5 Important Home Maintenance Projects for Energy Efficiency

Improve Energy Efficiency at Home and Save Money

Each year, homeowners throw away thousands of dollars in unnecessary heating and cooling costs. By improving energy efficiency, however, you can save money on your monthly utility bills.

When you keep the heat or cool air indoors, you can comfortably adjust your thermostat by several degrees, which is the equivalent of putting at least $120 back in your bank account every year!1

What could you spend that money on instead?

There are three primary ways to achieve better energy efficiency at home:

  1. Sealing doors and windows
  2. Adding insulation if necessary
  3. Implementing passive solar heating/cooling techniques

The five important home maintenance projects, described in detail below, are relatively inexpensive, easy to complete over a weekend, and can be accomplished by most homeowners themselves!

1For every degree you adjust your thermostat, you save 3% on your heating or cooling bill. So, 3-4 degrees will save you 10% per month ($10 off $100 bill adds up to $120 annually).

Turn your thermostat down and save money with these energy efficiency tips
Turn your thermostat down and save money with these energy efficiency tips | Source

1. Caulk and Seal Doors and Windows

You wouldn't leave the door ajar when you have the inside of your home at a comfortable temperature, would you? Yet, leaky doors and windows allow heated or cooled air to escape, which makes your HVAC system work harder to maintain the interior temperature you desire. Not only that, but damaged caulk can allow unwanted moisture or bugs into your home - Ick!

One of the easiest, important home maintenance projects is to check, re-caulk and seal doors and windows every year. A simple DIY project to find air leaks is to inspect door and window frames for gaps or cracks. Utility lines, such as phone, natural gas, electricity or cable enter your home may also be allowing heat to escape. Don't forget skylights, and outdoor faucets, too.

If drafts are hard to locate with a simple inspection, you can depressurize your home by closing all windows and doors, then running all exhaust fans in the home, usually in the bathrooms and kitchen. Then, take an incense stick, light it and slowly move it around door and window frames or other suspected leak areas. You'll see drafts when the smoke is blown out.

Once you find a leak, its very easy to fix. You will need to prepare the area to be sealed by gently wiping it down with a damp cloth to remove dirt and debris. Chip off any old, damaged caulk to remove it. Allow the area to dry completely, then use a caulking guns filled with caulk sealant and apply a strip along areas that need sealing. You are literally filling in the gaps and cracks to stop air leaks and drafts.

To seal doors and windows, use polyurethane caulk (there are other types of caulk for use on bricks, concrete, glass, metal and wood). This type of caulk lasts a relatively long time and does not shrink up after application. Smooth it out, if desired with the back of a spoon before the caulk dries.

If you have any questions, a retail hardware store sales associate can help you select caulk and use a caulking gun. But this home maintenance project is simple enough that you should not need to hire a professional.

Weatherize Your Home by Caulking WIndows and Doors

2. Inspect and Add Insulation

If you live in a new home (less than 10 years old), you probably have minimally sufficient insulation, as new construction is built to recent energy efficiency standards. Older homes, however, or even newer homes, may benefit from additional insulation.

It is easiest for homeowners to inspect existing insulation within a garage, basement or attic where structural elements of the home are exposed. You are looking for the type of insulation, and determining its thickness, measured in inches.

If you don't have such areas in your home, you can still inspect insulation through an electrical outlet by turning off power to the outlet via your breaker box, removing the outlet cover, and using a flashlight to estimate the thickness of insulation. Check several outlets within the home for consistency, particularly if there have been structural additions. With gloves on your hand, pull a sample of the insulation from the wall so that you can determine what type of insulation was used.

For homeowners in the United States, check out the Department of Energy's Insulation Fact Sheet to determine the R-values of insulation in your home. Afterward, use the DOE's Zip Code Insulation Calculator to determine whether you need to add insulation and if so, how much and where new insulation should be installed to maximize your home's energy efficiency.

3. Perform Annual Maintenance of Your Hot Water Tank

Did you know that you should drain your hot water heater annually to prevent sediment build-up? This is an easy, but important home maintenance project that you can do yourself, without having to hire a professional.

Follow these steps for a DIY home improvement project to extend the life of your hot water heater:

1. For electric heaters, turn off power to the tank via the breaker box. If your water is heated with gas, switch the thermostat to pilot mode.

