How to lower utility bills related to air conditioning and heating
This page gives a quick list of ways to save money on your monthly utility bills while getting the heating and cooling needed for indoor comfort. Below each tip, we listed a general price range plus the impact that action has to lower utility costs. After this, you can go to a page with contact information on local air conditioning and heating companies or to links to more details on these and related topics.
The energy costs of air conditioning and heating your home run between about one-third and one-half of your monthly electricity bill. If you use natural gas, the percentage of your gas utility bill could be even higher during the cold months. While the wording in these tips applies primarily to homeowners, many of the concepts work equally well with HVAC in office buildings or businesses.
When weighing the benefits and costs of more efficient equipment or their payback period, keep the following points in mind. (1) Fuel costs tend to go up more than down over the long run, and (2) The monthly savings continue after the payback period ends.
(1) If you have an electronic programmable thermostat, adjust the sensitivity settings so that the air conditioning or heating system turns on and off less frequently. On some thermostats, this setting is in the “advanced” settings mode. The default setting is usually at 2 degrees.
Impact to lower monthly bills: depending on current settings. Modest savings possible year around on both heating and cooling,
(2) If you do not have an electronic programmable thermostat, get one. Assuming your heating and air conditioning systems are connected, this single inexpensive change will bring you more comfort and lower heating and cooling bills the whole year.
Cost: The parts start around $30 and go up to $100 or more per unit. Labor costs vary with location.
Impact to lower monthly bills: Substantial savings year around on heating and cooling
(3) Change air filters in your air conditioning and heating system regularly and per manufacturer’s instructions. If you buy the air filters yourself, make sure they allow the correct air flow for your equipment. Post a piece of paper with your air filter change or cleaning history on the wall where you will see it as a daily reminder.
Cost: Usually less than three dollars per filter on the monthly change variety
Impact to lower monthly bills: Modest to moderate savings year round on both heating and cooling.
(4) Get a tune-up on your air conditioning and heating system. A tune-up for an A/C and heating system consists of an on-site visit to check and adjust the components for optimum performance. Most companies have a multi-point checklist they use which includes items like: checking (or changing) the filters, cleaning the coils, checking the refrigerant levels, operation of the fan, cleaning the drain lines, temperature checks, and more. On the heating side, checking furnace and heat exchanger for leaks would be a primary feature. Tune-ups can be a one time event or, better, part of a yearly maintenance schedule.
Cost: Varies depending on labor costs. Less than $100 dollars in many parts of the country. Note: A tune-up price usually does not include parts, refrigerant, or repairs other than minor ones normally done during HVAC tune-ups.
Impact to lower monthly bills: Modest to moderate savings year round on both heating and cooling. Tune-ups and maintenance also help prevent unexpected major repairs.
(5) Arrange for yearly maintenance on your heating and air conditioning.
A maintenance agreement essentially plans a certain number of tune-ups in a year. A good starting point is a spring visit on the A/C side and a fall visit to get ready for heating season. These will save you money monthly on utility bills and will likely prevent expensive emergency repairs later.
Cost: Usually moderate, but depends on the number of zones, type of system, and more. Yearly agreements sometimes qualify you for discounts on parts and or labor if they become necessary.
Impact to lower monthly bills: Moderate savings year around potentially on both heating and cooling, plus savings on future unexpected repairs.
(6) Have air ducts checked for leaks and sealed. This one simple action affects heating and cooling, providing you more comfort and lower utility bills the year around.
Cost: Usually moderate, but depends on the number of leaks, the size of the system, and access to duct work.
Impact to lower monthly bills: Substantial potential –average over 20% savings on both heating and cooling every month. Savings monthly will depend on the condition of your ducts—they could be higher or lower.
(7) Get a home energy audit through your local utility provider or HVAC contractor
This will show how much you could save by making improvements to your home “envelope” and/or buying a new energy efficient air conditioning and heating system. Consider these two together in a “whole house” approach. Ask if rebates or financial incentives are available in your area.
Cost: Moderate to free for the estimate, depending on offerings from your local utility provider or HVAC contractors.
Impact to lower monthly bills: Moderate to substantial savings year around on both heating and cooling
(8) Get additional insulation, caulking, weather stripping around doors, and solar screens.
These conservation improvements help keep more of the cool or warm air you want inside your house. Often, these improvements can be coordinated with a local utility sponsored program that starts with an energy audit.
Cost: Moderate to substantial, based on the size of your home and the work that is needed. You may be able to offset some of the costs through rebates, low interest loans, and other financial incentives for these through your local utility provider or third parties.
Impact to lower monthly bills: Moderate to substantial savings year around on both heating and cooling bills. This will vary depending on your situation. Ask during your energy audit
(9) Buy a new energy efficient air conditioning and heating system.
Cost: Substantial. Cost will vary depending on many factors, including and layout of your home, efficiency and features of equipment you select and more.
Impact to lower monthly bills: Moderate to substantial savings year around on heating and cooling bills. Ask during your energy audit
(10) Take advantage of financial incentives. Many local utility companies and governmental agencies from local to federal offer incentives for the purchase of more efficient air conditioning and heating equipment and energy conservation measures in homes or buildings. Examples include, rebates, no or low interest loans, IRS tax credits, and off-peak season discounts from manufacturers or your local HVAC contractor.
Costs: Various incentives to save on costs from items 7,8, and 9
Impact to lower monthly bills: Substantial. (1) Discounts or rebates reduce the total amount you pay (if you pay at once) or finance (if you get a loan). (2) No or low interest offers can reduce or eliminate the interest costs on any loans and reduce the amount you pay every month. These benefits are in addition to the monthly savings in utility and repair bills you get with a new HVAC system or energy conservation improvements.
Note: To achieve the optimum balance of efficiency in the new air conditioning and heating equipment and energy conservation measures in your home, perform numbers 7,8, 9, and 10 together. Alternatively, you can make a plan during number 7 and do numbers 8 and 9 separately and in the sequence determined by the energy audit.