Friday, 26 April 2013

Innovative ways to slash your electricity bills

Electric bills have sky-rocketed, especially in the past couple of years. Just like the prices of other commodities, energy bills also seem to be on an upward trend. This means that electricity bills are likely to increase in the future.

Electric bills on the rise

To combat the rise in the energy charges, there are few things that we need to keep in mind. First of all, we need to be aware of our electricity consumption. The amount of energy we use or rather, are used to consuming, is an important factor that often goes unnoticed. Keeping a track of this will help us make a conscious effort towards attempting to control the usage and eventually, reduce it.

Secondly, we need to make energy restrictions or form go-green goals and remember them too. Controlling electric usage leads to efforts in reducing electricity bills, and reduction in energy bills leads to cost saving, and of course a smaller hole in the pocket!

Home appliances love electricity

Among all home appliances, it is the HVAC systems that consume the most amount of electricity. Air conditioners, water heaters, refrigerators, and dryers are some appliances that consume the most electricity. Being aware of the amount of consumption and consciously reducing them will help in a great deal of savings. 

Some useful tips to help reduce energy consumption of these appliances are elucidated below. 

Maintain the temperature: Air conditioners consume tremendous amounts of electricity. All we need to do is manage the temperatures right in summer and winter. Try setting the temperature around 78°F in summer and set temperature down during the winter. Remember, every degree counts! This habit can help in reducing up to 3% of our energy costs. Use devices with latest technology: An electronic, programmable thermostat is the need of every air conditioner. We need to seriously consider purchasing a programmable electronic thermostat for our HVAC systems if we do not already have one. The device is based on the latest technology and allows us to set it in such a way that the temperature will automatically adjust according to the timings set. For e.g. a programmable thermostat can be used to allow our indoor temperature to rise when nobody is at home and commence cooling at the time set, usually before the arrival of the family members. The programmable thermostat can also reduce energy consumption when we are sleeping. 

Periodic maintenance of air conditioners: We have never given a thought to how much we could save with a little awareness and restraint. Regular air conditioner servicing can help us save $65 annually. Employ a professional HVAC contractor to periodically check your HVAC systems as well as other electrical appliances. Periodic maintenance keeps the systems healthy and healthy systems consume lesser electricity that those that are not periodically maintained. 

Replace old air conditioners: If the air conditioner is over 12 years old, we need to replace it with a new one. Latest models from ENERGY STAR have high seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER), a unit used to measure the efficiency of the air conditioner. The higher the SEER, the more efficient will be the system. We need to choose air conditioner with SEER rating of 13 or 14. 

Position the air-conditioner: It is essential that our air conditioners are protected from sunlight. If the air conditioner is positioned in a place that receives direct sunlight, we need to block the direct sunlight without impeding the airflow or enclosing the system. We could plant tall trees or shrubs, or consider placing an awning to protect it from sunlight. Protecting the air conditioning unit from direct sunlight can save up to 10% electricity. 

Intelligent shopping: The next time we go shopping for electric appliances; let us look for those with the Energy Star label. These come with the assurance that they have been tested against certain energy-efficiency guidelines. Energy Star claims that their appliances can reduce our annual energy bills by 30%. Now this is too good a deal to miss!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Choosing the right thermostat-A simple guide

A thermostat is a switch that is temperature-sensitive and responsible for turning your heating and cooling systems on and off. The switch recognizes the preset limit fixed and turns the air conditioner off when the indoor temperature reaches that limit. When the temperature starts rising after some time, the switch turns the air conditioner on again. This program works vice versa for heaters.

A thermostat conducts a range of operations. These could be simple manual operations or technology-based programmable units. There are different types of functionalities to offer users with enhanced and efficient operation.

Choosing a thermostat

The selection of a thermostat is easy. The recent technology has paved the way for units that are of universal compatibility. They feature product information on the package, which makes thermostats easy to understand and install. However, there are some basic rules that you need to be aware of while choosing a thermostat.

Different types of Thermostats

Based on your need and comfort requirements, you can choose a thermostat from the various options available today. But first you need to have fairly good knowledge about the different types of thermostats.

To start off with, there are 2 basic types of thermostats - Manual Thermostats and Programmable Thermostats

Both manual thermostats and programmable thermostats control the air conditioning. They also work on different types of furnaces that may be of gas, oil or electric. Manual thermostats are ones that are usually found in old houses and mansions. They are typically economical units with controls that are simple and easy to operate by different people. They work efficiently, but you need to diligently set the temperature controls often. Their settings need to be changed as the temperature changes. In addition, they provide limited comfort and energy savings.

Programmable thermostats work automatically with minimum human intervention. They adjust the room temperature throughout the day without the need to set and reset the settings. They can save as much as 33% of your energy costs in heating operations and 15 to 25% energy costs in cooling operations. There are advanced models that have the ability to alternate between air conditioning and heating, especially during seasonal transitions. They feature a simple interface that is easy to operate. Some mercury-free models are also available.

Compatibility with your heating systems and air conditioners

Your thermostat needs to be compatible with your home comfort systems. You can refer to the information printed on the packaging labels to choose a thermostat that is compatible with your HVAC system. Below are a few terms with which you should be familiar to determine capability with your HVAC system.
  • There are thermostats with 1, 2, and multi-stage heating or cooling capabilities.
  • There are switches that work with direct line voltage and ones that works with 24mV. The latter is usually used with a fireplace, wall or floor furnace.
  • Finally, there are thermostats that are made for zoned HVAC devices. These systems feature individually controls for heating and cooling from the same HVAC system.
Thermostats to suit your lifestyle

Programmable thermostats are most suited for the modern lifestyles. They can provide you with the required levels of comfort. All you need to do is set different temperatures for the various parts of the day. Their energy-saving temperature feature helps you save energy even when you are away or sleeping.

You need to select a thermostat that allows changes in settings often. While there are thermostats with preset schedules that are based on common household energy requirements, there are also thermostats that are pre-programmed and need no further setting adjustments. All that is required is plain installation.

It is important that you keep in mind the flexibility you need for your day to day comfort requirements. You could choose from any of these options:
  • 7-day programming
  • 5-2 programming
  • 5-1-1 programming
  • Week-long programming
Programmable thermostats also come with a variety of controls that also allow for changing the preset program schedule when required. These have a number of features, including touch screen controls, backlit display panels and remote programming and control.