Heating and Cooling – Biggest Opportunity to Save

The fossil fuel industry loves inefficient heating and cooling systems.

To defeat them and to save yourself some money, make sure yours is as efficient as possible. Even an extremely well insulated home will run up a high bill if the system you are using isn’t efficient. If you use electricity for heating, learn the system’s HSPF (Heat Seasonal Performance Factor). Learn your cooling system’s SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). The higher the value for HSPF or SEER, the better.

An electric space heater or an electric furnace has an HSPF of 3.412. A high efficiency air source heat pump might have an HSPF of 9, meaning it uses 3.412/9 =38% of the energy to produce the same amount of heat over a season. Another way to look at what I just said is that an HSPF 9 heat pump saves 100% – 38% = 62% on energy costs versus electric space heating.

You can get even more savings with a ground source heat pump (geothermal) which will have a HSPF as high as 16, or 80% savings!

Newer systems need to meet more stringent requirements for energy efficiency.  If you need to buy a new system any time soon, consider the possibility of going ahead and trading up to the most energy efficient option available.

Now, if you have a relatively new air source heat pump, your’e probably not going to be replacing it any time soon. But there are some thing you can do to to actually increase the HSPF and save money. Remember, the HSPF is an average over the heating system. The main thing that reduces the HSPF and makes you pay is when your thermostat thinks that the heat pump can’t meet the home’s heating requirement and goes into auxiliary mode, which basically means that the back up energy source is turned on. In dual fuel systems the back up is natural gas or oil or propane, which tend to be relatively efficient. But in electric only systems, the back up is electric resistance or electric space heating, which as you recall has an HSPF of 3.412. That’s really bad!

So the key is to learn about your particular thermostat and heating system and make sure that it is tuned so that the comes on much less frequently. Here is a video that shows how you can tune one particular type of thermostat to save money.Watch for more on this in future blog posts!