Lower Utility Bill
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 pay back 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 pay back 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 $50 and go up to $300 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 airflow 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 five dollars per filter (1") 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(s)
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. Northwest Heating and Cooling has 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. 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. Get a couple FREE estimates so you will have something to budget towards.
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.
Get a couple FREE estimates so you will have something to budget towards.
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.
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.
Whole House Approach to Energy Conservation
in Air Conditioning and Heating
When considering energy efficiency in air conditioning and heating, take a “whole house” approach. The same concept works with climate control for commercial structures also. Your indoor comfort, satisfaction, and costs will depend mainly on two factors: the design, age, and condition of the equipment in place and the energy efficiency of the structure (known in the HVAC industry as “the envelope’). Features that affect energy efficiency of the envelope include the “R Factor” of the insulation in ceiling, walls, and under floors (where applicable); the number of panes and condition of the windows; the amount of heat the roof absorbs or reflects, proper attic ventilation; weather stripping around doors, solar screens, radiant barriers, and caulking.
As you weigh the costs and benefits of energy conservation efforts be sure to consider all related aspects-the equipment and the envelope. Why? Most owners will gain lower bills and more comfort from the installation of a new energy efficient air conditioning and heating system. However, these gains can be significantly enhanced through improvements to the envelope. If you have a specific budget you must adhere to for the entire project, you may want to optimize your spending to get the highest energy savings return on your spending between the these areas. Or plan the work in two stages, making sure both get optimum treatment.
Sources of energy conservation improvements in your local area – While working with one provider is more convenient for you, it is not critical for getting the job done well. Don’t forget to find out if your local utility company or others are offering energy rebates, incentives, or special financing for either type of work.
Energy rebates, incentives, and tax credits for energy conservation improvements
When you combine the various financial incentives that are available for new air conditioning and heating equipment with lower monthly energy bills and fewer repairs, you may be able to recover much, if not all of the cost of a new HVAC system in a reasonable amount of time.
To take advantage of most of the energy rebates and financial incentive programs, you will likely have to buy new air conditioning and heating equipment or have energy efficiency improvements made to your home or building. Energy rebates and financial incentives are rarely offered on repair of equipment. The following list gives some commonly available ways to save money:
Municipal or commercial utility energy rebates on new energy-efficient HVAC equipment or energy conservation improvements.
- IRS income
- tax credit
- No or low-interest loans from government programs: city, county, regional, state and federal
- Zero percent interest and deferred payment offers from equipment manufacturers.
Energy rebates for high efficiency furnaces, heat pumps and other equipment as well as energy conservation improvements can originate from several sources, including your local utility company or municipality, and the equipment manufacturer.
Other Discounts and Incentives
If you can plan to buy your air conditioning and heating system in the spring or fall, when demand for repairs and emergency service are lower, you will be more likely to receive an off-peak season discount.