Everyone knows we have two seasons here in the South: hot and not as hot. But the truth is South Carolina has seen its fair share of cold days, sometimes dropping below freezing.

Snow days are rare, but homeowners might be surprised to know how, even in moderately low temperatures, little inefficiencies in a heating system or home can add up to big cost.

Here are five of the most cost-effective solutions to reduce your heating energy consumption, which accounts for nearly 60 percent of the average American household’s electric bill.

  1. Make sure your attic insulation is up to current code. This will make all the difference in keeping your house cozy all winter and cool during the summer. Close cell spray foam is currently leading the industry. Although it can be a significant upfront cost, the average monthly energy savings exceed 30 percent.
  2. Seal your ductwork. There is nothing worse then heating or cooling your attic space unknowingly. For a very small investment you can have every seam and connection on your duct system sealed. This will result in more efficient air distribution throughout your home while reducing the dust level dramatically
  3. Keep your thermostat in the “auto” mode. We are often asked what the best temperature settings are. In almost all cases the auto function suits folks best. It will keep a minimum cool set point and a maximum heat set point.

This allows the system to stay in the middle of the two temperatures you set for heat and cool. In the South, it’s often warmer during the day (requiring cooling to dry the air) and then colder at night (requiring warmer air). The auto function allows the user to set it and forget it (for example: 68 heat/75 cool as the auto settings)

  1. Replace your filter monthly. There’s no such thing as a 60-day throwaway 1-inch filter, despite what the packaging says in your big-box chain store’s filter aisle.

Always use pleated filters that have roughly 76 square feet of surface space to capture seen and unseen airborne particles.

If your filter can’t be replaced easily every 30 days, we recommend a media HEPA filter that can be installed to your system.

These filter cartridges only require changing every 6 to 12 months. They get more efficient the dirtier they become; therefore stretching your dollar that much further.

  1. Don’t expect more then your system can deliver. If your system is 10-plus years old it might be time to start thinking of an upgrade.

Standard heat pump systems last roughly 10-12 years before either a major costly repair is required or a total failure occurs.

Standard 14-SEER heat pumps produce approximately 20 to 30 degrees of heated air without the need for auxiliary electric heat. Try to keep your thermostat set at a temperature that can be maintained by just the primary heat source.

If the backup heater is needed, it will add roughly 15 to 20 percent to your monthly bill. In general, the older your system is, the less efficient.

Older systems need more routine maintenance to keep them in good condition.

Chris Watkins is the owner of Watkins Mechanical. chriswatkins85@aol.com