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Air Conditioning

Two-thirds of all homes in the United States have air conditioners. Air conditioners use about 5% of all the electricity produced in the United States, at an annual cost of more than $11 billion to homeowners. As a result, roughly 100 million tons of carbon dioxide are released into the air each year -- an average of about two tons for each home with an air conditioner. To learn more about air conditions, explore our Energy Saver 101 infographic on home cooling.

Air conditioners employ the same operating principles and basic components as your home refrigerator. Refrigerators use energy (usually electricity) to transfer heat from the cool interior of the refrigerator to the relatively warm surroundings of your home; likewise, an air conditioner uses energy to transfer heat from the interior of your home to the relatively warm outside environment.

An air conditioner cools your home with a cold indoor coil called the evaporator. The condenser, a hot outdoor coil, releases the collected heat outside. The evaporator and condenser coils are serpentine tubing surrounded by aluminum fins. This tubing is usually made of copper.

A pump, called the compressor, moves a heat transfer fluid (or refrigerant) between the evaporator and the condenser. The pump forces the refrigerant through the circuit of tubing and fins in the coils.

The liquid refrigerant evaporates in the indoor evaporator coil, pulling heat out of indoor air and cooling your home. The hot refrigerant gas is pumped outdoors into the condenser where it reverts back to a liquid, giving up its heat to the outside air flowing over the condenser's metal tubing and fins.

Throughout the second half of the 20th century, nearly all air conditioners used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as their refrigerant, but because these chemicals are damaging to Earth's ozone layer, CFC production stopped in the United States in 1995. Nearly all air conditioning systems now employ halogenated chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) as a refrigerant, but these are also being gradually phased out, with most production and importing stopped by 2020 and all production and importing stopped by 2030.

Production and importing of today's main refrigerant for home air conditioners, HCFC-22 (also called R-22), began to be phased out in 2010 and will stop entirely by 2020. However, HCFC-22 is expected to be available for many years as it is recovered from old systems that are taken out of service. As these refrigerants are phased out, ozone-safe hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are expected to dominate the market, as well as alternative refrigerants such as ammonia.

Switching to high-efficiency air conditioners and taking other actions to keep your home cool could reduce energy use for air conditioning by 20% to 50%.

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Common Air Conditioner Problems

One of the most common air conditioning problems is improper operation. If your air conditioner is on, be sure to close your home's windows and outside doors. For room air conditioners, isolate the room or a group of connected rooms as much as possible from the rest of your home. For a list of common air conditioner problems and what to look for, check out our Energy Saver 101 infographic on home cooling.

Other common problems with existing air conditioners result from faulty installation, poor service procedures, and inadequate maintenance. Improper installation of a central air conditioner can result in leaky ducts and low airflow. Many times, the refrigerant charge (the amount of refrigerant in the system) does not match the manufacturer's specifications. If proper refrigerant charging is not performed during installation, the performance and efficiency of the unit is impaired. Unqualified service technicians often fail to find refrigerant charging problems or even worsen existing problems by adding refrigerant to a system that is already full. Learn what to ask for when hiring a technician to maintain your air conditioner.

Air conditioner manufacturers generally make rugged, high quality products. If your air conditioner fails, begin by checking any fuses or circuit breakers. Let the unit cool down for about five minutes before resetting any breakers. If a central air conditioner's compressor stops on a hot day, the high-pressure limit switch may have tripped; reset it by pushing the button, located in the compressor's access panel.

Refrigerant Leaks

If your air conditioner is low on refrigerant, either it was undercharged at installation or it leaks. If it leaks, simply adding refrigerant is not a solution. A trained technician should fix any leak, test the repair, and then charge the system with the correct amount of refrigerant. Remember that the performance and efficiency of your air conditioner is greatest when the refrigerant charge exactly matches the manufacturer's specification, and is neither undercharged nor overcharged. Refrigerant leaks can also be harmful to the environment.

