Heating and cooling continue to be largest draw on home energy bills

Maryland and Virginia homeowners who rely on a Washington, D.C. home inspector to determine the ways in which they can reduce their energy use will likely find that their HVAC systems consume more energy than any other part of their home. The Pew Center for Climate and Energy Solutions came to a similar finding in a recent study.

The results of the survey align with the results of most other studies, which have generally found that HVAC costs account for the most energy costs a home produces – in this case, 42 percent. Water heating took up 14 percent of monthly bills, followed by lighting with 11 percent, electronics and computers with 10 percent, refrigeration with 7 percent and cooking with 5 percent, according to the study.

Upon deeper analysis, HVAC costs are somewhat more difficult to pin down, because they are so contingent upon outside factors, primarily the potential for weather patterns to be volatile and for fuel costs to fluctuate. As such, HVAC costs may vary greatly across the country. For example, while a mild winter in many regions this year helped offset rising fuel costs, homeowners' wallets may be somewhat lighter after next winter.

Even as summer begins to set in across the Tri-State area, homeowners still have time to make their homes more energy efficient, without sacrificing the comfort that comes with regular use of an air conditioning system. One way to accomplish this goal is to install energy-efficient insulation.

"Cellulose insulation fills areas completely to effectively stop air infiltration," according to home do-it-yourself blog Networx. "Cellulose acts almost like a liquid, flowing into cavities and wrapping itself around obstructions. The flexibility assures a more effective outcome than with fiberglass batting."

This form of insulation may not be ideal for all properties, so homeowners should consider a simple home energy audit to determine where they can generate the most savings.