Go Green & Breathe Easy: 9 Ways to Improve Energy Efficiency and IAQ

August 29, 2015
Ross and Witmer

Maintaining the temperature and air quality inside your home is a difficult balance in Charlotte, NC. Between the cold months and the hot, you put your HVAC system through a lot. But you also care about saving on energy costs and conserving energy, and you know you can make improvements to your HVAC system that will reduce your carbon footprint.

Sometimes it may seem like energy-efficient systems limit the ventilation in your home, or seal everything too tightly to allow for good indoor air quality – and you don’t want to circulate sick air through your house, either. In actuality, energy efficiency and indoor air quality improvement go hand in hand if you take the right measures. Keep reading to find out steps you can take to tackle both at once.

Replace Air Filters

The filters in your HVAC system need to be changed somewhere between once every few months and once a month for maximum efficiency and good indoor air quality. Your HVAC system will run more smoothly with clean filters because it’s not forcing air through filters that are already full of debris. To really improve what you’re breathing in, get an HEPA air filter. These filters are made specifically to filter out allergens and other particulates. Keep in mind that it does take more energy to push air through an HEPA filter, so if you’re not an allergy sufferer, using normal filters will save a bit more on energy and will still help your air quality.

You can change the filter in your HVAC system by turning the entire thing off, locating the blower, and sliding the new filter into the machine after removing the old one. There will be arrows instructing you which way it goes, and you can get the right filter online or at your hardware store.

Monitor Temperature

Changing the temperature in your home is a key way to save energy. Every degree you alter your thermostat above 72 degrees in summer has the potential to save you between one and three percent in energy costs. 78 degrees might seem like a high thermostat setting during a humid North Carolina summer, but if you want to keep your home green and your carbon footprint low, changing your thermostat is a good way to do it.

Control Humidity

Another reason to monitor the temperature in your house is for humidity control. Keeping your thermostat at 78 degrees in summer and 68 degrees in winter helps control the humidity in your home. If your humidity consistently rises higher than 70 percent, there’s a good chance mold will start growing. Keeping humidity between 30 and 60 percent is ideal for preventing mold growth and allowing your HVAC system to run well. The higher your humidity, the more you’ll have to crank up the AC to feel comfortable in your home, which uses up more energy.

If mold does start to grow, breathing it in is harmful to your health, and significant infestations can damage your house. Plus, mold collecting in your HVAC system leads to the circulation of lower air quality, not to mention a clogged system with reduced efficiency.

Use the Windows

It might seem counter-intuitive to open a window when you’re concerned with keeping the air inside your house clean, but proper ventilation is one of the main components of good IAQ. Opening a window circulates the air inside your house, exchanging stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air. Good HVAC filters and an air purification system will take care of any debris that might float in through your open window, though you don’t want to open the windows when there’s a lot of smoggy traffic nearby or during allergy season.

Opening the windows is also a great way to let in a breeze in the summer months. If you do it early in the morning before the day has heated up, you’ll lessen the pressure on your HVAC system to keep the air in the house cool.

Get an IAQ Inspection

You can do many things on your own to assess and improve the indoor air quality in your home. An inspection from the professionals, however, is an essential step to take if you truly want to breathe clean air at home. Professional technicians are trained to assess IAQ, and they have equipment to find sources of pollution you may not ever have found on your own.

The people doing your inspection are also well-versed in the equipment available to address your specific needs. Since you also want to save energy, ask them which systems are environmentally friendly and save the most energy. They’ll be able to tell you whether or not your current systems will do just fine with improvements, or if you want to look into new equipment altogether.

In North Carolina, you should get your IAQ inspection in fall before the weather starts to turn cold. In winter, you’re less likely to open any doors or windows for extended lengths of time, and the air in your home doesn’t circulate as much as during other times of the year. Doing the inspection before winter ensures that, even if you keep your house shut up during the cold, you’ll still be breathing good air.

Seal and Insulate

Old houses often have gaps in the windows, under the doors, and in attics or crawl spaces. Even new homes may have small leaks that allow air-conditioned air out. Allergens like dust and pollen may also find their way into your house without you knowing it via these small cracks in your home. You can try to find them yourself, or you can hire professionals to inspect your home and repair the leaks. Once your home is sealed and insulated correctly, you won’t lose air-conditioned air, and you’ll save energy.

Replace Old Equipment

It can be expensive to upgrade your HVAC system, which causes many people to hang onto old systems instead of installing new ones. However, old systems lose a little bit of efficiency every year, even if you keep them properly maintained. So if your HVAC system is over 10 years old, you should consider replacing it with a newer model. You can save an average of 20 percent on energy costs if you get an energy-efficient model.

A programmable thermostat will also help you keep a green home. If you’re gone for significant parts of the day, you can program your thermostat so your system won’t waste energy heating or cooling an empty house.

Get An Energy Recovery Ventilator

When you look into replacing old equipment, it’s also a good time to consider adding to your ventilation and air purification. Adding an energy recovery ventilation (ERV) system will help dehumidify in summer and humidify in winter, and it’ll also save energy by taking some of the pressure off your HVAC system. The best part is it also improves your indoor air quality. Investing in an ERV is a great way to kill two birds with one stone.

Install A UV Lamp

Mold, bacteria, and other pathogens can build up in the coil of your HVAC system. To keep these from floating through your ducts and into your house, install a UV lamp to shine on the coil. UV lamps use light waves to sterilize the coil so harmful pathogens can’t build up within. Keeping the coil clean also improves your HVAC’s overall function. You want a UV lamp that doesn’t produce hydroxyl ions or ozone; while those molecules destroy pathogens, they aren’t something you want to breathe in, either.

Improving indoor air quality doesn’t have to be at odds with conserving energy. By following the right steps, you’ll improve IAQ and reduce the amount of energy you use cooling and heating your home. Call (704) 392-6188 to let the professionals at Ross and Witmer help you with inspections, equipment maintenance, and new equipment installation. Hiring an experienced technician is the best way to ensure you’re meeting your energy-saving and air quality goals.

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