How Often Should I Change the Air Filter?

change the air filter

With the constantly rising cost of energy, it’s crucial for many homeowners to try save energy and maximize equipment efficiency. Especially since heating and cooling account for nearly half of your home’s energy use. The United States Department of Energy reports that a simple way to do this is to change the air filter. This easy fix doesn’t sacrifice your home comfort and it can improve the efficiency of your HVAC equipment by 5% to 15%.

Now imagine that savings in dollars:
Say your average utility bills total $200 a month – that could mean a savings of $10-$30 a month and up to $360 a year!

Determining When to Change the Air Filter

Most people will change the air filter at the start of a new season. Some people, on the other hand, change it once a month – just to be on the safe side. What are the factors that determine how often you should change the filter?

  • What type of air filter do you have? Since each type has a different life span, use that to help determine how often to change the air filter.
  • What is the air quality like in the house? If the air does not seem as clear or fresh as it used to, or you are having issues with allergies or frequent colds, you may need to replace your filter more often or choose a different type.
  • Are there pets in the house? If you have pets in the home, you may want to consider changing filters more frequently or choosing a type that helps with pet dander.
  • How many people are in the home? The more people in the home, the more dust and dirt flies around – consider changing your filters more often.
  • Are you in an area with high construction or pollution? If the answer is yes to either of these, check your filters frequently and make sure to change them when they are dirty.

How Often Should Filters Be Changed?change the filter

Keeping all the above factors in mind, your filters should basically be changed when they are dirty. While this may seem like generic advice, it all depends on the living condition in your home, the type of filters used, and how often and how hard your HVAC equipment is used. In unusually hot summers or cold winters, the filters are going to need checking more often. A good rule of thumb is check them once a month.

Which is the Right Type of Air Filter for Me?

With the many advances in technology, homeowners have a lot more choices in energy-efficient equipment and accessories. Even something as simple as air filters come in many varieties. Here are the some of the types of air filters you may be able to use for your HVAC equipment.

  • Economy panel filters – These come in a pack of four or five and are relatively inexpensive. The downside is that you get what you pay for. These filters simply do not filter much at all and you will probably be replacing them once a month as well.
  • Pleated filters – Pleated filters, which can last from three to six months, are from 10% to 60% more efficient than conventional AC filters.
  • Electrostatic filters – These are both energy-efficient and cost-effective. They may cost a little more but can typically be washed and reused.
  • Electronic filters – These filters can get dirty quickly, but it typically does not negatively impact airflow. To clean them, you remove the cells, soak them in cleaner, rinse and reuse.
  • HEPA filters – Although HEPA filters are the most efficient, you will likely pay a premium for these filters.

HVAC Decorating Mistakes

HVAC decorating

Don’t make these common holiday HVAC decorating mistakes

The holiday season is here which means many of us will start to unpack the ribbons, wreaths, lights and other decorations to adorn our homes with festive cheer. But before you start decking your halls, be sure that your joyous aesthetics aren’t jeopardizing your home comfort, your HVAC equipment or your energy bill! Read on to make sure you aren’t making these holiday HVAC decorating mistakes.

Don’t cover the thermostat

Pinterest is not your friend. All of those pretty posts with DIY project details on how to cover your thermostat could be jeopardizing your home comfort and your energy bill. Your thermostat is designed to be exposed so it can accurately gauge the temperature of your home.

Don’t heat up the thermostat

Keep those sparkly lights far away from your thermostat. Exposing a thermostat to a heat source can cause false readings. This may prevent your HVAC equipment from running when it should, or may cause it to cool when it should be heating which could lead to equipment or other home damages. For the same reason, you shouldn’t have your thermostat near windows with direct sunlight, lighting and lamps, or other electronic equipment that could generate heat.

Don’t block your air vents

When decorating for the holidays, we often move around furniture to accommodate trees, presents and other adornments. When you block your air vents, your blower could be working harder. Take care to keep any objects in your home clear from your air vents to maintain a comfortable home temperature. Also, if you are a household that puts up live trees, know that they could dry out faster if positioned too closely to vents and could be a potential fire hazard.

Pay attention to these common HVAC decorating gaffes so you can keep your home and family cheerful – and not uncomfortable – this holiday season.

