Seven mistakes that drive home energy bills through the roof

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Here are some tips to avoid appliance and heating and cooling equipment care mistakes that waste energy and money.

1. Not fixing appliances right away.

Failing appliance parts can cause other components to run nearly constantly, wasting energy and leading to more expensive repairs. Pay close attention to changes in appliance performance. Troubleshoot and repair at the first warning signs to save energy and prevent problems.

2. Leaving dirty filters in furnaces and air handlers.

Furnace and air handler air filters should be changed at every three to six months. Air flow restriction will cause the unit to run longer to keep up and may also lead to problems such as a furnace overheating and air conditioner coils freezing. It also negatively impacts home air quality. Those who suffer from allergies may need to replace the filters more frequently.

3. Forcing the central air condensing unit to work in bad conditions.

The condensing unit’s aluminum fins surrounding the condenser coils tend to collect leaves, grass clippings and other yard debris. It’s important to regularly remove debris to maintain good airflow over the coils, which dissipate the heat.

A refrigerator condenser coil-cleaning brush makes this a simple job. The aluminum fins are delicate so it is important to be gentle when cleaning the condensing unit.

4. Lint buildup in dryer venting.

When air flow is restricted, dryers must work longer to dry loads. Lint buildup and heat is also an extreme fire risk, causing tens of thousands of fires across the U.S. and Canada every year. Use a long, dryer vent cleaning brush to clear the venting system from the inside of the dryer to the outside, at least once per year.

Lint trap filter cleaning should happen after every load. Every few months, the filter should be cleaned with warm water and vinegar to clear clogged filter holes.

5. Using ceiling fans, portable air conditioners and space heaters in unoccupied rooms.

Ceiling fans do a great job moving air to make a room feel cooler to its occupants. However, they’re energy wasters if no one is actually in the room to enjoy them. Portable fans and space heaters should only be used in occupied rooms for spot cooling and heating. Be mindful that space heaters are compact in size and known to tip over if bumped, causing a fire risk. Only use space heaters when they can be monitored. Avoid using space heaters in homes with pets and children.

6. Poorly insulating and leaving holes in the exterior.

Having a properly-insulated home can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs, reduce likelihood of premature wear of key components, extend the life of the building and improve air quality.

Unfinished attics should be layered with insulation sufficient for particular regions as recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy. Use caulking to seal exterior holes and apply weather-stripping around windows to reduce warm or cool air loss.

7. Powering energy hogs.

Audit your appliances, electronics and heating and cooling equipment using a plug-in energy meter to find inefficiencies and determine what should be unplugged, repaired or replaced.

Source:, which provides free troubleshooting and how-to resources on its website.

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