When you shop for and compare new heating and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment and systems, it’s important to look at the price. But it’s also important to look at the energy efficiency — how much it will cost to run your new HVAC system. That’s where the EnergyGuide label and ENERGY STAR logo can help.
- The EnergyGuide label. Before anyone sells a heating and cooling system — central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, and heat pumps — they have to tell you how much energy a product uses, and how it compares to similar models. That information will be on a product’s EnergyGuide label. You’ll often see the label on the product when you shop in person, but it might also be on a website, fact sheet, or brochure.
- The ENERGY STAR logo. This logo means the product meets certain energy efficiency guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy (DOE). To learn more, visit energystar.gov.
Here are some steps to take at home to save energy (and maybe lower your bills).
Do a home energy assessment or energy audit. Even if you’re not looking to buy new HVAC equipment, you still might want to know where your home is wasting energy. Your utility company might offer free or low-cost energy assessments or refer you to someone who does. For more recommendations, check with your state or local government energy or weatherization office, or visit energysavers.gov for other resources.
- A professional assessment might cost several hundred dollars. Before you hire a company, search its name online, plus words like “scam,” “review,” or “complaint.” See if others have had good or bad experiences with the company. Look at sites that offer impartial reviews from experts. The assessment should include specific recommendations for you to follow.
- A do-it-yourself assessment is an affordable option. While it might not be as thorough as a professional assessment, it can help you pinpoint some possible fixes. For more information, visit DOE’s Energy Saver website, or use the online tool at hes.lbl.gov.
Seal air leaks and check your insulation. Much of a home’s energy is wasted through air leaks or under-insulated attics and ducts.
- Use caulk and weatherstripping to seal air leaks around your windows, doors, and places where pipes and wires come through walls. Feel around for air coming in and check the existing caulking and weatherstripping for gaps or cracks. If your home has old or drafty windows, think about replacing them.
- Check any exposed air ducts for holes and gaps where sections have separated and air may be leaking. Use mastic sealant or metal tape (not duct tape) to seal some leaks yourself. It might also be a good investment to hire a professional to repair leaky ducts.
- Bring your insulation up to DOE-recommended levels if a professional energy assessment shows it’s needed.
Ask about special energy efficiency offers. Before you shop for energy-efficient products, ask your salesperson or utility company for information about cash rebates, low-interest loans, or other incentive programs in your area. You also can visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency for information about government- and utility-sponsored incentives.
Make small changes. For example:
- Lower your thermostat in the winter and turn it up in the summer before you go to bed or head out for the day or get a programmable thermostat to do it automatically.
- Check filters for forced-air furnaces, heat pumps, or air conditioners — as the manufacturer recommends — to see if they need to be cleaned or replaced.
- Check fireplace dampers to make sure they’re closed when you don’t have a fire going.
- Consider a budget-billing program, if your utility or oil company offers it. While you won’t pay less, your costs will be spread out evenly over the year so you won’t get surprised with high bills during the year. Check with your utility company to see if they offer energy assistance plans.
- Check to see if you’re eligible to get help from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
- Look up heating oil and gas companies, if you use heating oil and you live where you can choose your natural gas provider. Compare prices from multiple companies and look up their services before you sign a contract.
- Don’t believe a company’s promises without checking them out first. Search online for the company or product name with words like “scam” or “complaint.”
- Resist high-pressure door-to-door sales calls for heating systems, windows, and other home improvement products. Pressure to act fast is a sign of a scam. Find a contractor who’s licensed and reputable, and remember that the Cooling-Off Rule gives you three business days to cancel, if you sign the contract anywhere other than the contractor’s permanent place of business. You have the right to change your mind, and you don’t have to give a reason for canceling your purchase.
- Get any offers to lower your utility bills in writing before you accept a deal or sign a new contract. Consider how long the offer or discount will be valid for. Ask about the length of the contract or commitment, and if it involves early termination fees.
- Spot utility scams. Scammers impersonate utility companies and threaten to shut off your service. Anyone who tells you to pay with a gift card, cryptocurrency, or by wiring money through companies like Western Union or MoneyGram is a scammer.
- Contact your utility company directly with a phone number you know is real to see if there’s a problem.
- If someone asks you to pay using one of these ways, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
To learn more about saving energy in and around your home, visit: