We are continuing our series on making your home more efficient and comfortable and are now moving to the mechanical room.
The mechanical room is just a fancy term for where your items like the furnace and water heater are located. These items can make a large impact on the efficiency of the home. Here are a few ways to improve:
- Heating (furnace)/Air Conditioner Unit: Sure it would be great if everyone went out and replaced their unit with a high-efficiency one. We know that is not a practical solution but there are ways to increase the efficiency of your current one:
- Have your unit serviced by a professional. They will be able to make sure it is operating at optimal efficiency as well as prolong the life.
- Change Air Filters regularly. This will be dependent on how often the unit is running but a good rule of thumb is to change them at least every 3 months. An easy way to remember is to change them every season.
- Check the thermostat. While this is technically not located in the mechanical room, we are including it here because it controls the items in this room. Installing a programmable thermostat or a smart thermostat can really impact your heating and cooling costs. These thermostats will adjust to your living, keeping the home comfortable while you are there and then adjusting the temperature and energy usage when you are away.
- If it is time to replace your unit, make sure you talk to your installer about the efficiency of what they want to replace it with. You might need to spend a little more up front, but considering how much your HVAC system is used, that extra money spent for a more efficient unit will more than pay itself off in the long run.
- Water Heater: As with the furnace, it would be great if everyone replaced their water heater with a high-efficiency one but again that might not be practical. Here are some things you can do:
- Set the temperature to 120 degrees or lower. This way the heater is not overheating the water – wasting energy.
- Many new water heaters have significant insulation built into the unit. If you have an older one, consider wrapping the unit with an approved insulating product (usually available at your local home improvement center).
- Turn the temperature down when you are away. If you are going on vacation, turn the heater to the lowest setting. Just remember to turn it back up once you return.
- Insulate hot water pipes. This will reduce the amount of time and water you need to run before you get hot water.
- If it is time to replace your unit, make sure you talk to your installer about the efficiency of what they want to replace it with. Like the furnace, you might need to spend a little more up front, but considering how much your water heater is used, that extra money spent for a more efficient unit will more than pay itself off in the long run.
- HVAC Joke – Don’t call it a Hot Water Heater, just refer to it as a water heater. If you do call it a “Hot Water Heater”, you will get the reply – “If it is already hot water, why do you need a heater?”
- Fresh Air: Newer homes are being built to a much higher insulation level – this is a good thing. You might hear it called a “Tight” house. Basically, it means that drafts are eliminated. While this is very good for the heating and cooling of the home, it presents a problem for bringing fresh air into the home. In tight homes, a source of fresh air is needed. Many builders are bringing that fresh air in through the mechanical room. Some units utilize the HVAC system, some work independently (such as the Air King FAS and QFAM units). Things to look for in fresh air or make-up air systems include:
- What is the efficiency? These units run continuously or for large parts of the day, so you want to make sure the energy being used is minimum.
- How does the unit bring the air into the home? Does it need the HVAC to be running? This can be a big one. Even with higher efficiency HVAC units, the fan used to push the air through the home can be very inefficient so if the unit bringing the fresh air in needs to kick this on to operate, it can reduce the overall efficiency.
- What type of controls are in place? Does the unit have systems in place that limit the temperature of the air coming in (too cold or too hot)? The Air King QFAM has a controller that can be set for temperature and humidity levels.
To learn more about ways to make your home more efficient, saving money and energy, visit the climate change section of this site or www.energystar.gov (Many of the facts and figures throughout this series have been taken from the ENERGY STAR website.)