Efficient Heating Systems
Heating systems continue to improve in efficiency, so as you upgrade systems look for the most energy-efficient models. The Federal Trade Commission requires the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating (AFUE) to be displayed on new systems. Look for a high AFUE percentage number.
Solar heating is an efficient and renewable energy resource, and there are many new designs meant for homes. Also, look into a number of increasingly affordable radiant heating systems. These systems apply heat directly to the floor or to panels in the walls or ceiling and rely on convection systems that are highly efficient because heat is not lost through ducts.
Efficient Cooling Systems
When you consider a new air conditioner, look for the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). A higher rating indicates a more efficient unit with respect to output and energy use. If you live in a climate with low humidity, consider the use of an evaporative cooler. These are either large fans you mount on the outside of your house, or smaller units used inside, that draw air in through dampened cooling pads. Evaporative coolers typically use only 25 percent of the electricity used by air conditioners.
There are a number of simple solutions that can make existing and new heating and cooling systems work better. Consider ceiling fans and space heaters, which are quick and inexpensive ways to make rooms more comfortable. Check your home's weather stripping, insulation, windows and shades to insure you're not loosing energy unnecessarily. Also consider awnings, windbreaks and shade trees, which can have a cumulative effect on the energy efficiency of your home.