To combat the rise in heating costs, the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute is asking consumers to take a pledge.

AHRI, in collaboration with the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, the Edison Electric Institute, the U.S. Energy Association and North American Technician Excellence, has launched the Two Degree Pledge initiative. The pledge offers steps homeowners can take to achieve lower energy bills through greater energy efficiency.

“The Two Degree Pledge urges consumers to think about their heating system efficiency now, before the winter heating season,” said AHRI President Stephen Yurek. “With just a couple degrees of change, such as installing a programmable thermostat and setting the thermostat a few degrees higher when they leave the house for the day, homeowners can simply and significantly reduce their energy costs, without compromising their comfort.”   

Because residential heating and cooling can account for up to 50 percent of total energy bills during the winter months, the campaign calls on homeowners to contact a heating professional to have their heating system serviced and optimized for efficiency and comfort.

Central, forced-air systems that are improperly installed or maintained can be up to 50 percent less efficient than they should be. In fact, more than half of all heating systems in U.S. homes do not perform to their rated efficiency as a result of improper installation, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“It is time that we as a nation address the efficiency loss that occurs when heating and cooling equipment is not installed correctly, maintained properly, or used wisely,” Yurek said. “The nation will never reap the energy savings more efficient equipment can deliver if we don’t address these three issues as soon as possible.”

To save more energy, the campaign encourages consumers to change filters, seal ducts and windows, and insulate walls. These steps can result in savings of up to 20 percent on energy bills, AHRI officials said.

Consumers can learn more about the pledge and make their commitment official by signing up at www.2degreepledge.org. The Web site includes tools and calculators to help homeowners determine if an upgrade to a more efficient heating or cooling system makes sense for them. It also features maintenance and quality installation checklists to review with their heating and cooling system technician or contractor to make sure their system’s performance is optimum for efficiency and comfort.