Inadequate Maintenance

If you allow filters and air conditioning coils to become dirty, the air conditioner will not work properly, and the compressor or fans are likely to fail prematurely.

Electric Control Failure

The compressor and fan controls can wear out, especially when the air conditioner turns on and off frequently, as is common when a system is oversized. Because corrosion of wire and terminals is also a problem in many systems, electrical connections and contacts should be checked during a professional service call.

Sensor Problems

Room air conditioners feature a thermostat sensor, located behind the control panel, which measures the temperature of air coming into the evaporative coil. If the sensor is knocked out of position, the air conditioner could cycle constantly or behave erratically. The sensor should be near the coil but not touching it; adjust its position by carefully bending the wire that holds it in place.

Drainage Problems

When it's humid outside, check the condensate drain to make sure it isn't clogged and is draining properly. Room air conditioners may not drain properly if not mounted level.

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Natural Ventilation

Natural ventilation relies on the wind and the "chimney effect" to keep a home cool. Natural ventilation works best in climates with cool nights and regular breezes.

The wind will naturally ventilate your home by entering or leaving windows, depending on their orientation to the wind. When wind blows against your home, air is forced into your windows on the side facing into the wind, while a natural vacuum effect tends to draw air out of windows on the leeward (downwind) side. In coastal climates, many seaside buildings are designed with large ocean-facing windows to take advantage of cooling sea breezes. For drier climates, natural ventilation involves avoiding heat buildup during the day and ventilating at night.

The chimney effect relies on convection and occurs when cool air enters a home on the first floor or basement, absorbs heat in the room, rises, and exits through upstairs windows. This creates a partial vacuum, which pulls more air in through lower-level windows. The effect works best in open-air designs with cathedral ceilings and windows located near the top of the house, in clerestories, or in operable skylights.

Passive solar homes are often designed to take advantage of convection to distribute heat evenly through the home. These homes encourage natural ventilation by placing operable windows and skylights on the top floor.

Natural ventilation can be enhanced or diminished through landscaping. Depending on the house design and wind direction, a windbreak like a fence, hedge, or row of trees that blocks the wind -- can force air either into or away from nearby windows.

What does this mean for me?

  • If you live in a part of the country with cool nights and breezes, you may be able to cool your house with natural ventilation.
  • If you’re building a new home, design it to take advantage of natural ventilation.

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Air Conditioning Troubleshooting Guide

Get basic answers to common operating questions to keep your York® system running at peak performance.

Keep your system up and running with these convenient tips that address common operational issues. If these simple steps do not solve your problem, please call your York® Dealer with your model number for service.

  • Is your thermostat set in the "cool" position (or “warm” for winter heat pump operation)? 
  • If so, is your outdoor air conditioning or heat pump unit running? 
  • Did the circuit breakers in the circuit breaker box (or electrical panel) trip to the “OFF” position? 
  • Is the outdoor "disconnect switch" on your outdoor unit in the "ON" position? (The disconnect switch is usually a small metal grey box mounted on a wall near the outdoor unit.) 
  • Is the blower motor in your furnace or air handler running when your thermostat is activated? (Make sure the furnace switch is in the "ON" position.) 
  • Have you changed your filter? (A blocked filter can cause your unit to shut down due to lack of proper airflow.)
  • Are the air registers (supply or return ducts) plugged?

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York® - Quality Built To Last

York's robust line of products is designed and manufactured to the highest standards. We ensure these standards through performance, reliability and efficiency testing, right here in our North American factories. When it comes to home comfort, we never compromise on quality.

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Home energy saving tips when on a budget

This winter have you procrastinated making changes to your home that could save you big bucks?

NBC 25'S Ilse Lujan-Hayes visited Mundy Township's Home Depot for some energy saving tips that could keep the cold out and keep more money in your wallet.

One of the first steps experts recommend is to do a simple home energy check up around your home.

