Your Place: Taking stock of your heating and cooling system

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

It’s almost spring, and my electronic desk is accumulating more advice than I can share with you in a lifetime.

An interesting bit of counsel comes from Lennox, which manufactures heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment:

Leaves, weeds and grass collect on outdoor condenser units during the fall and winter, resulting in blocked air flow and reduced energy efficiency. Clearing the debris allows for unrestricted airflow, improving an air-conditioning system’s efficiency, reducing operating costs, keeping the air clean, and increasing energy savings.

In addition, Lennox advises, changing standard air filters once a month (other types, such as pleated and HEPA filters, have longer life spans) is the single most important thing homeowners can do to prevent a system from working harder than it needs to, which saves money on electricity bills. It’s also important to ensure that ductwork is clean and in good condition.

Even if homeowners keep their air-conditioning systems clean, they still might be letting air — and dollars — escape. Adding easy-to-use blow-in insulation will reduce the amount of heat that flows from outdoors into a home, which will lower cooling costs and make the home more comfortable.

Spring also is a good time for homeowners to inspect and repair loose siding and seal windows and doors with caulk and weather stripping. That will keep cool air from escaping and increase energy efficiency.

Lennox offers some hints on when it might be time to replace your current unit:

—Energy bills continue to rise.

—Indoor air quality and humidity are poor.

—Frequent repairs begin to account for a large portion of replacement costs.

—The system is more than 10 years old.

—Reduced levels of performance cause inconsistent cooling.

This may be the time to look into replacing your current thermostat with something a little smarter, if you catch my meaning.

Plenty of advice is available at the U.S. Department of Energy website, http:www.doe.gov.

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