Changing your habits can save money on energy bills*

*Your mileage may vary.

A recent study by researchers at the Australian National University showed that behavior has the potential to save 10%-25% on residential energy costs. Saving 10%-25% on energy costs sounds good, especially since the average Massachusetts household spends more than $2,500 on energy costs each year. That means optimizing your energy consumption could reduce your energy bills by $250-$625 per year.

Now, for the bad news. Another equally relevant Israeli study showed that providing people with a lot of personalized energy consumption data had no positive effect on their behavior.

At all.

In fact, study participants who had been given very detailed information about their energy consumption actually used more energy than those who just received general tips on how to reduce their utility bills. Those with the most information about their specific energy habits could have easily spotted costly consumption behaviors. Yet, the exact opposite outcome occurred, even after adjusting for external factors like weather changes and weather extremes.

It’s easy to focus on the “save money on energy bills” part of the headline here (especially when $625 is at stake), but it is harder to succeed at the “changing your habits” stuff. So, if knowledge can’t help you when it comes to changing your energy consumption patterns, is there a strategy that can work?

How to lower your energy bills

“Automating” energy-saving habits is one way to change your actual energy consumption. That would include using a programmable thermostat- which won’t forget to turn the heat or A/C down. Motion-sensing light switches and timers also ensure that the lights get turned off when they’re not in use. Today, lighting won’t account for much of your home’s electric bill, as long as you have switched to LED bulbs. (If you haven’t, switch!)

Another major behavior change involves your buying habits. When you have to replace an appliance, look for EnergyStar-compliant models. Likewise, using WaterSense-compliant faucets, showerheads and appliances can reduce your water consumption significantly. These appliances and fixtures will cost more up-front, but they will quickly repay you in the form of lowered operating costs. You may also need to reconsider replacing appliances that still work well, but consume a lot of energy. This situation can happen easily with freezers and refrigerators. By replacing energy-hogging major appliances even though they may still work, you can reduce your utility bill significantly.

Take the time to seal the drafts and gaps in your home’s “thermal envelope.” Improperly insulated and sealed gaps can leak a lot of air into (and out of) your home. Closing these gaps will reduce your winter heating bill and your summer cooling bill.

Consider using fans to cool your home at night. Typically, the temperature drops after the sun sets. Bringing naturally cooled air into your home with fans can reduce the temperature and save money. But there’s a big caveat here. The humidity is a major factor. If the humidity is high, you’re better off leaving cool-but-wet air outside. You’ll ultimately spend less to cool the drier air that’s already in your home.

Your heating and cooling equipment consume most of your energy

Finally, take the time to understand how much your heating and cooling systems actually cost to operate. It’s very tempting to let an older, less efficient system run. A new, high efficiency replacement could pay for itself in just a few years through sharply reduced operating costs. A newer, high-efficiency system can help you lock in savings, while your older less efficient model locks in your expenses.

If you’d like more information about reducing your heating and cooling costs, give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to show you how you can take advantage of rebates and tax incentives to lower your energy consumption affordably.

Photo Credit: Nan Palmero, via Flickr

MassSave Heating and Cooling Rebates Available for 2019

MassSave is offering new rebates and incentives on residential heating and cooling products and installation. Now is a good time to consider upgrading, replacing or converting your heating and cooling equipment.

New heat pumps, furnaces or boilers can save money on your heating and cooling bills year-round. If your home heating and cooling equipment was installed before 1992, your savings could be even larger. The new rebate programs also allow you to save on conversions from one fuel type to another.

Just a note about the acronyms and abbreviations you’ll find below:
AFUE: Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency
EER: Energy Efficiency Ratio
HSPF: Heating Season Performance Factor
SEER: Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio

Here is a look at some of the new rebate programs.

Air conditioning

The available air conditioning rebates are based on the size and the efficiency of the air conditioner. If you have an old ducted air conditioning system or you want to install a new one, you can claim a rebate of $50 per ton rebate. This assumes that your new air conditioning system has a SEER ≥ 16 and an EER ≥ 13.

Air Source Heat Pump Rebates

You can claim a rebate of $350 per ton on air source heat pumps that have a SEER ≥ 15 and a HSPF ≥ 9.

If you would like to use an oil or propane system in combination with an air source heat pump, you can also claim a rebate of $1,000 per ton on an air source heat pump with a SEER ≥ 15 and an HSPF ≥ 9 if the replacement system also features integrated controls. Integrated controls manage the selection of either the oil/propane system or the air source heat pump, depending on the outside temperature. You could instead claim a rebate of $1,600 per ton if the selected air source heat pump meets the Cold-Climate Air-Source Heat Pump Specification V3.0 and features integrated controls.

You can claim a credit of $150/ton on a ductless air source heat pump, provided the selected system meets the Cold-Climate Air-Source Heat Pump Specification V3.0.

If you already use an air source heat pump and an oil/propane system in combination, you can claim a rebate of between $500-$1,500 if you add qualified integrated controls to your system. You can claim one $500 rebate for each zone, up to a maximum of $1,500.

Natural Gas Furnace and Boiler Rebates

If you want to install or replace a warm-air furnace, you can claim a rebate of between $950 and $1,250, depending upon the efficiency of the new system. To qualify for this rebate, the replacement furnace must be at least 95% efficient and must be equipped with an Electronic Commutated Motor (ECM) or an advanced furnace fan system.

If you want to replace a forced hot water boiler, you can claim a rebate of $2,000 on boilers with an AFUE ≥90% and outdoor reset controls. On new boilers with a AFUE ≥95%, the rebate climbs to $2,750, provided the new unit also has an outdoor reset control.

On combination condensing boilers/on-demand water heaters, you can claim a rebate of $2,400, provided that the new boiler has an AFUE ≥ 95% and is a single-unit device.

If you do not want to replace your boiler, but you’d like to make it more efficient, consider adding an outdoor reset control. An ORC can be added to an existing unit to help make your home more comfortable on milder winter days that don’t require maximum output from your boiler. Outdoor reset controls can lower your heating costs between 5% and 30%, depending upon the boiler and temperature conditions. If you have an oil or propane boiler, you can claim a $100 rebate on an after-market ORC. If you have a natural gas boiler, you can claim a rebate of $225.

If you’d like more information about these rebate programs, or would like to know how you can take advantage of them, please contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to explain your options, make recommendations and start the installation and rebate processes.

Photo Credit: Tekmar