Heating and Cooling Tips

Learn how to stay comfortable while saving energy.
Stay cool in summer and warm in winter with these money-saving tips for your furnace or central AC.


Tips for Efficient Heating and Cooling

  • 1 Change your air filter regularly.

    Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer). If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every three months. A dirty filter slows air flow and makes the system work harder to keep you warm or cool, which wastes energy. A clean filter prevents dust and dirt from building up in the system, which leads to expensive maintenance or early system failure.

  • 2 Tune up your HVAC equipment yearly.

    Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency and comfort.

  • 3 Install a programmable or wireless enabled thermostat.

    A programmable thermostat is ideal for people who are away from home during set periods of time throughout the week. Through proper use of pre-programmed settings, a programmable thermostat can save you about $180 every year in energy costs.
    A wireless enabled thermostat allows you to control your thermostat from your phone or smart device.

  • 4 Seal your heating and cooling ducts.

    Ducts that move air to and from a forced air furnace, central air conditioner, or heat pump often result in loss of energy. Sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent — and sometimes much more.
    If you are interested in having your ductwork evaluated, contact a professional contractor who can evaluate your ducts for improvements. For additional information please review the ENERGY STAR® Duct Sealing brochure.

  • 5 Consider installing ENERGY STAR® qualified heating and cooling equipment.

    If your HVAC equipment is more than 10 years old or is not keeping your house comfortable, have it evaluated by a professional HVAC contractor. If it is not performing efficiently or needs upgrading, consider replacing it with a unit that has earned the ENERGY STAR label. There may also be rebates available through Mass Save® or the manufacturer for your new system.
    Depending on where you live, replacing your old heating and cooling equipment with ENERGY STAR qualified equipment can cut your annual energy bill by nearly $200. But, before you invest in a new HVAC system, make sure that you have addressed the big air leaks in your house and the duct system. Sometimes, these are the real sources of problems, rather than your HVAC equipment.

  • 6 Ask about proper installation of your new equipment.

    Replacing your old heating and cooling equipment with new, energy efficient models is a great start. But, to make sure that you get the best performance, the new equipment must be properly installed. In fact, improper installation can reduce system efficiency by up to 30 percent— costing you more on your utility bills and possibly shortening the equipment's life.

    Make sure to ask your contractor if their work meets guidelines set by ENERGY STAR and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). These guidelines include:

    Proper equipment sizing
    Installing the right size equipment for the home is essential to getting the best performance and comfort. Many homeowners believe that bigger is better when buying new heating and cooling equipment. But a system that's too large will not keep your home comfortable because of frequent 'on/off' cycling. Incorrect sizing can also put stress on system components and shorten the equipment's life. To ensure proper sizing, your contractor should provide a copy of the home's heat gain/loss calculations for your records.

    Sealing ducts
    To ensure that ducts are properly sealed, your contractor should test the leakage rate. If the ducts are very leaky (i.e. more than 20 percent of the air moving through the system is leaking into spaces you do not want heated or cooled) your contractor should use duct sealant (mastic), a metal-backed (foil) tape, or an aerosol sealant to seal the seams and connections of ducts. After the ducts are sealed, ask your contractor to wrap them in insulation.

    Proper refrigerant charge (central air conditioners and heat pumps only)
    A properly charged system will operate more efficiently and help prolong the life of the heating and cooling system. To ensure the system has the correct amount of refrigerant, a contractor must test and confirm that the system is properly charged. If the system is not properly charged, the contractor should make the appropriate adjustments by adding or removing refrigerant.

    Optimizing airflow
    If airflow in your heating and cooling system is too high or too low, you may confront problems and higher utility bills. A contractor should test airflow and make any needed adjustments for optimal performance.

  • 7 Use curtains and shades to control the warming power of the sun.

    During the winter, keep curtains and shades on south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter and warm the home, and closed at night to reduce the chill you can feel from cold windows. During the summer, close the blinds and curtains during the day to keep heat from the sun out, and then open them at night.

  • 8 Arrange furniture to promote maximum airflow.

    Make sure that furniture or draperies are moved away from radiators and heating vents to promote maximum airflow from your furnace.