Are Home Energy Vampires Draining Your Wallet?

home energy vampires

Vanquish power sucking home energy vampires with these tips

Ghosts, zombies and ghouls are scary for sure, but nothing spooks you more than the gruesome discovery of a sky-high energy bill. Creepy phantom power suckers are all around you, hiding in the smallest electric appliance, draining power so slowly you might not even notice them. But these standby suckers can account for 10-20% of your electric bill. So after you turn off the lights for the last trick-or-treaters, be sure to take these steps to keep the home energy vampires from sucking your wallet dry.

Hunting Ghost Loads

The first step to ridding your home of energy vampires is to lure them out of their hiding places. But what is a vampire energy device? The obvious offenders are devices that have a standby mode or a display light that indicates it is sucking power. Energy vampire devices also give themselves away with sound. Listen for buzzing, humming, and fan sounds. These are sure indicators that the phantoms are near. They will also give out heat so if an appliance is warm to the touch, look out! It’s an energy vampire.

Arm Yourself

Never go into a battle with a phantom power sucker unarmed. The biggest tool in an energy vampire hunter’s arsenal besides knowledge is the almighty power strip. A simple, cheap power strips is the easiest to use but many of us will forget to power it off before we leave or go to bed. Smart power strips, however, reduce your energy usage by shutting off the power to appliances that go into standby mode. Some of these have dedicated for outlets for those electronics that need to stay on like an alarm or phone. There are also smart chargers that stop drawing power once the appliance is fully charged.

Slay the Energy Vampire

Use smart power strips and chargers to manage your energy use or simply unplug things not in everyday use. Limit idle times or switch to sleep mode. And consider switching to smart products like Energy Aware®-certified devices that draw less energy by using less standby power.

 

After you follow these steps, your house will be clean of energy vampires, phantom power and ghost loads. Click here for more tips on saving energy at home.

Summer Tips for Managing Indoor Humidity Levels

Indoor humidity levels

High indoor humidity levels can affect your comfort

Think we’re out of the “Dog Days of summer”? Think again. Farmers’ Almanac 2016 Summer Outlook predicts the peak of summer heat to occur between late August and early September. Not only are some U.S. regions already starting to experience the hottest temperatures of the year; they are feeling the effects of increased humidity.

“The hottest parts of the country, including Texas, the Southwest, and Florida have already experienced large increases in extreme heat days, including days over 90°F, 95°F, and 100°F, as well as rising levels of humidity that make hot days feel miserable and extremely hot days downright dangerous.” (Source: Weather.com)

Effects of High Indoor Humidity Levels

 

Soaring summer heat can put a damper on outdoor activities but excessive humidity can also creep into your home and affect your comfort, your health, and your property. When you lower your thermostat temperature because you are feeling overheated due to high indoor humidity levels, your utility bills can go through the roof. That’s because the damp, muggy feeling can cause you to feel warmer.

Example:  If the air temperature is 75°F and the relative humidity is zero percent, then our body perceives the air temperature to feel more like 69°F.  Now if the air temperature is 75°F degrees and the relative humidity is 100 percent, then it will feel closer to 80°F.  (Source: HowStuffWorks.com)

Too much home humidity can also create a breeding ground for mold and bacteria that can decrease air quality, aggravating allergy or asthma symptoms. (Learn about  “Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality”.) Excessive moisture in the air can also be the source of a myriad of problems with your home’s furnishings and even cause structural damage.

Here are some other issues caused by high indoor humidity levels:

  • Poor quality of sleep
  • Doors and windows stick
  • Dust mites
  • Wilted plants
  • Smelly plants
  • Peeling paint or wallpaper

So what is the best indoor humidity for your home and how can you manage it? Most experts say that the ideal house humidity should be between 30 and 50 percent, but definitely below 60 percent in the summer months.

Tips for Managing Home Humidity

 

One of the easiest ways to conserve energy while also retaining and maximizing home comfort levels is to use your Sensi™ Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat settings and schedules. Your Sensi mobile app also displays your indoor humidity levels and sends you a High Humidity alert when your home humidity is greater than 78% so you can take steps to manage using the above tips or by calling your local HVAC contractor to check on your equipment.

Stay comfortable and cool this summer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vacation and Home Energy Saving Tips

vacation and home energy saving tips

Easy home energy saving tips to make your house more efficient

RV road trips. Beaches and sand. Theme parks and resorts.