2. Turn off the water supply that goes into the hot water tank.

3. Locate the drain valve on the tank, and connect a hose to it, but wait before opening the valve.

4. Turn on a hot water faucet in the house and leave it running during the remaining maintenance steps. Return to the hot water tank and open the drain valve. Make sure the hose is on the ground, directing the hot water into the driveway or street.

5. Once the tank is completely drained, turn on the water supply again to flush out sediment. When the water runs clear, close the drain valve, allow the tank to refill with water, and turn off the hot water faucet that you left running in your home during the maintenance.

6. Finally, turn the power back on or switch the thermostat from pilot mode after the water tank has filled again. About 1-2 hours later, test the pressure relief valve on the hot water tank to ensure its proper functioning. Follow the instructions on your tank. If you determine the valve to be faulty, it may need to be replaced by a professional.

Hot Water Tank Maintenance

4. Install Landscaping for Passive Solar Techniques

One of the simplest home maintenance or DIY home improvement projects is to install landscaping that will help to heat your home during winter or keep it cool during summer. Known as passive solar techniques, homeowners can improve the efficiency of their HVAC systems by reducing the strain on them, simply by positioning leafy trees or bushes near windows, or overhanging a portion of the roof.

During summer months, deciduous landscaping can block some of the hot rays of the sun from beating down on rooftops or through windows. Leafy trees or shrubs are at the height of their growing season, providing cool shade for your home. On the other hand, when leaves fall during autumn, bare branches allow radiant heat through over winter, helping to warm interiors.

Other passive solar techniques include installing a retractable awning over decks or patios, which also help reduce interior heating during summer months. Concrete patios or walkways should be replaced with decking, bricks or gravel to cut down on reflected heat, as well.

Passive solar landscaping to improve home energy efficiency
Passive solar landscaping to improve home energy efficiency | Source

5. Install Drapes or Blinds for Passive Solar Techniques

Drapes or blinds can be used as additional insulation for a home, trapping warm air inside during winter months, or keeping things cool during the summer. Windows allow more than just light indoors.

Radiant heat from the sun can heat things up significantly when the mercury rises, so you'll want to block sunlight from baking the interior of your home. Be sure to pull drapes or blinds closed before you leave for the day, or before afternoon sun streams through the windows. As discussed above regarding landscaping tips, this use of passive solar is simple, relatively inexpensive and is disguised as a regular home improvement, rather than an energy efficiency measure.

Conversely, during winter, even sealed windows allow heat to escape. After all, they are not insulated as are walls and the roof of a home. Think of drapes or blinds as a blanket that traps warm air inside. Shut them before leaving for the day. If you are at home, consider covering the windows of rooms not in use, such as bedrooms.

Passive Solar Home

Additional Energy Saving Tip: Use a Programmable Thermostat

Once you have implemented these five important home maintenance projects, you should add one more. If you don't already own or use a programmable thermostat, you can save even more money by installing one.

With a new thermostat, you don't have to remember to turn down the heat at night or during the day when you are gone. Simply set the time and day of the week to pre-set the thermostat to switch on about 1/2 hour before waking or before you return home at the end of the day. Remember the statistic above about saving 3% of your power bill for each degree you adjust your thermostat. How easy would it be to cut your utility bill 10% every month?

Today's new smart programmable thermostats give you data based on peak energy usage during the day, show you where you are wasting power, and even allow you to turn off appliances or lights in your home remotely via smartphone applications! The return on investment for these smart thermostats is usually 1-2 years, or less.

What Home Maintenance Projects Will You Complete to Improve Energy Efficiency

  • Caulking and Sealing Air Leaks
  • Inspecting and/or Adding to Insulation
  • Maintenance of the Hot Water Heater
  • Installing Landscaping for Passive Solar
  • Using Drapes or Blinds
  • Using a Programmable Thermostat
  • All of the Above!
See results without voting

© 2012 Stephanie Hicks

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Comments 45 comments

gryphin423 profile image

gryphin423 4 years ago from Florida

Great tips - the caulking is a must! Thanks for a hub that has some great reminders for my hub's "to do" list! Voted up!


