Energy Consumption & Conservation: Heating & Cooling

This post is part of a series on energy consumption and conservation.  For other posts in this series please click here.

Home Heating

Living in southwestern Pennsylvania, we are subject to large temperature swings from season to season. Extreme cold during winter months and extreme warmth in the summer months requires us to use different forms of home heating/cooling to adjust to these varying conditions.

For the cold season, there are several easy steps we can take to drastically reduce the need for electricity, natural gas, and coal to heat our homes:

  • Consider purchasing heavy curtains for windows to trap heat inside.
  • Although unsightly, plastic sheeting can be extremely effective at trapping warm air inside and keeping cold air from drafty windows out.
  • Examine openings around doors, and consider installing weather stripping and draft blockers to close gaps that exist between doors and frames.
  • Install a programmable thermostat and keep the heat set around 68 degrees while at home, and lower to 65 or below when away from home. If your home includes the young or elderly, considering raising the temperatures.
  • Close all outer wall openings such as heat releases attached to dryers.
  • Keep carpeting and furniture away from heat registers to allow free-flowing warm air.
  • Instead of turning up your thermostat, consider using more energy-efficient space heaters to warm smaller areas.
  • Make sure your furnace sees regular maintenance, including cleaning/changing of your furnace filter.
  • Consider installing newer, more efficient windows. If this is too costly, use caulking or weather-stripping to reduce leaks.

Home Cooling

While it’s easy to rely on air-conditioning to stay cool in the summer, we often overlook the amount of electricity it takes to cool our homes; that is until the electric bill arrives! As with home heating in the winter, a majority of the energy needed to keep homes cool is produced by fossil fuels.

In the warm-weather months, there are steps we can all take to reduce our energy usage, and keep ourselves cool at the same time:

  • Check for drafts around doors and windows. Similar to what we want to do in winter, in summer we want to keep the cold air in, and the warmer air out.
  • Keep curtains closed during the day to keep sunlight, and the warmth that comes with it, from entering your home.
  • Keep doors to un-used rooms closed to cut down on the area that needs to be cooled.
  • Use alternate cooking methods such as crock pots, or outdoor grills.
  • Install ceiling fans, and make sure that the blades are circulating in the correct direction (counter-clockwise during the summer months).