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Archive for December, 2009

7
Dec

We have spoken to many of you that have seen a substantial increase in your electric bills this winter.  Believe me, I’m seeing it too.  My electric bill increased 87% from November (2008) to December (2008) and another 25% on top of that in January this year.  In comparison to last winter (2007-2008), this year my energy costs are up 55%.

Many of you may be thinking, “That’s nothing compared to my bills!” Let me explain.  I do little more than sleep and shower at my home, usually getting home just about my bedtime only to leave again by 5:30am the next morning.  Other than my heat pump system, water heater and alarm clock, there are no other appliances in my house that are actually used on a daily basis.  My point – there are no real energy hogs that would inflate my electrical usage.

My heat pump is controlled by a programmable thermostat which I haven’t changed the settings on in more than 10 years.  I keep the set point at 64 degrees during the day and raise the temp to 67 overnight.  I replaced my water heater 2 years ago so it’s definitely more efficient than the old one.  Excluding a condemned home, you can’t get much more “energy conscious” than my house.

So why the drastic change in my electric bills?  My first call was to PEPCO only to hear that they were getting flooded with the same type of calls, but no real explanation.  My next step was to go on their website where I located their residential rate schedule.  Here is where I noticed that there have been three rate increases since last winter – October 2007, June 2008 and November 2008. (And the largest increase is due to take effect June 1, 2009) On top of that, last winter was mild in comparison to the temperatures we’ve seen this year.  October and January were well below last year’s average temperatures and so were November and December – just not as extreme.

Depending on the type system you have in your home, 40% or more of your electrical usage can be attributed to heating and cooling your home.  So making certain that the system is operating at maximum efficiency is definitely a good idea.  All those things we do during the maintenance inspections are meant to get the most out of your system and minimize the operating costs.

And if you haven’t already, now is a good time to take the steps to minimize the air infiltration that we’ve discussed in past issues.  Every home “breathes” meaning the conditioned air in your home is being replaced with outside air several times each day.  Your home is constantly losing conditioned air through the top floor and pulling outside air into your home on the lower levels.

The idea is to minimize the air loss and reduce the cost of trying to heat or cool that outside air.  Seal exterior penetrations such as where piping, wiring, drains, etc. enter/exit the home.  Ensure your home is properly insulated.  Make sure unconditioned areas like the attic, crawl spaces and the garage are properly isolated from the conditioned areas.  Any ductwork in the unconditioned spaces needs to be sealed and insulated.  Seal the penetrations in the ceilings and walls, especially those going to the attic. Remember, the heat in your home will rise and find its way through loose fixtures like the attic hatch, recessed lights, ceiling fans, etc.  Those chases that run from the basement to the attic are the equivalent of leaving a window open.  Weather-strip the exterior doors and windows.  With the increased utility costs, every step taken to maximize efficiency will help to negate the additional energy costs during both heating and cooling season.

Category : Air Conditioning | Blog
7
Dec

You either have an air conditioner or heat pump system cooling to your home.  Both systems operate in almost identical ways when it comes to the cooling season.  These units (called condensing units) are located on the exterior of your home.  Depending on your system type, you will have a furnace or air handler (in the case of a heat pump system) located either in your basement, attic, closet, etc.  inside your home.  An evaporator coil sits on top of your furnace or inside the air handler cabinet and copper tubing containing refrigerant connects the condensing unit and the evaporator coil.

This copper tubing runs throughout both indoor and outdoor coils.  The refrigerant within the tubing absorbs the heat from your home’s air at the indoor coil resulting in the cool air you feel when the system is running.  The furnace or air handler contains a blower which pulls air through the return ducts, across your air filter, through the evaporator coil (where it is cooled) and distributes it throughout your home via the supply ducts.

Category : Air Conditioning | Blog
7
Dec

The concept of your entire home as having an impact on your heating/cooling system’s efficiency and comfort is an important one.  The purpose of this blog is to help you understand how every aspect of your home impacts the energy usage of your comfort system and the resulting comfort level in your home.  This issue will focus on your exterior landscape surrounding your home and its impact.

You may have never thought about it, but you can use trees and shrubs to improve the efficiency of your comfort system.   How can you do this?  Maximize the warming effects of the sun in winter, maximize your use of shade in the summer and deflect winter winds away from your home.

Solar heat is absorbed through your home’s windows and roof.  Shading your home with trees from summer sun can reduce air temperatures as much as 9 degrees helping to reduce your cooling costs.  Shrubs and groundcover plants reduce heat radiation from the ground cooling the air before it reaches the walls and windows of your home.  Vines are also a good source of shade on walls.

Providing shade for your air conditioner/heat pump can actually increase your system’s efficiency by as much as 10%!  That is money in your pocket when the summer electrical rates take effect during the cooling season.  Be careful not to plant bushes and shrubs so close to the unit that airflow is restricted – Leave a buffer of about one foot of clearance around the unit to allow for proper airflow.  Remember, that is one foot of clearance as the plant continues to grow so plan ahead and leave enough space for the plant’s growth.

Proper landscaping can provide excellent wind protection as well which helps to reduce your heating costs in the winter.  Winds can drastically lower the outdoor temperature forcing your heating system to work longer and harder.  Shrubs, bushes and vines create a dead air space that actually insulates your home during both summer and winter protecting your home from the more extreme elements.

The types and location of trees, shrubs and bushes will all depend on your home’s structure and surroundings.  Generally, north- and south-facing windows will provide good sunlight during the winter allowing for solar heating with minimal heat gain during the summer.  East- and west-facing windows should be shaded to minimize the heat gain from the summer sun.  A reputable landscaper like Goshen Enterprises can help you determine how exactly you should landscape around your home.  You can contact them at 301-869-8544 or go to their web site at www.goshenenterprises.com.  You can also visit  http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer and click on YOUR HOME then LANSCAPING for more information.

Category : Air Conditioning | Heating | Blog