Many families plan summer getaways to reconnect with family and friends, enjoy outdoor sights and activities, and take a break from the daily grind. What they don’t often plan for is arriving back home to a high energy bill. Some incorrectly assume if no one is home that the utility bills will automatically be lower due to lack of appliance use. Some simply forget to turn things off before they leave. It’s easy to overlook some of these tasks during the planning and excitement of embarking on a long overdue trip. To make it easy, we’ve compiled a list of vacation and home energy saving tips so you can check these off your to-do list and enjoy some well-deserved, worry-free family time.

7 Vacation and Home Energy Saving Tips

 

  1. Turn off all fans

Fans cool people, not rooms.

 

  1. Use a Wi-Fi thermostat

Set up a vacation schedule on your Sensi™ Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat or use the mobile app to adjust the house temperature when away and set it back on your way home so it is comfortable upon arrival.

 

  1. Lower water heater temperature

Turn down the water heater temperature, turn it off, or put it in vacation mode.

 

  1. Unplug appliances and power strips

Phantom power suckers are all around you, hiding in the smallest electric appliance, draining power so slowly you might not even notice them. These standby suckers can account for 10-20% of your electric bill. (Learn more about energy vampires.)

 

  1. Turn off the lights or automate home lighting

Set lighting to a timer or use smart lighting you can adjust from your phone to keep tempted burglars at bay.

 

  1. Set refrigerator temperature to 40°F

Clean your fridges of any food that might spoil in your absence. For food that is left, 40°F is the lowest recommended temperature to keep food safe from bacterial growth. (Read more on refrigeration and food safety.)

 

  1. Use heat-blocking shades or curtains

Curtain and tapestry fabric “seals” will help to keep the cold air in and the warm air out to keep your energy bill low.

 

Use these vacation energy savings tips as a handy checklist to lower home energy use so you have more money to put toward future family getaways.

Save on Energy-Efficient Home Appliances

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You might quality for rebates on energy-saving home appliances

Energy-efficient home appliances appeal to many homeowners who want to save money on the rising cost of utility bills and also to support the environment by consuming less energy and having a smaller carbon footprint. Financial incentives and rebate programs can help to offset the initial purchase cost but many people buy without even knowing that they were eligible for these savings. In some cases, you could be eligible for a rebate or a tax credit on home appliances you’ve already purchased.

Below are some places to check for rebates or other savings programs on energy-saving home appliances before you buy.

Federal Savings

Search by state on Energy.gov for information on tax credits, rebates, and savings from government agencies and a host of other sources. Enter your zip code at  Energystar.gov to find rebates and other special offers in your area.

Local Utility Programs

Many local utilities offer incentives to consumers to purchase energy-efficient home appliances and can sometimes even remove old appliances at no cost to the customer.

Retailer Sites

Major national retailers often have dedicated pages to help you find available rebates for energy-saving home appliances in your area.

Manufacturer Sites

If you are interested in a specific product, visit the manufacturer brand site to see if they have any temporary price-savings or rebate programs available. Sensi™ Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat makes it easy for you to find available savings programs in your area. Simply visit http://sensicomfort.com/rebates.

 

Purchasing energy saving home appliances is an investment that will pay off in the long run, but knowing where to save money before you buy can help to lessen some of your short-term budget concerns.

Prepare Your Home to Face the Summer Heat

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Don’t let summer heat up your energy bill

Summer 2016 is already already predicting to be a hot one and that has many homeowners working up a sweat. Not just from the higher temperatures but also from the anticipation of the first utility bill after the summer heat starts to take hold. Don’t let that bill blindside you! There are some easy things to do around the house now that can prepare your home to face the summer heat and increase energy efficiency.

10 Summer Energy Savings Tips

  1. Change the air filter

A simple task that can help make sure your air conditioning is ready for the increased workload from the sweltering summer heat. Click here to learn more about why you need to change the air filter.

 

  1. Wash your outdoor AC unit

Clear away any excess weeds and plants growing by and around the outside unit. Consult your manual and turn off the power before cleaning. If you haven’t performed maintenance in a while, call your local HVAC professional to check all of the parts and connections. Click here to learn about signs you might need a new air conditioner.

 

  1. Clear the air vents

Cold air can’t get through if the vent is blocked. Vacuum and dust your air vents and make sure the air flow is clear from furniture, drapes, laundry piles, or messy piles from the kids.

 

  1. Install and use a Wi-Fi thermostat

A programmable thermostat like Sensi™ Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat delivers precise temperature control and has a convenient mobile app that makes it easy to create custom schedules that fit your lifestyle. No more having to remember to adjust the temperature when no one is home! Be sure to invest in a quality product from a brand you can trust. Emerson, the company behind Sensi thermostat, has been manufacturing quality thermostats for more than 75 years. Click here to learn more about the perks of a modern Wi-Fi thermostat.

