Many smart thermostats claim they can save you money on your heating and air conditioning bills. Indeed, you can save a significant amount of money by purchasing a nest or Ecobee3, but they can also cost you more money if your home is not optimized for good airflow.

RELATED: How to install and set up a nest thermostat

If you’re constantly afraid to look at your electricity bill every month, it might not be the thermostat causing the problem, so a smart thermostat alone won’t be able to save you. But here are a few things you need to keep in mind in order for your HVAC system to heat and cool your home in the most efficient way possible.

Don’t block too many vents


If the lower zone in your home is usually colder than the upstairs, you may be tempted to close most or all of the vents downstairs to push all the air out of the air conditioner upstairs. Actually this is a really bad idea.

Closing the vents consumes more energy because your system is working harder to overcome the increased pressure created by closed vents, especially if you have a variable speed system fan that can change speeds automatically. If you have an older system then the fan will most likely run at a constant speed which is bad news if you cover too many vents as the increased pressure will just slow down the fan speed resulting in less airflow.

Also, if your duct isn’t sealed (which it most likely isn’t), then that increased pressure can also force fresh heated or conditioned air through small cracks in the duct and into your attic instead of into your living space.

On paper, closing vents to bring air to places where it’s really needed makes a lot of sense, and it’s must work, but due to the way HVAC systems are designed, it’s actually just the opposite. This is why smart vents are basically a bad idea.

You may be able to close a few vents throughout your home, but even then, if your HVAC system and ductwork is old and inefficient, it’s probably not ideal.

Take care of your air filter


Most air filter manufacturers advise you to change your system’s air filter every three months, but depending on how often you run your heating or air conditioning, you may need to change the air filter more often. A good rule of thumb is to check it every week and replace it when it gets visibly dirty.

Also consider the thickness of the air filter. Each one comes with a MERV rating. which denotes the minimum performance reporting value. This is a technical talk about how good an air filter is. The MERV 1 rating is the worst rating and the MERV 16 rating is the best. This means that a MERV 16 air filter will trap more dirt, dust particles, allergens, etc. than a MERV 1 air filter.

You might think that a MERV 16 air filter is one you can get without question, but if your HVAC system is not capable of handling such an air filter, you will have some problems. Thicker air filters are great for trapping dust particles and allergens, but they also severely restrict airflow, so you need to make sure your HVAC system has a fan powerful enough to handle something like a MERV 16 filter. You can usually find this information in the user manual.

Only run the HVAC fan when you need to


Many people think that having an HVAC fan running smoothly to circulate air (regardless of whether the air conditioner is on) can cool their home even more, but this is actually not the case. Yes, it circulates the air in your home, but that’s about it — air circulation doesn’t necessarily mean cooler air.

Of course, circulating air in a space where the air becomes kind of stale can make the room feel less stuffy, but it won’t cool the room significantly. In addition, running the fan continuously can make your home more humid.

Also, running your system fan 24/7 is a great way to double your energy bill, especially if you have an old, inefficient HVAC system, so it’s best to just leave it on in «Auto» mode and only run it when when it is necessary. ,

Check your HVAC system


Did you think that only a professional would be able to test your HVAC system? While I’m sure there are a lot of things they could be looking for that you wouldn’t know about, there are a few more things you can check for yourself to make sure your heating and air conditioning are working at their limits. upper form.

To get started, go outside and look at your A/C condenser (it’s a big, loud box with a huge fan). If there are obstacles in the way, get rid of them, and I’m not just talking about garbage. Many homeowners like to hide their A/C condenser with bushes, grills, curtains, etc., but this is a machine that loves to be completely free of the wind blowing around, so let it be free.

Then, if it’s winter and you’re heating, look at the flame that the stove is producing. They should be solid blue flames that don’t flicker orange (a tiny flicker is fine). If they flicker orange frequently, this indicates a problem that needs to be checked by a professional.

There is also an air conditioner in the oven, which is probably located above the oven part of your HVAC system. You can remove the protective panel and inspect the evaporator coils and fins. If dirt builds up, you can usually vacuum it up and clean it yourself, but if ice freezes on the coils and fins, you have a problem that needs a professional.

Improve your attic insulation


The insulation of your home is one of the main features that keeps the interior cool in summer and warm in winter, so it makes sense that one of the best things you can do to keep your energy costs low is to improve your insulation. However, while you can’t just tear down the drywall and upgrade the insulation, you can easily get into the attic and upgrade the insulation there.

It’s possible that you don’t have enough attic insulation, especially if you have a blown look like loose cotton candy all over your attic floor. So hiring a professional to add more or do it yourself can go a long way in maintaining a comfortable living without spending a lot of money.

It’s also possible that the airflow in your attic isn’t optimal. Yes, in order for your home to stay cool (or warm) and have good airflow, the attic itself also needs good airflow so that hot air can exit the house in the summer and cold air can enter the attic during the winter to prevent the formation of ice dams and damage.

Your attic should have some sort of ventilation, and there should be both intake and exhaust vents. Air intakes are usually in the form of air vents or air vents, and exhaust vents are usually in the form of ribbed, frontal, or regular vents. Your house probably has some, so you can go there, but you need to make sure that any insulation doesn’t obstruct your air intakes or restrict airflow, as baffles don’t cause any problems.

New Windows or not?


There is no doubt that getting new windows for your home is a great way to cut down on energy costs, especially if your home is older and the original single pane windows are still standing. However, the cost may not be worth it, and there are cheaper ways to modify your home to cut down on energy bills.

New windows are very expensive. The previous owner of our home paid about $8,000 just for the bottom floor, while all the windows on the top floor are still original. Let’s say we decide to permanently replace the top windows, spending $4,000 (generally they are smaller and there are fewer of them). That’s $12,000 when all is said and done.

If you spend that money on new windows and save about $50 a month on energy bills (which is a huge savings), the windows will pay for themselves in 20 years. Who knows if you will still be living in the same house by then.

Instead of spending that kind of money, you could improve the weather by cleaning around doors and windows, and using plastic sheeting over windows in winter. However, if you know you’ll be living in your home in the distant future, then it certainly won’t hurt to get new windows, especially if you have the money, and they certainly won’t hurt your home’s resale value.

Images from zveiger/Bigstock, ToddonFlickr/Flickr

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