifield, VA 22116
Toll free 1-800-DOE-EREC
Your state and local energy offices
Your local utility company
Return to Top