Spring is officially here. Be ready to shut down the furnace, take down plastic sheeting over windows and schedule an air conditioning checkup.
Here are some projects to take on this spring to improve the energy efficiency of your home:
Schedule a home energy audit – First things first. An audit will tell you how to prioritize fix-it projects. Check with your cooperative about free or low-cost audits.
Tighten up your house – If you failed to do this last fall in prepping for winter, you can reap the same benefits now by prepping for spring and summer. Milder temperatures now make this an ideal time for outdoor improvements before the heat sets in.
Warm air moves to cold air. So it makes sense year-round to seal cracks and openings to prevent warm air from inside leaking outside. Look for air leaks around doors and windows – that could save as much as 30 percent on your energy bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Once you’ve fixed the air leaks, insulate; it will reduce the workload on your air conditioner. Here’s insulation guidance from ENERGY STAR:
Zone 4 (Eastern Oklahoma and most of Missouri) – attic, R38-60; wall cavity, R13-15; floors, R25-R30
Zone 5 (Upper Missouri and southern Iowa) – attic, R38-R60; wall cavity, R13-R21; floors, R25-R30
Shade windows – If you have south- or west-facing windows that get a lot of direct sun, add an awning, drapes or protective film to shield those windows. Insulated drapes are a good investment for summer and winter. Plant trees, vines or shrubs to naturally shade windows over time. March and April are good months to do that.
Get a smart thermostat – They can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling by turning your thermostat back 7 to 10 degrees for 8 hours a day from your normal setting, according to DOE. Use one that can automatically set back your heating and cooling system 2-3 degrees when you’re not home, then back to your desired temperature when you get home. The ideal spring and summer temperature setting is 78 degrees. For every degree above 78, you set the thermostat at, you could save 6 to 8 percent of your energy bill. Remember, the smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.
Also, avoid setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you first turn on your air conditioner. It will not cool your home any faster and could result in excessive cooling and unnecessary expense. Check with your cooperative on available rebates for smart thermostats.
Service and/or upgrade your AC – Maintaining your air conditioning system extends the life of the system and saves you money in the process. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends using the first day of spring as a reminder to check the system’s evaporator coil.
Remember to not place lamps or TV sets near your room air-conditioning thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary. Also, vacuum your air intake vents regularly to remove any dust buildup. Don’t block airflow through registers with furniture and other objects.
Buy a ceiling fan – A fan will allow you to raise the thermostat by about 4 degrees without feeling the difference. And you’ll use about 4 percent less energy for every degree change. Turn off ceiling fans when you leave the room. Remember, fans cool people, not rooms, by creating a wind-chill effect.
When you shower or take a bath, use the bathroom fan to remove heat and humidity from your home. Your laundry room might also benefit from spot ventilation. Make sure bathroom and kitchen fans are vented to the outside (not just to the attic).
Seal the garage – Your attached garage may leak more conditioned air than any other part of your home. Add weatherstrips to the bottom of the garage door and the door into your house.
Change filters – Be ready for summer by replacing last year’s air conditioning filters now.