Energy Efficient Heating and Cooling

How to Keep Your Home Naturally Cool and Warm While Reducing Energy Bills

Adjusting the heating and cooling with a thermostat.For many a century, we huddled around a wood fire to keep warm in winter. Next came coal, with its filthy air pollution, and then central heating, with oil or gas furnaces. We also began to realize how important it was to insulate our homes to keep out the cold or the heat depending on the season. Learn how to save money on your electricity bill by implementing energy efficient heating and cooling systems. 


Leaking energy 

Many of our homes are still very leaky and inefficient. A modern German Passivhaus using super-insulation, super-windows and sub-soil heat exchange uses only 9.2 kWh per square meter per year for heat, 95% less than the German average. In winter when it’s –10°C (14°F) outside, it needs no heating inside, and in summer when it’s 35°C (95°F) outside, it is only 26°C (79°F) indoors. More than 6,000 passive houses have been built in Europe, so this is not an experimental design. The average North American single-family home produces almost 12 tonnes of CO2 a year, 55% of which comes from heating and cooling.


Financial planning: save money on electricity

Your whole family needs to be involved, so work together to create a plan. There are often grants and incentives available for energy upgrades, so call city hall, a local environmental organization or a local energy company to find out more. According to the Home Energy Saver, a package of ten energy-saving investments will cost you $3,960, save you $597 a year and give you pay-back in 6.6 years, at a 16% rate of return. If you live in a condo or apartment, an energy efficiency upgrade will reduce your carbon footprint by around 30% and pay for itself in 3–5 years. Saving energy not only helps lower your carbon footprint but also helps you save money on electricity. 


Energy efficient heating and cooling tips

The better your insulation, the cooler your home. The more greenery you plant to shade south-facing walls, the better. Gainesville, Florida, has a strict tree ordinance and twice the tree-cover of nearby Ocala, so Gainesville residents spend $126 less per year on electricity, saving 1.4 tonnes of CO2 a year per household. When it comes to air conditioning, the Ice-Bear 30 hybrid provides efficient cooling, reducing energy demand by 95%. Learn more about this subject in Ecolife's air conditioner alternatives article. 

Keeping Warm

*Data from Cool Citizens. Numbers will vary according to fuel use and local prices 

Annual CO2 saved  

Annual $ saved    

Turn down water heater thermostat from 60°C to 49°C (140°F to 120°F) 

97 kg


Wash clothes in cold water

148 kg$18
Wrap the water heater in an insulating jacket; insulate hot water pipes143 kg$18
Install water-saving showerheads and faucet aerators218 kg$27
Instal programmable thermostats in your main rooms, set to 20C (68F) daytime, 13-14C (55-58F) night. Wear a sweater to keep warm161 kg$29
Seal large air-leaks. Caulk and weather-strip/draft-proof around windows, doors, baseboards, attic hatches and power switch plates862 kg$104
Add extra insulation in the attic (R-30)763 kg$91
Add extra insulation in the basement338 kg$45
Add extra insulation in the walls216 kg$26
Upgrade to high performance windows971 kg$51
Add thin plastic film to the windows in winter188 kg$22
Seal and insulate your heating ducts, and get your furnace tuned544 kg$59


Keeping CoolAnnual CO2 saved Annual $ saved
Raise your cooling thermostat to 26C (78F)154 kg$19
Tune up your air-conditioning unit59 kg$7
Add an attic radiant barrier 57 kg$7
Paint your roof white214 kg$26


Return on Investment

  • Fluorescent lamps and fixtures 41%
  • Duct sealing 41%
  • Energy Star clothes washer 37%
  • Energy Star thermostat 30%
  • Energy Star refrigerator 27%
  • 10-point energy efficiency upgrade 16%
  • Dow Jones industrials, 2000–2007 16%
  • 30-year bond 4.2%


  • Use your utility bills and a carbon calculator to work out your CO2 emissions from heating and cooling
  • Ask city hall about retrofits, grants and incentives
  • Consider your options from the chart, and create a plan to do as many as you can over the next six months
  • Call an energy company for a quote on things you cannot do yourself

Additional resources


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