Create an Energy Efficient Home Year-Round

According to the EPA, the average U.S. household spends in excess of $2,200 per year in energy-related costs. If you live in an area prone to climate extremes, you know that number can be much higher.

We’ve all heard about “winterizing” our homes to cut down our monthly utility bills. But what can you do to improve energy efficiency throughout the year?

Whether you’re faced with bone chilling winters, scorching summer heat or a combination of both, there are a number of things you can do to keep your home comfortable and tame those high energy bills.

Stop Air Leaks

Identifying and sealing air leaks in your house will go a long way in ensuring you stay warmer in the winter and cooler during the summer. Did you know that even the tiniest of leaks can account for a 15 to 35 percent loss of heated or cooled air in your house?

Weather stripping will stop air leaks in their tracks!
Weather stripping will stop air leaks in their tracks! | Source
A lit candle will detect air leaks in the house.
A lit candle will detect air leaks in the house. | Source

Check for unwanted airflow by placing a lit candle near some of the common entry points around the house -- such as windows, door frames, dryer vents, baseboards, electrical outlets, light switches and wall-mounted light fixtures.

A flickering candle flame indicates an intrusion or loss of air. Head to the hardware store or home improvement center and pick up a tube of caulk and roll of weather stripping to fix the most egregious offenders. Additionally, you can purchase pre-cut foam gaskets designed to fit under the cover plate of all your electrical outlets and light switches.

Prepare Your Attic

Insulation. Proper insulation is another must-do in preparing your home for seasonal changes. The most logical and easily accessible place to insulate is your attic. Energy Star recommends about 10 to 14 inches of insulation for most attics.

You also need to make sure the R-Value of your insulation is sufficient for your area of the country. The R-Value refers to insulation’s capacity to resist heat flow. Higher R-Values indicate higher levels of performance -- a colder climate requires a higher R-Value.

Adding insulation between the floor joists to achieve a higher R-Value.
Adding insulation between the floor joists to achieve a higher R-Value. | Source
Make sure there is no insulation covering rafter vents.
Make sure there is no insulation covering rafter vents. | Source

A quick way to see if your attic has the proper amount of insulation is to look between the exposed floor joists – if you can see the top of the joists, you should add more insulation. If the insulation is high enough to obscure the joist tops, then you are sufficiently insulated.

Rafter Vents. Before laying additional insulation on your attic floor, you need to install or uncover existing rafter vents. Rafter vents, or insulation baffles, allow air to move into the attic via the soffits and out through the ridge vents. Rafter vents should be positioned at the point where the attic ceiling meets the attic floor.

Why not consider a solar powered attic fan to save more on energy bills?
Why not consider a solar powered attic fan to save more on energy bills? | Source

Attic Fans. Attic fans are used to draw hot air to the outside during hot weather, thus keeping your attic and home cooler. For attic fans to function at peak efficiency, you must seal any leaks from the attic to the house and clear blocked soffit, rafter and ridge vents of any obstructions.

There are two main types of attic fans to choose from: one is roof mounted and the other can be installed on a gable wall. Check with the manufacturer to determine how much ventilation your attic requires. You can hire a professional to install an attic fan or you can tackle the job yourself – providing you are confident in handling roof-related projects.

Replace your air filters every three months during heavy use.
Replace your air filters every three months during heavy use. | Source

Check and Replace Air Filters

Routinely inspect your HVAC air filters. A dirty filter will cause your air conditioner or furnace to work harder to cool and heat your home. If your HVAC system works harder, it will cost you more money each month to operate.

Left unattended, clogged and dirty air filters can result in potentially dangerous and more costly repairs. They can create health related problems for your family, lead to expensive service calls and, in extreme cases, can pose a fire risk.

Find out which air filter sizes you need and purchase at least four of each. Replace the filters every three months so your family and HVAC system can breathe easy.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Here’s another relatively easy tip to get you on the road to year-round energy efficiency. If your home has a manual thermostat, you are losing money every month. Replacing your manual thermostat with a digital programmable thermostat can save you approximately $200 each year on your energy bill.

A new digital thermostat will help you control your energy consumption.
A new digital thermostat will help you control your energy consumption. | Source


Basic digital programmable thermostats range in price from $25 to $30 and are readily available at home improvement centers. Your new thermostat will give you an exact read of your home’s temperature and will allow you to automatically adjust the temperature while you are away during the day and at night while sleeping.


