Spring greening: Adding energy efficiency for the AC season

We’ve reached it—the most highly anticipated spring in memory. Let’s just take a moment to thank our lucky stars that the grass is green, the trees budding, and the temps way above freezing.

Good stuff, right? Now get to work. (Not right this second, of course. You’ve earned a few more swings in the hammock.)

Spring is the perfect time to address a few energy-efficiency points around the house. Not only because the change in weather means a switch from heating to cooling but because the temperatures are more comfortable for working outside.

Our first bit of advice is to go ahead and turn on your air conditioner. We know—you don’t actually need it yet and are likely enjoying the spring breezes wafting through your home. But if your air conditioner condenser unit developed an issue while it endured that long, cold winter, you’re in much better stead if you find out about it now. Go ahead and turn it on, run around the house feeling for cool air coming out of the vents, and take action if you need to.

“You just want to make sure your air conditioner is going to function properly when you really do need it,” said Jeremy Montgomery, Energy Services Specialist at Parke County REMC. “Every air conditioner develops problems eventually, and many of those units are 20 years old or more. When it hits 85 degrees, everyone and their brother’s turning on the AC, and contractors get behind because everyone waited.”

Find a problem now, during the slow period for HVAC contractors, and you’re much more likely to get quick attention, and to have your unit functioning well when high temperatures settle in.

You might also want to take advantage of the “clean and tune” specials that many HVAC contractors offer during this period. These specials generally include an inspection and a cleaning of the indoor and outdoor elements of your system.

“These inspections are especially beneficial for older units and in a rural setting where a lot of leaves and debris blow into the unit,” Montgomery said. “A damaged or debris-clogged unit is much less efficient.”

We’re sure you’re well-acquainted with how your furnace is working at this point, and the cool air you’ll soon crave moves through those same ducts, so if you’ve noticed hot and cool spots within your house, take advantage of a home energy assessment. Your local co-op can help you find the problems in your home that are keeping it from its greatest efficiency, including issues with ducts that lead to inconsistent temperatures.

“It’s pretty common for us to find ductwork that’s not attached, and the heated or cooled air is just leaking out into your crawlspace or attic,” Montgomery said. “That can go on for years, using all that energy, before the homeowner becomes aware of it.”

A home energy assessment can also alert you to places where your home needs to be better sealed. Montgomery recommends you talk to a contractor for sealing projects, which homeowners can actually overdo, to their own detriment.

Finally, a simple switch: If you use ceiling fans, make sure they’re running counterclockwise to get the cooling effect you’re going to want.

“But run them only when you’re in the room,” Mongtomery advised. “In the winter, running them more often can reduce your heating bills, but their big benefit in the warmer months comes from creating a breeze. That feels great when you’re in the room—keeps you cool—but doesn’t accomplish anything when you aren’t.”