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Tips to Tackle Your Home’s Water & Energy Waste

Getting the most out of your HVAC System

We all know that minimizing energy and water usage in our homes has a positive impact on our utility bills. We have learned to turn lights off when leaving a room, use energy-efficient appliances, and adjust our thermostats if we’re going to be away from home for the day. While these are helpful habits to keep, there is more that we can be doing to save money, while conserving our natural resources.

There are two areas of the home that are the primary culprits when it comes to water and energy waste; plumbing and HVAC systems. We’ve put together this article to outline some of the ways that homeowners can stay on top of maintenance and keep these parts of the home working efficiently.

Getting the most out of your HVAC System

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s consumer resource on saving energy and renewable energy technologies, Energy Saver, “An air conditioner’s filters, coils, and fins require regular maintenance for the unit to function effectively and efficiently throughout its years of service. Neglecting necessary maintenance ensures a steady decline in air conditioning performance while energy use steadily increases.”  So, you see, an HVAC system is not a “set it and forget it” type of appliance. Here are some ways that you can protect your wallet and keep your home comfortable all year:

  • Filters: This is one of the easiest things that you can do to keep your A/C and heating system working properly. Check your system’s filter at least once every two months. Certain types of filters are reusable and can be cleaned – others are disposable and can easily be replaced with new ones. Whichever you choose, it is important not to ignore this task, because dirty filters can obstruct the flow of air. This can increase energy consumption and harm the evaporator coil – leading to bigger problems down the line.
  • Coils: Your HVAC system’s evaporator coil and condenser coil are the key components that allow it to do its job. The evaporator coil literally absorbs heat – which cools the air blowing out of your vents in the summer. It can’t do this effectively if it is coated in dust, so it is recommended that it be cleaned at least once a year. The condenser is the square unit that we are all familiar with sitting outside of our homes. In our Florida climate, these metal coils are susceptible to rust, so it is even more important to pay attention to their condition. To allow adequate airflow, regularly rinse off this equipment, trim back hedges and keep items at least two feet away.
  • Fins: Both evaporator and condenser coils have thin, aluminum fins that can easily be damaged or compressed through normal wear and tear. If you notice that yours have been bent, they may be inhibiting air flow and should be straightened out. There is even a tool sold at most hardware stores called a “fin comb” that will easily fold them back into place.
  • Check Your SEER Rating: This stands for “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio,” which is a fancy term for just how efficient your A/C unit is – how much it can cool, and how much energy it requires to do so. While a higher SEER rating is typically more efficient, smaller homes may be able to get the same benefits with a lower rating. It is smart to research the model that is right for you, based on your square footage and home insulation. For perspective, common SEER ratings are between 13 and 20, with a rating of 18 being about 30% more energy efficient than the 13 rating.

While there are additional steps that should be taken to maintain your HVAC system, such as keeping drainage lines clear, these are the tasks that are specifically aimed at energy efficiency. According to Energy.gov, Air conditioners use about 5 percent of all the electricity produced in the United States, costing homeowners more than $11 billion annually. Taking steps to minimize your home’s energy use is a smart practice that can save you money. In doing so, you can also feel good about protecting the environment and our natural resources. When you conserve energy you also conserve water because these two vital resources are interconnected.

Along with these measures, it is recommended that homeowners enlist the help of a professional at least once per year to come out and do a tune-up of their equipment. A tradesman can check hard-to-reach areas of the system such as ductwork in the attic, and use special tools to check for leaks. It is also wise to check seals around your home’s windows and doors, to ensure that cooled or heated air is not escaping from your home, which obviously makes your system work harder.

Plumbing Pointers for Saving Water

Many times, homeowners don’t become aware of how water use effects their monthly utility bill until they have a major leak. When a pipe bursts, or a hose is left running, a monthly bill can increase considerably. However, it is important to stop and take inventory of your home’s water consumption periodically, even when there doesn’t seem to be a major problem. Small leaks, overuse, and aging of pipes or appliances can add up to a lot of wasted water over time. Correcting these issues will shave money off of monthly bills, and conserve valuable water resources. Here are some areas for plumbing improvements:

  • Low-flow is the way to go: Low-flow shower heads, washing machines, faucets, toilets, dishwashers and other energy-efficient appliances are a great way to start using less water immediately.Toilets account for a large part of home water use. A low-flow toilet can save 15,000 gallons of water annually which translates to a considerable amount of money.
  • Conduct an Audit: Have a plumber visit your home and look over your entire plumbing system – including within walls and underneath the floor – to find very tiny leaks that may have gone unnoticed for some time. This visit will pay for itself in the money you save on utility bills. Many problems can be fixed quickly; worn toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other leaking valves are relatively simple repairs.
  • Review your Sprinkler Settings: Check to see if your lawn sprinkler system is being used efficiently. Watering lawns during the hottest part of the day is wasteful, because of evaporation. Also check all of the lines and sprinkler heads to ensure there are no obvious signs of leakage.

According to the EPA, “the average household’s leaks can account for nearly 10,000 gallons of water wasted every year and ten percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day.” These problems cost homeowners a lot of money in the long run, and contribute to the depletion of our water reserves. Putting forth a little bit of effort to correct these problems can have a big impact on utility bills, as well as the wellbeing of our community.