Energy Use in the Home, Part 1: Heating and Cooling
Welcome to the fifth installment of Sterling Ranch's crash course on energy! In this email, we'll be discussing where energy is used in homes and how you can maximize your energy action by centering it around your space heating, water heating, and space cooling habits.
Residential Energy Use
According to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the residential sector is responsible for 21% of total U.S. energy consumption.1 With this being the case, the choices that residential energy users make in their homes have a real and sizable impact on our larger energy landscape and will play an essential role in meeting our national energy goals.

As of the Energy Information Administration's (EIA) most recent 2015 data set, the figure to the right2 is what that energy use looks like in your daily life. Notice that space heating, space cooling, and water heating make up over half of a home's energy use by themselves. As heating and cooling systems are such large consumers of energy, the efficient design, use, and maintenance of these systems plays a role of great importance in substantially reducing energy use in home. These systems are a great first place to look for homeowners looking to maximize their energy savings through improvements.

Setting Your Thermostat to See Big Energy Savings

One of the most impactful energy actions that you can take is adjusting the temperature that you maintain in your home with the seasons. The amount of energy that your heating and cooling systems use is determined by the difference between the outdoor temperature and the indoor temperature of your home. When the difference is greater, your systems have to work harder and expend more energy to maintain your desired temperature.
According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), households can save as much as 5-15% a year on heating and cooling bills just by turning their thermostat back 10⁰ to 15⁰ for 8 hours a day. If your home is ever routinely empty, using your smart thermostat to program a scheduled temperature setback is an easy way to save big!

DOE Advice on Setting Your Thermostat
The DOE recommends a strategy of keeping homes at 68oF in the winter while residents are awake at home and then further reducing the temperature when residents are asleep or away from home.3 In the summer, a similar approach (with bumping temperatures 5⁰ to 10⁰ up instead of down) can be used to maximize energy savings.

Tips for Efficient Space Heating and Cooling
Make sure that your system is reading the correct environmental conditions in your home.
Thermostats read the ambient temperature in your home through sensors either attached directly to the device or located nearby. Because of this, the placement of your thermostat (or sensors, if separate) is important to ensure that your device isn't operating off of skewed readings. Make sure that your device isn't exposed to direct sunlight, that there are no electronics close to your device that could heat it up, and that your device isn't located in a room that's especially hot or cold.
Maintain your AC system to keep it operating at maximum efficiency.
Dirty AC filters can make your system work harder than usual by restricting air flow. Depending on the type of air filter that you like to use in your home, it's generally recommended that you change your air filters every 30-90 days.4
Use humidifiers and fans to gain extra comfort with minimal energy.
Using ceiling fans to increase the movement of air in your home is a great way make your environment comfortable while expending relatively little energy. While fans don't actually lower the temperature of rooms themselves (and should be turned off when you leave a room), the moving air they produce aids convective heat transfer along your skin in a way that cools your body down a few degrees when it's hot outside.5

The humidity present inside your home also impacts the way you experience your home's internal temperature. During warmer months, excess humidity can make your home feel hotter than it is. In the summer, avoid moisture-producing activities during the day like mopping and washing the dishes or use a dehumidifier to control humidity without having to turn up your cooling system.
Don't close too many vents throughout your home.
While it may sound like closing vents in unused rooms is a good way to direct cooled or heated air to rooms where you do want it, closing too many vents can throw off the balance of your systems. Instead, opt for closing the blinds and doors in unused rooms to keep them insulated.
Water Heating and Energy Use
According to the EIA data set referenced in the introduction to this email, water heating constitutes 13.1% of residential energy use. While Sterling Ranch homes are built to the Energy Star guidelines that ensure each home has a highly energy efficient water heater, there are still some things that you can do to make sure that you're using your system efficiently as well. The video to the left has some quick tips for easy changes that you can make to conserve energy!
Keep in mind that it's also generally recommended for water heaters to be replaced every 6-12 years. While your home's water heater may be much younger than that now, the below Department of Energy infographic is a great resource to reference to learn more about different kinds of water heaters when the time comes for a change.
Tips for Energy Action
  • Think about whether there are any times that your home is routinely empty, and consider using your smart thermostat to schedule a temperature setback for those times. Besides having energy-efficient appliances, this is one of the single biggest energy-saving actions that you can take!
  • Humans sleep better in colder temperatures. Doctors generally recommend sleeping between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit, so setting a nightly temperature setback during the winter can save you money and energy while also improving your sleep quality!7
  • Read the above tips for using your heating and cooling systems efficiently and perform a review of how your air conditioning system is set up in your home.
  • Schedule reminders to help you remember to regularly replace your AC filters according to your preferred product's guidance, both for energy efficiency and to ensure high air quality in your home.
  • Check out the host of rebates that Xcel Energy provides for heating and cooling systems for your home!