Three Easy Ways to Lower Your Heating & Cooling Expenses

May 21, 2007

How long has it been since you’ve had your HVAC serviced? It had been six years for me until last week when I hired a local heating & cooling company to stop by for a tune-up visit. The friendly tech went over three simple things that can save us thousands of dollars.

Check Your Air Filter Once a Month
This one is a no-brainer but he stressed it’s the easiest & cheapest way to save money on heating and cooling. He visited one home that hadn’t changed the filter in over a year and the clogged air passage had caused major damage to the furnace that costs almost $1000 to fix. A blocked filter can also reduce the flow of cool or warm air into your home. He says to check it once a month and change it out if needed. I’ve done a decent job of this; I usually change the filter every three months.

It is hard to remember to change it and once I do, half the time I don’t have an extra filter. The best thing to do is buy a year’s supply of air filters at a time and set them somewhere you’ll see them occasionally to remind you to change it. I also write the last time I changed the filter on the little sticker that often comes with new filters. Changing the filter is a simple suggestion; basically it comes down to whether you want to spend a little time and money now, or a lot later on.

Keep Your Outside Unit Clean
I failed on this one. The sides of our air conditioning unit were caked with dirt and grass. The more crud on the outside of the AC unit, the less air that comes in and the hotter it gets. The tech had another story about an outside unit that overheated because it was never cleaned and cost hundreds to fix.

He stressed that when cleaning the AC unit you should use only water from the hose. Don’t use a nozzle on the hose or a brush to scrub the sides of the unit. You don’t want to bend the fine metal pieces because the bent metal that would block air flow as well, which is what we’re trying to avoid. Of course you should make sure the AC unit isn’t running when you spray it and he killed the electricity before cleaning it.

Adjust Your Heat Pump Thermostat
I always wondered what determined the point at which our heat pump shut off and the auxiliary heat kicked in. Once the tech removed the cover of the outside unit he showed me how to control this switch. There is an outside temperature thermostat on the unit that allows you to control how cold it has to be before the heating system moves to auxiliary heat, in our case a gas furnace. One word of caution, the tech recommended against me adjusting the gauge on my own because there are other components under the cover that could shock you even once the power to the unit is turned off.

If your outside temperature thermostat was set too high when it was installed and never adjusted, your auxiliary heat may kick in before it needs to, costing you money. A few extra hours or days running on auxiliary heat off and on during the winter as the temperature fluctuates can really add up. Here are some other heat pump tips I ran across when troubleshooting our air conditioner problems.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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3 Responses to Three Easy Ways to Lower Your Heating & Cooling Expenses

  • Ben

    Wow, the dehumidifier ate up $30-40 dollars a month of electricity? It must have been a dinosaur 🙂

  • MoneyChangesThings

    We replaced an ancient dehumidifier that runs in our basement. I am kind of an eco-freak and had invested lots in insulation and other upgrades. But for under $200 we replaced it with an energy-star new model. Zikes. Our bills are $30 or $40 less a month! That means it will pay for itself in 9 months or so. Can’t believe I didn’t deal with this sooner.

  • Anne

    My husband and I found we could get the best deal on filters by buying enough for 2 years at one time. We were also able to afford a much better quality filter than we would get if we bought them one at a time.