 

  1. Seal windows and doors

It’s easier to remember that windows and doors are a huge culprit of energy loss when you can feel the frigid air coming through but hot air can sneak in just as easily. Seal up gaps and fix any cracks in the caulk that might have happened over the winter. If energy-efficient windows aren’t in the budget this year, consider adding heat-blocking window film or sun-reflecting shades to help to reduce summer heat gain.

 

  1. Reduce your hot water use

Fix leaky pipes, install low-flow showerheads and faucets, use warm or cold temps for laundry, and wash as many dishes as you can by hand.

 

  1. Turn off the lights

You don’t need extra heat-emitting lightbulbs adding to the summer heat. Remember to turn off lights in rooms that aren’t being used.

 

  1. Adjust ceiling fan direction

While portable fans and ceiling fans don’t cool rooms (they cool people), they can go a long way in contributing to your home comfort by making it feel cooler. During the summer months, turn the blade direction counter-clockwise to pull the cold air closer to the floor…and you.

 

  1. Turn off power-sucking appliances

If you have a home device or appliance that gives off a buzzing, humming, or fan sound or is warm to the touch, then you have a phantom power sucker than can drain your energy bill. Since many of us won’t remember to turn off these devices when not in use, a smart power strip can help save energy this summer by shutting off appliances that go into standby mode. Click here to learn more about energy vampires.

 

  1. Conduct a home energy audit

Many utilities offer home energy audit programs or services. These audits can help homeowners to discover how their individual homes are losing energy and advise on additional steps to take to become more efficient.

 

When the heat is on, these simple tasks can help you save money this summer.

 

3 Signs You Need a New Air Conditioner

new air conditioner

Know the warning signs that you might need a new air conditioner

Summer is coming. Are you ready? One of the easiest ways to prepare for the summer heat (and your rising energy bill) is to replace your existing thermostat with a modern, connected model, like the Sensi™ Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat. Being connected makes it easier to reduce energy costs. Simply adjust your home temperature setting from anywhere using the mobile app so you aren’t unnecessarily cooling a home when no one is there.

Additionally, since the amount of effort your system takes to cool your home directly impacts your energy use, bill, and comfort, if your current unit isn’t performing as well as it used to, you might be in the market for a new air conditioner. While no one likes the idea of a large purchase upgrade, it’s better to start learning the telltale system failing warning signs before the hotter temperatures are upon us and your family’s comfort, health, and sanity is at stake.

Below are a few signs that you might need to consider purchasing a new air conditioner.

Repair History

If you’ve had to make frequent repairs to your unit over the course of a season, or have been doing the same repair on the same parts year after year, this could mean that your system isn’t up to par. Frequent loss of Freon? If your unit has to be charged regularly to cool, then it’s leaking.

 

Older models tend to require more maintenance as wear and tear can eventually cause parts to fail, sometimes in rapid succession. A new air conditioner unit should only need standard annual maintenance work.

Performance and Efficiency

Does your AC unit make squealing or grinding noises? You could have a problem with the compressor. Increased summer energy bills and higher indoor humidity levels can can also be warning signs of poor AC equipment. Additionally, a unit that is too small or too large can cause inefficiencies and really cost you more in the long run.

Age

The biggest sign that it might be time for a new air conditioner is the age of your current system. An accepted rule is to replace your unit if it is more than 10 years old. Even if your older system appears to be running fine, there have been so many technology advancements, that the cost you put into the purchase of a new, modern system, could save you down the road in efficiency and lower energy bills.

 

A new air conditioner unit has many benefits, including comfort, peace of mind, decreased service calls, and lower energy bills. If you haven’t had your unit checked in a while, now is the time to call your local HVAC professional to check all of your parts and connections to either make sure your current system is ready for the hot temperatures to come or to prepare for the possibility that you might need a new air conditioner.

 

Stay cool in there!

 

 

 

Outdoor Spring Cleaning for Energy Efficiency

outdoor spring cleaning

Save on your energy bill and avoid costly repairs with these outdoor spring cleaning tips  

The annual spring cleaning ritual to rid your home of the dust and debris that has accumulated over the winter season has begun. In our first installment, we gave you some indoor spring cleaning tips that can help improve your home’s energy efficiency. This week, we’ll tackle outdoor tasks that can help save money on your next utility bill and avoid costly home repairs.