You'd be surprised at how many problems can be corrected by first determining where your house is losing energy.

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Expert offers tips to keep homes more energy efficient

With extreme temperatures on the way, home heating companies are getting calls around the clock.

Experts say there are some things you can do on your own to make sure your home is working more efficiently.

Sometimes people have a tough time with air flow, keeping the entire home warm--especially when it gets downright cold--but experts have a few simple tips to help you out.

Bitterly cold temperatures are in the forecast, and while most of us want to hunker down and just keep warm, service techs at Bartholomew Heating and Cooling in Kalamazoo are working 24/7.

"We're also getting a lot of furnace calls for failing furnaces, furnaces that have been working really hard, pushed to the limit in the last month or so," said owner Brad Bartholomew.

He adds that there are a few things you can take care of on your own, to keep your home feeling comfortable.

For instance, your thermostat:

"If you set back 6 degrees, cut it down to 3 degrees maybe overnight or not at all," he said.

Bartholomew says while turning down the temperature overnight is a great energy saving move, most of the time it's not a good idea when battling extreme temperatures.

Another savings point, your registers:

"Just make sure that these registers are in the full open position, and then that way we're not taxing the system," Bartholomew said.

He says it's also important to pull couches and other furniture or items away from registers, to make sure your system is working at full capacity.

Don't forget about the furnace filters as well.

"When the systems are going to be working at their maximum capacity, we want to make sure that the air filters are as clean as possible," Bartholomew said.

Bartholomew says many homes have high-efficiency filters that you only need to change once per season, but adds that's probably not the case this winter, because furnaces are working even harder, and will get plugged up much sooner.

In addition, when it gets this cold, you'll want to turn down humidifiers.

Bartholomew says if you don't, you could get water on your windows.

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Energy Saver 101 Infographic: Home Heating

Space heating is likely the largest energy expense in your home, accounting for about 45 percent of the average American family’s energy bills. That means making smart decisions about your home’s heating system can have a big impact on your energy bills. Our Energy Saver 101 infographic lays out everything you need to know about home heating -- from how heating systems work and the different types on the market to what to look for when replacing your system and proper maintenance.

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Simple tips to keep home energy costs down and the cold out

As temperatures fall, our energy costs usually rise.

But as forecasters call for temperatures to take a steep dive over the next few days, there are tips homeowners can follow to keep costs down and the cold out.

"You walk into most homes and the thermostat is right by the front door," said Jay Karwoski, from Consumers Energy. "And if you have cold air leaks into your home. That (cold air) leaking under your door is causing your thermostat to think there are different temperature conditions in your home than there really is."

Karwoski is an energy efficient expert and uses a specialized device to pinpoint trouble spots in a home.

"When you have a comprehensive audit done, you know what's causing you issues in each room of your home," he said. "And the contractor will prioritize work based upon the issues you are experiencing in your home."

In a basement..Karwoski says the fix to make the area energy efficient is simple.

"Some really easy things to do on the furnace is changing your furnace filter," Karwoski said. "Everybody hears about that but it really makes a big difference. When your filter is clogged, air has a harder time flowing through it. Your furnace is working harder to deliver you heat and that ultimately costs you more money." 

And don't forget the hot water pipe wrap.

"It prevents all the heat escaping off the hot water line before it makes it's way up to your shower in morning," he said.

Covering your windows prevents heat from escaping.

"There are window film protectants," Karwoski said. "They are super easy to apply. There is a two-sided tape that goes around the edge of your window. You put the plastic on that, smooth out all the wrinkles with a hair dryer and you almost don't even notice they are there."

If you think a fireplace is going to save you money on your heat bill, think again.

"It might be nice and toasty in the room you are in that has the fire place," Karwoski said. "But the rest of your home, once you go into the other areas, you are going to feel that it is significantly colder and it also causes your furnace to work harder." 

