10 (Mostly) Painless Ways to Reduce Heating and Cooling Costs
So you tore open the mail and were shocked to discover that your latest energy bill had more zeros than expected. Unless you’re operating a tech-heavy business from home, there’s a good chance that the costs have something to do with your heating and cooling.
Heating and cooling accounts for anywhere from 20 per cent to 50 per cent of your total energy usage, so it’s no surprise that your energy bills following summer and winter are higher than expected.
Short of shutting everything down and reducing your comfort, we’ve compiled a list of 10 painless ways to reduce the costs of heating and cooling the home. Well, they’re mostly painless. You will have to get your hands dirty with a few.
1. Clean the Filters
The single most important thing you can do yourself to improve the efficiency of an air conditioner is to clean its filters.
Dirty or blocked filters reduce airflow, hindering the performance of the unit. So you will need to run the air con for longer than usual to achieve the desired results. Replacing dirty filters with clean ones can reduce your air con’s energy consumption anywhere from 5 per cent to 15 per cent, making this simple job a no brainer.
To clean the filters, take them outside, shake off the dust over a waste bin, and then hose them down or soak as required. Let the filters completely dry before reinstalling.
2. Dial Down the Thermostat
On an excruciatingly hot day, you will be tempted to set the thermostat as low as possible. However, the lower the desired temperature, the higher the running costs. Origin Energy recommends never setting the thermostat below 24 degrees. Every degree below 24 will increase energy consumption by 5 per cent. So setting a thermostat to its coolest setting, say 18 degrees, will use a whopping 30 per cent more energy than if you settled for comfortable 24 degrees.
3. Reduce Usage by at Least an Hour
One hour less usage per day is all it takes to save. Origin Energy argues that reducing your air con use by just one hour per day could save you between $31 and $93 per year. And that’s just cooling. If you have a reverse cycle system, consider using it an hour less each day during the colder months and watch the zeroes on your bills slip away.
4. Book in a Scheduled Service
If your air conditioner or gas heater is still consuming more energy than expected, consider booking a licensed technician for a service.
A technician will check for leaks, test the performance of a unit, top up refrigerants and perform a thorough clean to ensure your system operates at peak performance. Having a technician go over your air con or heater once a year can extend the lifespan of the unit and improve its efficiency, which can help reduce running costs.
5. Ceiling Fans in Reverse
Did you know that most modern ceiling fans can change direction? A button on the remote or switch on the fan itself will change direction from clockwise to counterclockwise and vice versa.
During the summer, set the fan’s rotation counterclockwise to direct airflow downwards to help with cooling. In winter, switch the fan to clockwise. This way, its rotation will draw cold air away from you towards the ceiling. You may find that a heater is not required when cool air isn’t meddling with your winter comfort.
6. Thermal Curtains are the Real Deal
Windows are great for letting in the sun and taking advantage of the view, and yet, they are also one of the weakest points in a home’s heating efficiency. Glass is a poor insulator, so windows account for around 10 per cent of heat lost in the home. This is where thermal curtains come in handy.
Thermal curtains are made with acrylic foam inserted between the layers of fabric to stop heat from passing through. Thermal curtains do not look any different from standard curtains, so you should be able to find a style to suit your decor. The curtains may cost more upfront, although they can help reduce the costs of heating and cooling for years to come.
7. Insulate Your Ceiling
Okay, so this one is not as painless as the others. 25 per cent to 35 per cent of heat escapes a home through the ceiling, so on a cold winter’s night, you will be glad that you made the effort to install insulation.
Fitting insulation batts above the ceiling will go a long way to trapping that desirable warmth in the winter and also stopping heat from entering during summer. By improving the home’s heating and cooling efficiency, you reduce the need for heaters or air con, consequently reducing running costs.
Installing insulation batts can be a messy job and does require certain safety precautions, but the results are definitely worth it.
8. Make the Switch to LED Lighting
LED light bulbs are great! They last longer than incandescent bulbs, cost less to run and radiate less heat. LEDs use up to 75 per cent less than the outdated alternatives and can last up to 25-times longer. And by generating less heat, you won’t be concerned about leaving the lights on during the hottest days of the year.
LED light bulbs cost more to purchase than the outdated incandescent bulbs, but the benefits are immense. So, it’s time to make the switch!
9. Draughts and Door Snakes
Draughts seeping in under doors and through gaps in floorboards can seriously hinder your heating and cooling efforts. So start by fitting your doors with sealing strips. These affordable fixes are available in different styles and can be easily fitted to the bottom of doors. They’re also great at stopping insects from entering the home. Alternatively, a door snake will do the same, albeit less efficiently.
Fixing the floorboards can be trickier. An additional 10 per cent of heat escapes through floorboards, so you should start by caulking or grouting any gaps and if the budget permits, underfloor insulation can help reduce the need for a heater.
10. Negotiate a Better Price
It’s not a myth. You can actually call your energy provider and negotiate a better price. It’s not likely that you will receive a better price than your fellow customers. Still, an energy provider has the power to provide you with a discount – something you can achieve by calling and taking the initiative.
The discount may only last for a year or two, but it’s better than nothing. And once the discount expires, nothing is stopping you from shopping around for a better price from a competitor.
Before calling, do your research. It can only help your case being able to quote the prices of a competitor on the spot. If all else fails, switch to the provider with a better price.
And if these tips fail to reduce energy bills to an acceptable level, consider changing the sources of your heating and cooling. Evaporative cooling is an eco-friendly way to cool the home with running costs below that of a reverse cycle air conditioner. Plus, natural gas is more affordable than electricity, so you can always retire the electric space heater and explore the benefits of gas heating.
Published: 1 Mar, 2021