Recently a local homeowner’s wife complained about the $550 electric bill for July, saying, “I thought the new air conditioners were supposed to save us money.”
In theory, yes. But as her husband explained, “We leave the back door open and the storm door doesn’t seal well. In fact, the whole house isn’t as energy efficient as it should be. Whatever we save each month by having more energy efficient air conditioners is probably lost through an energy inefficient home.”
Inspired by this story, we’ve created a series of posts looking at what the Department of Energy calls the whole-house systems approach to energy efficiency. If it were a math equation, it would look something like this:
Heating and Air Conditioning equipment + everything about the home = whole-house energy efficiency.
The Department of Energy believes that for homeowners to realize their expectations — for equipment performance, savings on monthly energy bills, and to conserve energy itself — they must look at the home “whole-istically.”
The posts will cover:
What the whole-house approach is
How to achieve it
What Energy Scores are
What energy audits are
Why are ducts important
And properly air-sealing one’s home
Among other topics
The information is provided to give homeowners an understanding of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) terms and subjects when discussing repair, service, equipment upgrades, and energy efficiency with an Arlington, TX air conditioning contractor.
Why Should We Care About the Whole House?
Let’s whittle it down to this this:
- You want your air conditioner to cool you during the hot and humid Arlington summers.
- You want your heater to heat you during the largely unpredictable Arlington/North Texas winters.
- You don’t want to pay a boatload of money each month in electric or natural gas utility bills.
- You don’t want the air conditioner or heater to stop working efficiently, necessitating unexpected service and repair calls (and cost) to your Arlington, TX HVAC contractor.
- And, let’s face it, we live in a time when conserving energy, when we can, is desirable.
And this is where whole-house energy efficiency comes into play. Homeowners can achieve all the above goals, over time, with “whole-istic” strategies.
What Is Whole-house Energy Efficiency?
The first part of whole-house energy efficiency is simply awareness.
When it’s time to replace an appliance or substantial piece of equipment like an air conditioner, homeowners usually replaces it with a newer, more energy efficient model because “that’s what you do,” says one longtime Arlington, TX air conditioning contractor. “The new equipment is more energy efficient, so right away homes are becoming more energy efficient.”
At least in theory. As we saw in the introductory story, savings from new, energy efficient equipment is often lost because the homes themselves are energy inefficient, the Arlington, TX air conditioning contractor said.
The next part to whole-house energy efficiency is understanding that the equipment doesn’t function in a vacuum.
The air conditioner and heater is connected to ductwork and operates in an environment of insulation, attics, windows, doors, cracks and air leaks, and inhabitants. If any of these are less than optimum, efficiency decreases and, more than not, utility bills rise.
The final part is recognizing equipment + home environment = energy efficiency (lower monthly bills and conservation) and developing a strategy to achieve
- A commitment to whole-house energy efficiency doesn’t mean:
- Buying top-of-the-line, expensive HVAC equipment
- Or buying every energy-saving gadget (like smart thermostats and smartphone-controlled light switches) that hits the market
- Or even investing in renewable energy like solar or wind power, although that’s an admirable goal.
It’s means being smart, conscientious, and working with an Arlington, TX air conditioning contractor to develop a whole-house systems approach whenever new equipment is required and service and repairs are made. Then, maybe, that $550 July cooling bill is reduced to $350 next year.
Benefits of Whole-house energy efficiency
Some benefits of using a whole-house systems approach include:
- Reduced monthly utility bills for, predominantly, electricity
- Reduced maintenance costs, including service and repair
- Increased comfort for your home’s occupants (without a rise in cost)
- A healthier and safer indoor environment
- Improved building durability
- Improved resale when selling the home
According to the Arlington, TX air conditioning consultant, the best place to start is where it hurts the most — the utility bill. How much energy do you consume for cooling and heating What does it cost you each month?
- Gather all of your utility bills (mostly electricity and natural gas) for the past 12 months. (If you do not have paper copies of billing and usage statements, call the energy provider.)
- This information will help establish a baseload, which is the amount of energy used under the least demanding set of conditions (when energy use is the lowest).
- Calculate the annual electricity baseload for your home by multiplying the monthly low of 550kWh (your energy use for a month, as an example) times 12 months — 550 x 12 = 6,600. At 10 cents a kWh hour (again, as an example), your home would spend $660 per year on its baseload electricity use.
- To understand how much electricity is needed to cool the home, multiply the monthly electricity baseload of 550 kWh times 5 for the warmest months (May-September) in which there is a substantial spike in electricity use. Then subtract that number (2,750) from the total kWh used in the seven other months (3,990) = 1,110 kWh. At 10 cents per kWh (again, this is just a simple example) you spend $110 a month on electricity per cooling season. Your actual kWh information is on your monthly energy bill.
If all of this is too overwhelming, Arlington, TX air conditioning contractors are expanding their service and repair businesses to include whole-house energy planning.