Karwoski says becoming energy efficient can save you a lot of cash this winter 

"Our bill even in harsh winter months is typically no higher than $100.

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Renovating or adding an addition to your home in 2015? York ductless mini-splits are a perfect

York® Mini-Split Systems

York® mini-split systems fit more comfort into more places with our space-saving ductless design. They’re the perfect solution for homes without ductwork — and for room additions or remodels — as they eliminate the typical cost and hassle of installing ducts.

Affinity™ Series Mini-Split Systems

Affinity™ Series mini-split systems are all ENERGY STAR® qualifed models that offer at least 15% higher energy efficiency than standard models — and are available in heat pump or air conditioning only models. Learn more about Affinity™ mini-split systems.

LX Series Mini-Split Systems

LX Series mini-split systems are flexible — with heat pump, air conditioning only and multiple split models to fit your needs. Learn more about LX mini-split systems.

Factors to Consider in a Mini-Split System

Efficiency

To help you compare systems, Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rates cooling efficiency and Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) rates heating efficiency — with high numbers indicating high efficiency.
Play Video.

Space Savings

To help save space, a mini-split system uses a smaller outdoor unit — and a compact wall-mounted indoor unit — to fit the needs of a variety of situations and areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the difference between a mini-split and a central home comfort system?

A: A central air system circulates air from your living space to an air handler that conditions the air to the desired temperature before returning it to the space. A mini-split circulates refrigerant to a small indoor coil with a fan that conditions only the room where it is located. Some mini-split systems are available that can condition up to five rooms with one outdoor, bringing some of the advantages of central air conditioning without bulky ductwork.

Q: Should I be concerned about mini-split Indoor Air Quality?

A: According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), your exposure to air pollutants can be up to 100 times higher indoors than outdoors. York mini-splits use advanced filtration technology, plus a dehumidification feature on select models, to maintain high indoor air quality.

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Getting the Seal and Insulate Job Done – Hiring a Contractor

In our last seal and insulate blog post, ENERGY STAR Product Manager Doug Anderson gave advice on how to identify problems that may be keeping your home from achieving energy efficient comfort during the hot days of summer. Now that those issues have been identified, today’s post shows you how to select a contractor to fix any problems.

Unless you enjoy working in hot, cramped attics, it’s best to just pour yourself a cool drink and call a contractor to properly seal air leaks and add insulation to your attic during the summer.  Insulation contractors have all the equipment and experience to do the job right and do it much quicker than you can. Let them do the hard work. Your job is to find a good contractor.

Shop Around – Selecting a Contractor

As with any home improvement project, you want to make sure you’re getting a good price and that the work will be done right:

–          Check with your electric utility or state energy office to see if they offer incentives for improvements or have pre-screened program contractors. (See www.dsireusa.org or www.energystar.gov/dime for lists of incentives)

–          Get several estimates from contractors (know the square footage of your attic).

–          Make sure the contractor is licensed and insured in your state.

–          Ask if the crew chief is certified to do insulation work.

–          Ask how the contractor will keep your house clean during the work.

–          Make sure the contractor understands you want attic holes and gaps sealed before any insulation is added. If they do not agree to “seal before insulating,” call another contractor.

Some locations in the U.S. have pre-screened, trained and certified contractors available through the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program.  These programs are run by local utilities or State Energy Offices and are a great place to start looking for contractors to help you with your project.  To find out if a program exists in your area, click here.

Make Sure the Job’s Done Right – What to Look For

When hiring a contractor, make sure that you clearly understand the work they’ll be doing. Don’t hesitate to ask questions before the contractor starts, and stay involved throughout the process. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

–          Contractors should seal air leaks in the attic floor before adding insulation. It’s much easier to seal first to ensure you get the full performance out of your insulation.

–          If you have air ducts in the attic, make sure contractors do not step on or damage them.

–          Burying any ducts on the floor in insulation is OK to do – it can even improve efficiency. Just make sure the ducts are well sealed first.

