Nearly half the money you spend on home energy goes to heating and cooling. For the average household that's about $1,100 a year. A programmable thermostat can save you money by automatically reducing heating or cooling when you need it least. The thermostat has to be properly set, of course, and our latest tests of 30 models reveal that many are now much easier to use.
First there was Siri, now there's Iris. While Siri can find a burger joint or hotel for iPhone users, Iris can help anyone with a smart phone, computer or tablet monitor their home from afar. Iris, a cloud-based home management system launched by Lowe's, can alert you when your child arrives home from school or enable you to remotely control your thermostat, lights and other home electronics.
As the summer heat continues unabated, it's a good time to make sure you're getting the most out of your air conditioner and dehumidifier. One easy way is to clean the filters. If you haven't done so since summer began, then this chore is long overdue. The improved performance of your appliances will make you glad you made the effort.
To prevent your utility bills from rising along with the mercury, consider installing a programmable thermostat or learning how to use the one you have now. By tailoring your air conditioning (or heating) to your schedule, programmable thermostats can save both energy and money, but only when set correctly. Setting it incorrectly can actually cost you more. Here's how to choose a programmable thermometer and maximize its benefits.
Frigidaire earned top marks among large and medium-size models in our latest report on dehumidifiers—with one caveat. Due to an initial design flaw that was later corrected by the manufacturer, a special adapter could be required on certain models in order to run the units on continuous-drain mode. As we reported, the adapter was supposed to be provided free to owners of defective units who contacted Frigidaire's customer service department. But two readers wrote to us saying that they were being charged $10 for the fix.
With some of the warmest months on record, folks took to calling 2012 the year without a winter. But we're certainly going to have a summer. Three-quarters of the nation will experience temperatures that are higher than normal from June through August, according to the federal Climate Prediction Center. To help you beat the heat, Consumer Reports has new Ratings of window air conditioners. We also have the results of our central air reliability survey in which readers told us which systems worked for them, as well as energy-saving tips so you can run your A/C without running up your utility bill.
After two of the hottest summers on record, homeowners are now assessing their cooling needs for the coming months and budgeting ways to pay for them. Cooling accounts for nearly 20 percent of a home's utility bill, according to Energy Star. And if you have a leaky central air conditioning system or a window unit that's the wrong size for the room, you'll spend even more and get less cooling. But there are ways to save even on hot summer days.
Proper installation is key to getting the most out of your central air conditioning system. Do it right and your A/C will be humming along at full capacity. Do it wrong and the efficiency of the system can be reduced by at least 30 percent, costing you more and possibly shortening the life of the equipment. In fact, Consumer Reports latest reliability survey shows a strong correlation between repairs and installation as well as some brands that are more repair prone than others.
As the warmest winter in over a decade, and the fourth warmest on record, comes to a close, allergy sufferers are bracing for an early release of tree pollen, which could lead to a longer, harder allergy season than normal. While you can't control the conditions outside, you can make your home as hypoallergenic as possible. That includes deploying a dehumidifier to keep the relative humidity below 50 percent, which starves the allergy-inducing dust mites and mold of the moisture they need to thrive.
Look at the packaging for an air purifier, and you’re likely to see one or more certification logos from testing organizations and even the government. But while a star or a golden emblem on a box might suggest high praise or an award, none of the certificates necessarily mean the purifier is right for you. To help you choose, Consumer Reports has decoded the labels.
A three-bedroom, two-story, single-family house with two bathrooms, central air-conditioning, a gas furnace and working fireplace on a 17,590 square-foot lot. Those were the characteristics of the typical new home of the 496,000 built in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With baby boomers now becoming empty nesters, new homes are shrinking—down to 2,392 square feet from 2,438 in 2009. The average sales price was $272,900, up from $270,900 in 2009 but a steep drop from previous years when new homes sold for $292,600 in 2008 and $313,600 in 2007.
Hard water contains calcium, magnesium, and other dissolved minerals. The water is safe to drink, but it can leave a residue on showers and dishes, and deposits inside appliances that use hot water. Over time, that buildup can affect performance and efficiency.
Portable electric space heaters are rarely described as stylish, but the Dyson Hot is cool. Stylishly cool. And our tests found this fan-forced convection heater doesn’t place form ahead of function, but boy is it noisy, and at $400, expensive too.
Each year portable space heaters cause an estimated 1,700 home fires, 180 injuries, and 70 deaths, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Does that mean they’re unsafe. It depends on the heater and how you use it.
Four out of 10 consumers are worried about money or the economy this holiday season, according to a poll by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. As a result, many are cutting back on gifts, travel and decorations. But here's an idea for a gift that keeps on giving: 12 energy retro-fits that quickly pay for themselves and that will save you money well after the holidays have come and gone.
Our testers put 100s of products through their paces at our National Testing and Research Center. Learn more about how we test for: