The Energy Source

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Earth Day DIY Project: Maintain a Clean and Efficient HVAC System

How better to celebrate Earth Day than saving energy in your home? Join us as we count down to Earth Day—each week we will bring you a new Do-It-Yourself (DIY) home project that you can complete in time for Earth Day. In each post, our EPA experts will walk you through step-by-step instructions for making your home more energy efficient. Whether you’re new to being green, or you’re an energy-saving savant, we’ve got the projects for you. Now, let’s get started!

Man changing air filter, outdoor HVAC condenser, and professional contractor.

Maintain a Clean and Efficient HVAC System

Now that you have a better idea of the energy use in your home, let’s start saving energy! (If you haven’t been following along, check out last week’s Home Energy Assessment post to get started).

Did you know, as much as half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling? Maintaining and making smart improvements to your home's heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can have a big effect on your utility bills—and your comfort.

Step 1: Clean or change your home's air filter. Cleaning: If your air filter is dirty, clean it either by vacuuming it or rinsing it with warm, soapy water. Replacement: We recommend changing your air filter at least every three months. You can purchase a new air filter at your local home improvement store. Check your owner’s manual, measure your current filter, or take your old filter to the store with you to make sure you purchase the right size. Installment: Install your new filter correctly by aligning the air flow arrow to point toward the furnace. It’s also helpful to use tape to cover the filter slot once the new filter is installed. Also, make sure your registers are not restricted by furniture or rugs.

Step 2: Central air conditioners and heat pumps have an outdoor condenser. Clean the area around the condenser to be sure leaves, grass, and debris are not restricting air flow.

Step 3: Optimize your programmable thermostat to ensure your cooling and heating system keeps you comfortable when you are home and saves energy while you are away. Try our interactive tool to learn how!

Step 4: Call in the help of a professional to tune up and maximize the performance of your HVAC equipment by finding a contractor in your area. Contractors get busy once summer comes, so it's best to check your cooling system in the spring. Most contractors have service agreements; ask for details.

Step 5: If your HVAC system is more than 10 years old, it might be time to look for a replacement. If so, consider purchasing an ENERGY STAR certified HVAC system. Depending on where you live, replacing your old HVAC equipment with equipment that has earned the ENERGY STAR can cut your annual energy bill by more than $100.

Take it a Step Further

Save Even More: For the experienced home energy savers, here are some additional steps you can take to tune up your HVAC equipment:

  • “Walk your ducts.”  Follow and inspect your duct system – look for ducts that may not be properly sealed or even connected, poorly insulated, or flex ducts that are not pulled straight.
  • Clean blower fan blades.  Fan blades will accumulate dirt – cleaning them will increase air flow and reduce electrical load on the motor.
  • Check and inspect the condensate drain in your central air conditioner, furnace, and/or heat pump (when in cooling mode). If plugged, the drain can cause water damage in the house, affect indoor humidity levels, and breed bacteria and mold.
  • For additional information, visit our Guide to Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling (PDF) and the ENERGY STAR Verified HVAC Installation  page.

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