A water heater blanket will save you money on your hot water bill.
A water heater blanket will save you money on your hot water bill. | Source

Insulate Your Water Heater

The Department of Energy says water heater operation can represent up to 25 percent of your home’s overall energy costs. Wrapping your water heater with an insulating blanket will keep costly heat from escaping.


How do you know you need one? If the surface of your water heater feels hot, you are losing heat – and money. Purchase a vinyl-faced fiberglass water heater blanket for under $30. It's just another simple way to drive those energy costs down!


Change the Direction of Your Ceiling Fan

Finally, don’t forget to change the ceiling fan direction based on time of the year. This one little hint will help keep you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter – for less money.

During the summer months, your ceiling fan blades should turn counterclockwise, moving the air downward onto you.

Changing ceiling fan direction will improve the efficiency of your AC and furnace.
Changing ceiling fan direction will improve the efficiency of your AC and furnace. | Source

In cold weather, reverse the blade direction by flipping the switch on the fan motor. Operate your fan on its lowest setting – it will pull cool air up and force warm air near the ceiling back down into the room.

Schedule Routine HVAC Maintenance

You should schedule an appointment for HVAC system maintenance at least twice a year. While these spring and fall service visits will cost you money, routine preventative maintenance will help you avoid costly repairs. You can then rest assured your HVAC system is running efficiently and safely!

Help for Weatherizing Your Home

An HVAC technician will also check the exterior condenser unit.
An HVAC technician will also check the exterior condenser unit. | Source

HVAC Maintenance Checklists

AC

  • Inspect ductwork
  • Check refrigerant levels
  • Inspect electrical parts and controls
  • Clean and check evaporator and condensing coils
  • Clean and adjust blower components
  • Check drain lines
  • Calibrate thermostat
  • Lubricate moving parts
  • Inspect and replace filters

Yearly furniture maintenance can save money in costly repairs.
Yearly furniture maintenance can save money in costly repairs. | Source

Furnace

  • Check motor voltage and amperage
  • Check operation of safety controls
  • Inspect fan and blower motor
  • Lubricate moving parts
  • Check air filter
  • Clean burners and pilot
  • Check fan control operation and ignition start up
  • Check heat exchanger
  • Inspect and adjust thermostat
  • Check temperature rise
  • Inspect ductwork

© 2012 lindacee

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Start a Conversation! 11 comments

Angelo52 profile image

Angelo52 3 years ago from Central Florida

Well written guide to save energy and make your home more efficient. Shared.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

Some great tips. I am working on this right now before Christmas because it gets cold so quickly afterwards we tend to put everything off til Spring don't we?


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Angel, thanks! It's pretty easy to make some simple checks around the house that will save energy and money. Thanks for the comment and share! :)


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thanks for visiting, Jackie! Yep, that's exactly right -- we tend to do things after the fact. It's great you're getting a jump on it. Hope that will help you stay nice and warm this winter! :)


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

Linda, we do all of the suggestions you mentioned here and our energy costs are minimal. I remember when we insulated our attick how much of a difference it made on our monthly bill. Excellent advice and voted up!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Proof positive that these changes will indeed save money. Love it! Thanks for sharing your experience, teaches. And thanks for visiting my Hub. :)


Emma Harvey profile image

Emma Harvey 3 years ago from Berkshire, UK

Very timely hub lindacee. Our house is an old Victorian house with original windows, so it's freezing! As we can't afford to replace them this year, we have to fill them with a spongy seal to keep the house warm.

We have just got a ceiling fan, and we made sure it was reversible to use in the wintertime.

Great advice! Voting up.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thanks, Emma! Sealing the gaps around windows is a good idea. There's also a weather-proofing film you can apply to the window panes themselves -- although it could be time consuming if you have old divided pane windows. Hopefully your preparations will keep you warmer this winter! Thanks for reading and voting. :)


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

These are very useful tips that every homeowner should follow. I was able to illiminate an attic fan by having my roofer cut a ridge vent when I had a new roof put on. This helped keep the attic cool even better than the attic fan, and without using any power.

Annual maintenance of furnaces and HVAC's is extremely important as you had mentioned. I find I have to remind my friends of this now and then. Now I can send them a link to your hub. Great work. Voted up.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thanks for reinforcing this important info with regard to improving energy efficiency, Glenn. This proves how much these small changes can save us money and keep us comfortable year-round! Thanks for reading and commenting! :)


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

this is very helpful information. As it happens, I was just looking into insulating my attic the other day. While my energy costs are well below national averages, a penny saved is one more for the proverbial rainy day.

Thanks for sharing.

Sending Angels to you today :) ps

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