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California

This is a really helpful hub. I like that you included passive solar drapes and blinds as a step to energy efficiency maintenance! Something so simple can save so much energy. Great stuff, I wouldn't expect anything less from you! ;)

HubHugs~

K9


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thank you gryphin and K9! I am a big fan of passive solar because it is so easy and cost-effective. Caulking is a must, as well. Thank you for the comments and all the best! Steph


howardyoung profile image

howardyoung 4 years ago from California

Great hub! My problem is that the thermostat is always turned in the wrong direction. That is, my wife turns it up in the winter and my son turns it down in the summer.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

LOL Howard! I think we kind of have the same problem here. I'm trying really hard to keep my hands off the thermostat, sitting with a blanket on the couch and even wearing my coat inside at times. Best of luck to you - Steph


JON EWALL profile image

JON EWALL 4 years ago from usa

howardyoung

IF YOU HAVE A FORCED AIR SYSTEM,when was the last time you changed your air filters and, if an older house, had the duct system cleaned.At nite try leaving the fan only run, it will help when your thermo is turned down.


tlpoague profile image

tlpoague 4 years ago from USA

I live in one of those 100 year old homes that seem to need everything each year. I have caulked and plastic my windows so much that the frames are beginning to look like bubbles of goo. We had planned on re-siding and installing new windows to our home, but first wanted to add on. We just replaced the hot water heater for a second time last month, and boy was that an adventure. These are some great tips!


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

In a condo building, there are certain things you are allowed to do yourself and certain things that are controlled by the strata.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

Uuuuuuuuuuugh!! I SO need to do something about my windows. I can literally see the space through which cold air flows. Thanks for the friendly reminder!


Melovy profile image

Melovy 4 years ago from UK

This is a really useful hub, full of doable suggestions.

The piece on passive solar techniques is interesting. Oh how I’d love to have the problem of too much heat in summer! :-) Alas, those occasions are rare - except for in our conservatory. We’ve recently installed blinds in it, which helps keep it warm just now, and should keep it cooler in the summer.

Voted up, U and I.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks everyone for the additional tips - especially changing the air filters - very important!

@Flora, you are right that renters, condo owners and those that live in a neighborhood controlled by CC&Rs need to make sure that any home maintenance projects are allowed.

@tipoague - 100 year old homes are great, but require so much maintenance, huh?

@Simone - yes! Do something about those windows... LOL!

@Melovy, thank you - I am a big fan of passive solar. My in-laws are very adept at cooling their house down in summer mornings and trapping the cool air inside during the day. Cheers all, Steph


writer20 profile image

writer20 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

Voted up, interesting and useful.

Great tips for every follower to update their houses.

We were lucky, the electric power company got together with a company to do all of the above for free. If your income was below a certain amount. We fitted into that category.


suzzycue profile image

suzzycue 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Great tips and I like the idea of the thermostate doing the adjusting of the temperature for me .


tlpoague profile image

tlpoague 4 years ago from USA

Yes, that can be a real pain some days, but in the end it is worth it.


Rev. Akins profile image

Rev. Akins 4 years ago from Tucson, AZ

Really enjoyed the Hub. I never knew I was supposed to drain our hot water tank... I wonder how much built up yuck is currently in there. Thanks for the info!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

That is so great that your power company helped out lower income homeowners with energy efficiency! Best, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi suzzycue, the adjustable thermostat is one of the best ways to keep heating and cooling costs down. Cheers, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Rev. Akins,

Yes, my husband drained the hot water tank last year after we lived here for almost 5 years. Lots of gunk! Best, Steph


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

Thanks for all these good tips. I live in a house that is 100 yrs. old, and requires constant love and attention. I wrote a Hub about my house. I forget to do the hot water heater maintenance. This was a good reminder.


dipless profile image

dipless 4 years ago from Manchester

This is a really great hub with some superb tips, I got an electricity usage monitor and that really did open my eyes to how inefficiently I lived. It made me learn to turn everything off standbye etc. thank you for sharing


