Summer 2022 promises to be particularly challenging as it relates to America’s home energy costs due to a confluence of three events – rising temperatures, costs and demand – resulting in homeowners facing an intensified fight to keep bills at bay.
Scientific data consistently supports the fact that temperatures are climbing due to climate change. The National Weather Service predicts hotter-than-average conditions across most of the country this summer. Further, 2022 brought the earth’s fifth warmest April since global record-keeping began in 1880, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. A recent United Nations Report (2022), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, indicated that harmful carbon emissions from 2010-2019 have never been higher in history, and that it’s “now or never” if we want to limit global warming.
Second, homeowners are experiencing a “rate shock” as the global energy crisis drives up prices with energy costs up 25.6% year over year, according to the Consumer Price Index. Natural gas prices have been rising since mid-2020, and then surged even more after Russia invaded Ukraine in February which contributed to chaos in the market as Russia is a major gas and oil supplier.
Lastly, there is surging demand due to our post-pandemic “hybrid home” dynamic, i.e., workers working at least part-time from home. Studies support this trend with 83% of workers believing a hybrid model would be optimal going forward, according to an Accenture survey, and 87% of managers believing working from home is the future, according to Remote-How research.
All that being said, families and households can help offset this “utility bill trifecta” so to speak, and decrease their household carbon emissions by following a few simple tips. With home heating and cooling accounting for more than half of home energy use, small steps can go a long way.
- Think Conservation and Efficiency: These two, equally important, concepts are similar but involve different methods. Energy conservation is the practice of using less energy in order to lower costs and reduce environmental impact. Energy efficiency means using specific products designed to use less energy. Both are essential elements for an eco-conscious household.
- Ease Into Electric: According to Columbia University’s Earth Institute, electric systems are a solution to decarbonize home climate control. Among the most energy-efficient heating and cooling products, electricity-powered ductless mini-split systems, offered by companies including Fujitsu General America, can save as much as 25% on your energy bill for both heating and cooling. Mini-splits use an advanced refrigerant system to distribute tempered refrigerant to an indoor air-handler, where the air is quietly distributed to the interior space.
- Get “Smart” About Climate Control: When it comes to smart home temperature control, there are Smart HVAC Systems and Smart Thermostats. Smart HVAC systems have built-in internet capability and can be controlled directly without additional equipment. Smart Home thermostats create “smart” systems by enabling remote temperature control via a mobile or internet-connected device or voice-operated home automation system.
- Voice Your Preference: Take control of your comfort. Most HVAC manufacturers offer apps that enable systems to be controlled from anywhere using a mobile device. Voice-control capability uses digital assistants, like Amazon Alexa or Google Home, to verbally dictate home temperatures. Easily controlling the temperature more closely, allows homeowners to be more comfortable and improve energy savings.
- Find Your Efficient Comfort Zone: Many of us live in homes designed for bigger households, but have yet to downsize. If you find yourself using a fraction of your home on a regular basis, consider making some modifications for using less space. For instance, upgrading to a zoned ducted or ductless system will allow you to save energy heating and cooling spaces where you and your family don’t spend a lot of time. This will multiply savings as you’re not only needing less heating or cooling but you also gain from a more efficient system in the spaces you do still use.
- Turn it Up: For air conditioning, even a slight temperature increase can make a difference. You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply adjusting your thermostat a mere seven to ten degrees for eight hours a day from its normal setting. For example, keep your house warmer than normal when you are away, and set it as high as is comfortable when you are home.
- Work Your Windows: About 76% of sunlight that falls on standard double-pane windows enters to become heat, according to the U.S. Department of energy. Close all windows and coverings to keep your house cool. For natural light, open those window coverings that don’t get direct sunlight. Cellular shades can reduce unwanted solar heat through windows by up to 60%. When selecting new windows, consider factors including the frame materials, the glazing or glass features, gas fills and spacers, and the type of operation.
Small everyday changes can also have a big impact. Use heat-producing appliances – stoves, irons and dryers – at night or early morning. A ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4°F with no reduction in comfort. Seal air leaks around windows, doors, and places where pipes and wires come through walls. Check existing caulking and weather-stripping for gaps or cracks.
Global change is made one household at a time. This season, eco-conscious homeowners can take meaningful action to make curbing their energy bill and carbon footprint more than just a summer dream.
Dennis Stinson is the Vice President of Sales for Fujitsu General America. Dennis leads a team of sales professionals and brings over 30 years of industry experience.