Tips for keeping your system operating at peak performance.
Heating and Cooling Your Home
Produced in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy
Heating and cooling systems are some of the most important investments you'll ever make in your home. Whether
you're buying a new house, renovating an old one or making an emergency purchase because "old faithful" finally
conked out, there's a lot riding on the choices you make: Your comfort and safety are at stake, but so is your
Americans typically spend about 46 cents of every dollar they pay in utility bills for "space conditioning." You can
lower those costs by selecting the most energy-efficient equipment that meets your needs and fits your budget.
The EnergyGuide label on home heating and cooling equipment is intended to help you do just that. These labels
provide a "snapshot" of the more in-depth energy efficiency and usage information that manufacturers are
required to provide with their products -- generally through a fact sheet or industry association directory.
The total cost of an appliance has three components -- the purchase price, the cost of repairs and maintenance,
and the cost to operate it. The more energy efficient an appliance is, the less it costs to run and the lower your
utility bills. Using less energy is good for the environment, too; it can reduce air pollution and help conserve natural
Is there really that much of a difference among the various models on the market?
All products must meet minimum energy efficiency standards set by the Department of Energy. But many products
beat the standard, use even less energy and cost less to run.
What makes one system more efficient than another?
Most of the differences are on the inside -- in the motors, compressors, pumps and valves. So even if two models
look the same from the outside, these less-obvious features can mean a big difference in your monthly utility bills.
How can I be sure energy efficiency claims are not just sales hype?
Manufacturers must use standard tests developed by the Department of Energy to prove the efficiency of their
products. Many have these tests performed by independent laboratories. The test results are reported on the
EnergyGuide labels, and through fact sheets provided by the manufacturers or in industry association directories.
An Energy-Smart Deal On Home Heating & Cooling...
Ask your builder, installer or home supply outlet about the EnergyGuide label and the fact sheets or product
directories for each system you're considering.
Compare the energy efficiencies and operating costs of competing models.
Consider both the purchase price and estimated operating costs when you decide what to buy.
Before You Buy
Conduct an energy audit. This will help you detect energy waste, gauge the efficiency of your current heating and
cooling systems, and determine if conditioned air is being distributed properly. Your utility company may offer free
or low-cost energy audits or a do-it-yourself kit. You also can hire a specialist to do a more comprehensive B and
more expensive B energy audit.
Weatherize your home. Check the caulking, weatherstripping and insulation, and make any necessary repairs.
This may enable you to install a smaller, less expensive heating or cooling system to get the same results.
Compare the performance of different brands and models. Study the product literature. Will the product do the
job? How energy efficient is it? What's its repair history? Will it handle your needs today? Ten years from now?
Does it fit your budget?
Estimate how much the appliance will cost to operate. The more energy an appliance uses, the more it costs to
run. Consult the EnergyGuide labels, the manufacturers' fact sheets or the industry association directory to
compare the energy efficiency of different models. The difference on your monthly utility bill can be significant,
especially when considered over the lifetime of the product. You can save money over the long run by choosing a
more energy-efficient model, even if it costs more initially.
Ask about special energy efficiency offers. Ask your local utility or salesperson if there are cash rebates,
low-interest loans or other incentive programs in your area for buying energy-efficient products -- and how you can
How Do You Say "Efficiency"?
Heating and air conditioning systems have a language all their own...
If you're referring to furnaces and boilers, it's"annual fuel utilization efficiency," or AFUE.
For room air conditioners, it's"energy efficiency ratio," or EER.
For central air conditioners and heat pump cooling, it's "seasonal energy efficiency ratio," or SEER.
For heat pump heating, it's "heating seasonal performance factor," or HSPF.
Tips for Lowering Your Monthly Energy Bill
Being an energy-smart consumer means getting the most from the energy you use.
Shade your room air conditioner from direct sun. This will reduce its workload. Clean the filters monthly and
replace as necessary to save energy and reduce dust and pollen in the air. Lower the setting when you go out to
reduce operating costs.
Vacuum air vents, baseboard heaters and radiators regularly to remove dust that reduces heating efficiency. Move
furniture, carpet or curtains that restrict their operation. If your baseboard heaters have movable deflectors or
vents, open them in the winter and close them in the summer.
Schedule annual tune-ups for your heat pump, furnace or boiler. Check to see if your utility company provides this
Hire a professional to seal and insulate leaky ducts, and to ensure that the airflow distribution system serving your
heating or cooling equipment is operating at peak efficiency.
Check your attic, attic stairway, attached garage walls and basement to ensure that you have proper insulation
between conditioned and unconditioned spaces.
Open your foundation vents each spring if your home has a crawl space under it. Close the vents in the winter.
Prune back shrubs that may block airflow to your air conditioner or heat pump.
Consider installing ceiling fans. The air circulation promotes cooling in the summer and heating efficiency in the
For More Information
The Federal Trade Commission offers a wide range of business and consumer education information online at
www.ftc.gov. This information also is available by calling the toll-free helpline at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357)
(TDD: 1-866-653-4261) or by writing: Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania
Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20580.
The Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network offers a clearinghouse of
energy-efficiency information at www.eren.doe.gov. This information also is available by calling the toll-free hotline
at 1-800-DOE-EREC (363-3732) (TDD: 1-800-273-2957) or by writing: U.S. Department of Energy B EREC, PO
Box 3048, Merrifield, VA 22116.
Your state and local energy offices and local utility company also may be valuable sources of information.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace
and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free
information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY:
1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into
Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement
agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION FOR THE CONSUMER
Why should I care about energy efficiency?