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HomeHomes
Published: Thursday, 8/14/2008

Green Your Home and Lower Your Cooling Bills

(ARA) - According to the EPA, the average house contributes twice as much to global warming as the average car. With hot summer weather just around the corner, now is the time to give your home a "check-up."

Here are seven tips from the Comfort Institute to cut your air conditioning (AC) bills, improve comfort and help the environment.

1. Have your duct system tested for air leaks. Many assume that windows and doors are the major cause of a home's energy wasting air leaks. But according to research by the Department of Energy (DOE), gaps in the typical home's duct system are much more significant. The DOE states that the typical duct system wastes 25 to 40 percent of the energy put out by the central heat pump or air conditioner. Authorities recommend having an AC contractor test for leaks and then seal them with a brushed on fiber-reinforced elastomeric sealant. Duct tape usually dries out and fails. It turns out duct tape is great for many things, but sealing ducts isn't one of them!

2. Ask your AC contractor to perform an Infiltrometer "blower door" test. This is a computerized instrument originally invented by the DOE. It pinpoints where your home's worst air leaks are, such as duct leaks, and also measures how leaky the overall house is. Many homes have significant air leaks into the attic: hot dusty air often gets drawn in through recessed can lights and pulled down stairs. New sealing products are available to fix these significant leaks. Many AC contractors offer the test as part of a "Home and Duct Performance Checkup" that also checks insulation levels and overall duct performance.

3. Close your fireplace damper. Did you remember to close it last time you used the fireplace? Shut it now or waste precious cool air all summer long!

4. Replace your air conditioner or heat pump air filter. Most systems need this done every month to ensure safe and efficient operation. Keep forgetting to do it? Ask your AC contractor for an extended surface area whole-house air filter that only needs to be replaced once a year. It also does a far better job of keeping your equipment and the air in your home clean.

5. Have your air conditioner cleaned and tuned. A pre-season tune-up is a great investment. It reduces the chances of breakdowns in the middle of summer and more than pays for itself through more energy efficient operation. Make sure the AC contractor cleans both the indoor and outdoor coils, and checks refrigerant gas charge by measuring "superheat" or "subcooling."

6. Attics often get up to 140 degrees hot, so consider adding attic insulation. In most areas, the DOE now recommends R49 insulation, which is typically 18-inches or more. However, it is essential that air leaks in the attic floor first be sealed. If you have HVAC equipment or ducts up in the attic, a radiant barrier foil or paint also makes sense.

7. Consider replacing your old air conditioner or heat pump. Just like a car, central cooling equipment doesn't last forever. Is your system more than 12 years old? Planning to stay in your home more than a few years? Many authorities recommend replacing it before it fails permanently. A new system improves comfort, is more dependable and creates less air pollution. New units are up to twice as energy efficient, which saves money on your monthly electric bills.

However, government and utility research has found that more than 90 percent of newly installed high efficiency systems have energy wasting mistakes. Do some homework before talking to contractors. For more information, visit www.energystar.gov and www.comfortinstitute.org. Print out the free Comfort Institute reports, "Tips and Secrets To Buying A New Heating and Cooling System" and "How To Identify a Good Heating and Cooling Contractor." Courtesy of ARAcontent



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