–          Unless your old insulation is wet, moldy, smelly, or contains animal waste, contractors can just add new insulation on top. It is usually not necessary to remove existing insulation.

–          Most contractors use blown-in, loose fill insulation for attic floors, which is quick and easy to install with the right equipment. Typical materials include fiberglass or cellulose – both contain some recycled content (glass or ground up paper) and are inexpensive and safe. If traditional insulation rolls are used for the attic floor instead, be sure that it is “unfaced” (no foil or paper backing needed) so moisture does not get trapped.

–          Any project estimate should also include installing insulation baffles (rafter vents). This ensures that as you add insulation, soffit vents (which allow outside air to enter the attic) are not blocked and your attic has proper air flow.

 

Installing a Baffle (or Rafter Vent)

–          If you have older recessed light fixtures (can lights) that stick up into the attic floor, the contractor should cover and seal them before installing insulation using specially designed covers that are available at most home improvement stores.

–          Contractors should also seal the chase (hole) in the attic around the plumbing vent pipe.

–          It’s also important to weather strip and insulate the attic hatch or door. There are several off-the-shelf products available for standard-sized openings.

–          EPA recommends having a professional contractor conduct combustion safety testing before and after any air sealing, as this may affect the drafting of any combustion (oil or gas) appliances in the house.

Finally, tell the contractor that you expect documentation at the end of the job to show how much insulation has been added and what the new insulation R-value is for your attic. When it’s done, take a picture and compare it to the pictures you took earlier to see the improvement. Then, you can sit back and enjoy the rest of your summer knowing your home is more comfortable and efficient.

If you would like more information, including details on doing this work yourself, ENERGY STAR has expertise you need.  Check out our website for details.

About the Author: Doug Anderson is an ENERGY STAR Project Manager and has been with EPA for 14 years. He works on issues related to the home envelope, including insulation products and energy efficient residential windows.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

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Water Heaters

Water heaters are the second highest source of energy usage in the home. ENERGY STAR certified water heaters use 14 to 55 percent less energy than equipment that meets the minimum federal standard. 1

ENERGY STAR certified water heaters are an easy choice for energy savings, performance, and reliability. High efficiency water heaters use less energy than standard models, saving homeowners money on their utility bills. If you need to replace your current water heater, or are planning for an upgrade, consider a model that has earned the ENERGY STAR label. Select a fuel type or water heater technology below to learn more.

Water Heater Fuel Types and Technologies:

Electric Water Heaters

Choosing an ENERGY STAR certified high efficiency electric storage water heater, known as a heat pump water heater (HPWH), instead of a standard model can save $3,000 in electricity costs over the lifetime of the water heater for an average household.
Heat Pump/High Efficiency Storage Water Heater

Gas Water Heaters

A natural gas water heater that has earned the ENERGY STAR label can save between $40 and $140 in gas costs annually, and between $530 and $2,900 in gas costs over its lifetime.

Certified ENERGY STAR natural gas water heaters include gas storage water heaters and gas tankless water heaters. If you need to replace your current gas water heater, ask your installer for an ENERGY STAR certified model today. To learn more about the benefits of these measures and how they work, select one of the technologies below:
Natural Gas Water Heaters: High Efficiency Gas Storage
Natural Gas Water Heaters: Whole Home Tankless

Solar Water Heaters

Using sunshine to heat or preheat your water can cut your annual hot water costs in half. An ENERGY STAR certified solar water heating system can cut your annual hot water costs in half, and is generally designed for use with an electric or gas back-up water heater.
Solar Water Heaters

1. Source: U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) ENERGY STAR Water Heater Market Profile. September 2010.^

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Our Affinity and Latitude gas furnaces, at just 33 in. high, lead the industry in efficient gas furnaces for homes

Innovation puts one of the industry’s highest ratings in a smaller 33-inch package.

Introducing a modulating design that feels right at home.

A furnace that fits every customer.

