Use These 5 Tips To Lower Your Heating and Cooling Bills

Man in sweater feeling cold adjusting room temperature with electronic thermostat at home.
RossHelen / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Americans pay a whole lot of money to keep cozy. 

According to Energy Star, nearly half of the energy that the average household consumes goes to keeping the home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Think about how much you could invest, how much debt you could squash, how much you could save for retirement if utilities didn’t cost so much.

But who says they have to? 

Here are a handful of tips that anyone can use to take the sting out of high energy prices without sacrificing comfort. 

If you’ve ever wondered how much it costs to heat and cool your home, you might be surprised by the estimates:

  • The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that the average household’s heating costs from October to March (winter heating season) are just under $750 for natural gas, about $1,700 for both heating oil and propane, and $1,300 for electricity.
  • According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, Americans spend $29 billion per year on air conditioning, which accounts for about 6% of all electricity produced in the United States. It costs about $42 per month to run a single medium-sized AC unit for 10 hours per day, according to Perch Energy. For large homes with central air, that number creeps up to just under $200 per month.

The time frame that you run your air conditioner can significantly increase your electric bill.

While these are just basic estimates of how much it could cost to heat and cool a home, there are tools out there to give you specific estimates. One, in particular, is Home Energy Saver, which is a government-sponsored website that helps you determine average energy costs based on your zip code. While it doesn’t break down heating and cooling costs separately, you do get an idea of the amount of savings you could enjoy if you upgraded to an energy-efficient home.

For instance, a Waller, Texas, ZIP code showed average energy costs of $1,435, with efficient home costs considerably lower at $1,027. On the other hand, Antelope, Oregon, showed a higher average energy cost of $3,017 with an efficient-home cost of $1,571.

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Some other energy cost comparisons around the nation include:

  • Los Angeles – Average energy cost: $1,073; average energy-efficient home cost: $712
  • Chicago – Average energy cost: $1,637; average energy-efficient home cost: $1,072
  • Alexander City, Alabama – Average energy cost: $2,615; average energy-efficient home cost: $1,603
  • Abercrombie, North Dakota – Average energy cost: $1,686; average energy-efficient home cost: $909
  • Poughkeepsie, New York – Average energy cost: $3,191; average energy-efficient home cost: $1,810

If you want, the site also allows you to make energy-saving calculations based on the year your home was built, the square footage, type of foundation and much more.

Ways To Cut Back on Heating and Cooling Costs

Different-sized homes, of course, come with energy costs. However, there are some surefire ways to cut those costs no matter your square footage. According to Energy Star, there are a number of ways to cut back on your energy costs while still heating and cooling efficiently:

  • Change your air filter regularly: By changing your air filter every month during the heavy-use months (winter and summer), you could not only improve air circulation, but also avoid expensive maintenance issues, including early system failure.
  • Tune up your HVAC annually: Regularly tuning up your HVAC equipment could be compared to tuning up your car to improve your gas mileage. If you get a yearly tune-up, you could improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system, which means it doesn’t have to work as hard to do its job.
  • Add a programmable thermostat: If you know you’ll be away from home for extended periods throughout the day – or even for weeks at a time – you can install a thermostat that allows you to pre-program settings. This could save you nearly $200 a year in energy costs.
  • Seal your heating and cooling ducts: The ducts that move air to and from the furnace, air conditioner or heat pump often leak, wasting energy. If you seal those ducts, you could save as much as 20 percent on heating and cooling costs.
  • Consider Energy Star-qualified equipment: This government program has contracted with retailers to offer top-level appliances and equipment meant to cut your annual energy costs by using energy in your home efficiently. Taking the steps necessary to upgrade to Energy Star equipment could lower your energy costs so that you could enjoy the savings listed earlier in this article.

If you plan to upgrade your home for energy efficiency, make sure to estimate the cost of the upgrade as well as the amount of any tax credits you could take advantage of along the way. Whatever you can do to help bills lower during the peak heating and cooling seasons could be a major bonus to you.

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Andrew Lisa contributed to the reporting for this article. 

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