Tips to get the most out of your HVAC system and save money on your bills

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. - Knowing what to look for and asking the right questions can save you money on your HVAC system.

When Mike Peck and his wife built their house in Lee's Summit more than 20 years ago, they had a state-of-the-art HVAC system. But over the years, the system began to break down.

"When it would get over 90 degrees in the house, it'd get very hot in the house," Peck said. "And when it would get below 30 or 25 in the winter, it was cold. So we had to break out space heaters and fans to keep the air circulating."

Finally, after paying up to $800 every year for repairs and $400 per bill, Peck decided to overhaul his system entirely. It was ready to go in time for early 2013, during the cold, snowy winter.

"The winter was just fantastic," said Peck. "This system does not strain at all to heat up the house."

They had everything done. The heater, ventilation and air conditioner – the three parts that make up an HVAC system.

Chuck Grantham is the owner of Rudroff Heating and Air Conditioning, the company that installed Peck's system.

He says the most important thing people need to do with their systems is routine maintenance.

"Just like our vehicles, if you don't change your oil, it's not going to last you very long and it's going to cost you significantly over time," Grantham said.

Grantham said if you are experiencing some high bills, check two things first.

Make sure the area around your air conditioner is clear.  And check the air filters.  Replace them if they're dirty.

If that isn't enough, call a reputable company that is licensed, insured and can offer references.  Grantham said most companies will be certified with NATE or North American Technician Excellence.

If it's determined that you need a brand new system, Grantham suggests asking a few questions to make sure the job is done right.

The first question to ask the company: Is my house leaking air?

"If it's a leaky home, for example, and we put in a high efficiency system and you've got air escaping the home, you're not getting a lot of energy savings by doing that," said Grantham.

Then, ask if the company will do a load calculation, to make sure you get the correct size of equipment for your house.  One size does not fit all, said Grantham.

Next – the company should look at your air ducts.

"Evaluate the home for the integrity of the duct work," Grantham said. "If you have significant leakage coming in from duct work going into unconditioned space."

Overhauling a system is not cheap, Grantham said, costing upwards of a few thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.  But HVAC accounts for about 40% of the demand of a home, he said, so homeowners will make the money back through energy savings, anywhere from 30% to 40% against your bill.

For the Pecks, it was worth the cost. This summer, the biggest electric bill they paid with their air conditioner running was $209. A big savings compared to the $400 plus they were paying last year.

You can learn more about HVAC and other areas around your house to save energy and money at the Climate for the Concert. It's Saturday, Sept. 28 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Kaw Point Riverfront Park.

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