We’ve taken the industry-leading features of our Affinity™ and Latitude™ gas furnaces and reduced them to just 33 inches high. And with a precise modulating rate at .65% increments, our Affinity™ modulating furnaces keep your customers consistently at their ideal temperature. We call it improving on an already big idea. You’ll call it perfect for those tighter applications. We’ve also shortened your installation and maintenance time by using modular door panels to simplify airflow conversion and added a slide out blower motor for easier access.

The York® Affinity™ Series 9C Modulating Gas Furnace received high accolades from Consumers Digest—providing further recognition of superior York comfort. (Consumers Digest, October 2010 – PDF, 3.5 MB)
 

Impressive features that ease installation, while adding to your profits:

  • Save space in your customer’s place with a compact 33-inch cabinet Satisfy the homeowner’s comfort level with .65% increment firing rate on modulating Affinity™ models
  • Fit your buyer’s budget with 95% and up to 98%* AFUE high-efficiency or 80% AFUE mid-efficiency models
  • Sell the energy savings of ENERGY STAR®: qualification on YP9C and TM9V models
  • Provide any configuration with multi-position design
  • Get fast access with 1/4-quick-turn door latches
  • Protect your hands while servicing with double-folded edges
  • Simplify installation with patent-pending internal condensate management system on higher efficiency models

Comparing furnace features.

FeatureAffinity™ models Latitude™ models

Fan motorECM or standardStandard

Fan speedsConstant or variable-speedConstant

Door latches1/4-quick turn1/4-quick turn

Cabinet designStyledStandard

Firing ratesModulating .65% incrementsSingle-stage

Efficiency80% and up to 98%* AFUE80% or 95.5% AFUE

* AFUE no lower than 97.5% on all models with variable-speed motor and 97% on all models with PSC motor.

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Did you know proper insulation can save up to 10% on total energy bills?

Why Seal and Insulate?

Save Energy and Money.

Air that leaks through your home's envelope − the outer walls, windows, doors, and other openings − wastes a lot of energy and increases your utility costs. A well-sealed envelope, coupled with the right amount of insulation, can make a real difference on your utility bills.

Increase Comfort.

Sealing leaks and adding insulation can improve the overall comfort of your home and help to fix many of these common problems:

  • Reduced noise from outside
  • Less pollen, dust and insects (or pests) entering your home
  • Better humidity control
  • Lower chance for ice dams on the roof/eves in snowy climates

Most Homes Will Benefit.

Most homes in the United States don't have enough insulation and have significant air leaks. In fact, if you added up all the leaks, holes and gaps in a typical home's envelope, it would be the equivalent of having a window open every day of the year!

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Heat & Cool Efficiently

As much as half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling. So making smart decisions about your home's heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can have a big effect on your utility bills — and your comfort. Take these steps to increase the efficiency of your heating and cooling system. For more information, see our Guide to Energy Efficient Heating & Cooling (708KB).

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 3 months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool — wasting energy. A clean filter will also prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system — leading to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.

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. Learn more:

Install a programmable 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.

Seal your heating and cooling ducts

Ducts that move air to-and-from a forced air furnace, central air conditioner, or heat pump are often big energy wasters. Sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent — and sometimes much more.

Focus first on sealing ducts that run through the attic, crawlspace, unheated basement, or garage. Use duct sealant (mastic) or metal-backed (foil) tape to seal the seams and connections of ducts. After sealing the ducts in those spaces, wrap them in insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter. Next, look to seal any other ducts that you can access in the heated or cooled part of the house. See our See our Duct Sealing brochure (1.13MB) for more information. for more information.

Consider installing ENERGY STAR qualified heating and cooling equipment

If your HVAC equipment is more than 10 years old or 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. Depending on where you live, replacing your old heating and cooling equipment with ENERGY STAR qualified equipment can cut your annual energy bill by more than $115. 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.

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. Learn more.

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