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Mary,

I love old houses, but they do take a bit more care and maintenance at times. I think I recall seeing your hub, but am going to double-check. :) Good luck with the hot water heater maintenance. Best, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi dipless, Those new energy monitors are quite helpful in pinpointing not only how you are wasting energy, but when. Its like being on a diet and not keeping track of what you are eating. Once you start, it can make all the difference. Best, Steph


algarveview profile image

algarveview 4 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

Hi Steph, after reading this Hub, I can say, it's official, for me, you have some of the best Hubs I already found. This is another one, useful and with a lot of info.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thank you so much algarveview - quite a nice compliment. Glad you enjoyed this hub and found it useful. Best to you, Steph


sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri

Great advice! My husband does most of these things at least once a year, and it really makes a difference. I added drapes to my living room (I only had blinds before) and WHAT a difference that made. Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting! :-)


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks sholland,

Drapes are a wonderful way to save energy and also decorate your home! Thanks for the great comment and vote up :) Best, Steph


Cagsil profile image

Cagsil 4 years ago from USA or America

Hey Steph, this is a really great hub. A lot of information went into it to help others save on their energy costs. Unfortunately, in my case, I live in an apartment complex owned by other people(slumlord would be more precise). I don't control my heat and I'm unable to do anything about ensuring that my apartment is kept at a comfortable temperature. I certainly hope you get lots of readers who can take this information and put it good use. Voted up and useful! :)


Chin chin profile image

Chin chin 4 years ago from Philippines

This is really a very informational hub. Since we don't live in a country having the winter season, I think projects #4 and #5 are more appropriate in our country.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks Chin chin,

A warm location would be a great place to start using some passive solar techniques. Best to you, Steph


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 4 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

Hi, Steph. Fantastic advice on a very important subject. I have seen first hand in various houses I've lived in how some of your tips really do work, especially with regard to insulation. You've definitely got a superb Hub here that can save most people a respectable amount of money.


DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

DeBorrah K. Ogans 4 years ago

Stephhicks, Great energy saving home maintenance tips! Thank You for sharing, Peace & Blessings!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks Gordon! I do agree that homeowners can save a respectable amount of money each year by performing these (and other) home maintenance projects. Cheers to you! Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thank you Deborrah, I appreciate your comment. Cheers, Steph


pmccray profile image

pmccray 4 years ago from Utah

Very in-depth hub. Thank you for sharing, voted up, marked useful, interesting and book marked


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks pmccray, I love writing about energy efficiency, and these DIY home maintenance projects are easy, important and not expensive. Cheers, Steph


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago

Great tips. It's a pity that things like these are often overlooked and considered to be unnecessary. These little home projects can really save us lots of money and also protect the environment. Rated up and awesome!


wonderingwoolley profile image

wonderingwoolley 4 years ago from Madison, WI

These are really great tips- especially for someone like me who needs to find ways to tighten the budget. Thanks for sharing!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks Om Paramapoonya, you are right. Homeowners should realize that small, inexpensive improvement projects can save so much money and energy (and the environment) over time. Thank you for the comment and vote. Best, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi WW - yes, definitely worth the small investment in the cost of these home maintenance projects. Homeowners can save anywhere from $10-50 per month (or more) in heating and cooling costs as a result. Best to you, Steph


JON EWALL profile image

JON EWALL 4 years ago from usa

stephhicks68

When temperatures go below freeziing at night, frost sometimes will build up on the inside of windows.One way to help relive frost conditions, if you have a forced air system, is to turn on the fan on the thermostat. By keeping the fan on blowing air will help to circulate the stagnent air at the exterior walls and windows.Think of the what happens, the moving air acts like a defrosting similar when driving in a car when the windows steam up.

Give it a try.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Excellent tip, Jon! Thank you - I have to admit that I did not know that trick. Have a great day, Steph


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

Hi Steph, it's a great time to talk and learn more about these things, thanks! I hate the idea of wasting energy in my home, and paying more to maintain things. It seems wise thing to work on our homes to save money. Great hub and tips.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks oceansnsunsets, it does feel great to see those reduced utility bills as a result of a few simple maintenance projects! Thanks for stopping by - Best, Steph


Frank Cain 7 months ago

Thanks for the article - some good tips there. I'd like to add that it's also important to take care of your roof as it plays a very large role in insulation and I own a roofing company;

roofrestorationgeelong.org

Thanks again for the article.


JON EWALL profile image

JON EWALL 7 months ago from usa

stephhicks68

Most older houses have single paine windows Today there are federal programs that make energy savings high priority, one of which is changing single paine windows to Thermopane windows.

the investment is worth the cost

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