Outdoor Spring Cleaning Tips

 

Fix drafty windows and doors. Window and doors can be a source of energy leaks if they are not properly sealed. In addition to letting valuable cold air leak out, it can also let in outside irritants – a big concern for those suffering from spring allergies. (Click here to read more about how to improve your indoor air quality.) While you might have already replaced the weather-stripping before the winter season, colder temperatures can still cause fractures. Check the caulk for tears or gaps and replace as necessary.

 

Examine and clean roof and gutters. Spring can be a rainy season so clean all drains, gutters and downspouts to keep water from accumulating near your home’s foundation. Harsh winter weather conditions like snow and ice could have caused damage your roofing system. To keep your home comfortable and the spring showers out, also inspect and replace any loose or missing roof shingles and inspect the flashing for holes and loose nails.     

 

Clean the outside dryer vent. To help remove any lint that has accumulated in the hose, remove the vent cover on the outside of the home and vacuum to clear out any loose debris.

 

Clean your outdoor AC unit. While you may not yet be thinking about turning on your air conditioning, spring cleaning is the perfect time to prepare it for its heavy summer workload. Start by clearing away any excess weeds and plants growing by and around the outside unit. (For best performance, your air conditioner unit should have at least 2 feet of space around it.) You can also help to remove accumulated dust, pollen, and insects by vacuuming or hosing off the sides of the condenser. Be sure to consult your manual and turn off the power at the shutoff before attempting. If you haven’t had your unit checked in awhile, call your local HVAC professional to check all of your parts and connections to make sure you’re ready for the summer’s sweltering heat.

 

Plant a tree. Trees can not only provide shade for you, they can provide shade for your home. A strategically placed tree or large shrub can protect your home from strong winds and also help to block the sun’s warming rays. Consult a landscaping expert to discuss options and to help with position and planting.

 

These are just a few outdoor spring cleaning and maintenance tips to help ensure that the outside of your home is maximizing energy efficiency, lowering your energy bill, and avoiding potential damage and expensive repairs.

 

 

Indoor Spring Cleaning for Energy Efficiency

spring cleaning

Save on your energy bill with these indoor spring cleaning tips  

It’s time to start the annual spring cleaning ritual to rid your home of the dust and debris that has accumulated over the winter season. It’s also the perfect time to do a home energy check. While you are making lists of things to clean and organize, keep in mind that there are simple tasks that can also improve your energy efficiency.

Indoor Spring Cleaning Tips

 

Wash in cold or warm water. Wash cleaning rags and new linens in cold water to lighten the load on your water heater and save on your utility bill. According to Energy.gov, simply switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load’s energy use in half.

 

Clean the dryer vent. You should always clean the lint trap with each load of laundry. Lint will also accumulate on the inside of the hose which makes your dryer less effective over time. Disconnect the hose from the back of the dryer and vacuum both the vent and the hose to remove any debris.

 

Replace the air filter. The air filter is your HVAC system’s first layer of defense to keep larger airborne particles from clogging the fan. Without a clean air filter, dust and dirt can accumulate and block your cold air from circulating, resulting in system inefficiency and higher energy bills. (Read more about why you need to change the air filter here.)

 

Change ceiling fan direction. After thoroughly dusting your ceiling blades to keep dirt particles from circulating throughout the room, reverse the direction of the blades to counter-clockwise. While fans don’t cool the air, they do cool people. Running your fan counter-clockwise will create a downward spiral of air that makes the air “feel” colder by evaporating your perspiration. This can provide enough relief from the warmer temperatures so you don’t have to run your air conditioning as much or for that long.

 

Clean baseboards and floor vents. Dirty ductwork can not only lower your energy efficiency, but can also release pesky allergens into your home. To keep dust from building up, turn off your air conditioner, remove vent covers and clean thoroughly. Use a vacuum crevice tool to remove as many dust bunnies from the ducts as possible and be sure to also clean the baseboards around the vents. (Read more tips on how to improve indoor air quality here.)

 

Vacuum refrigerator coils. Buildup on coils can use more energy by making the motor work harder. You should also check the seal on your fridge by closing the door with a piece of paper or a dollar bill. If you can pull this out easily, then the seal should probably be replaced.

 

These are just a few indoor spring cleaning tips to freshen up the inside of your home and increase its energy efficiency. Next week, we’ll share some outdoor spring cleaning tips to save money on your energy bill.