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Create an Energy Efficient Home Year-Round

Updated on November 26, 2018

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'll 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 warm or cool air?

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 plates for all your electrical outlets and light switches.

Weather stripping will stop air leaks in their tracks!
Weather stripping will stop air leaks in their tracks! | Source

Prepare Your Attic

Insulation - Installing proper insulation is a must-do to prepare your home for seasonal changes. The most logical and accessible place to insulate is in your attic. Energy Star recommends about 10 to 14 inches of insulation for most attics.

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.

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, you are sufficiently insulated.

Rafter Vents - Before laying additional insulation on your attic floor 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.

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, 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.

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

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. It will cost 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 size air filters 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're losing money every month. Replacing a manual thermostat with a digital programmable version can save approximately $200 each year on your energy bill.

Basic digital programmable thermostats range in price from $25 to $30 and are readily available at home improvement centers. Your new thermostat will provide an exact temperature reading and allows you to automatically program the temperature while you're away and at home.

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

Insulate Your Water Heater

The Department of Energy says water heater operation represents 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.

Purchase specialized insulation for your hot water heater. It will keep the water hot so it won't run continually.
Purchase specialized insulation for your hot water heater. It will keep the water hot so it won't run continually. | Source

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.

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.

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

Routine HVAC Maintenance

Schedule an appointment for your HVAC system maintenance at least twice a year. While spring and fall service visits can cost $100-150 per year, routine preventative maintenance will help avoid costly repairs. Regular HVAC system servicing will keep it operating efficiently and safely all year-round.

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

HVAC Maintenance Checklists

Air Conditioning Unit
Heating Unit
Inspect ductwork
Check motor voltage and amperage
Check refrigerant levels
Check operation of safety controls
Inspect electrical parts and controls
Inspect fan and blower motor
Clean and check condensing coils
Lubricate moving parts
Clean and adjust blower components
Check air filters
Check drain lines
Clean burners and pilot
Calibrate thermostat
Check fan control operation and ignition start up
Lubricate moving parts
Check heat exchanger
Inspect and replace filters
Inspect and adjust thermostat
Check for bends in coil fins
Check temperature rise
Measure airflow through the evaporator coil
Inspect and clean ductwork
Yearly furnace maintenance can save money in costly repairs.
Yearly furnace maintenance can save money in costly repairs. | Source

© 2012 Linda Chechar

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    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      2 months ago from Arizona

      Ethel Smith, these tips really do help save the planet and energy costs. Most of these things are an easy DIY fix. It's helped our house and cut our utility bills each month.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      2 months ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Comprehensive hub packed with information. We all need to be more energy savvy to protect the climate and to save some cash. Thanks

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      5 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

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      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! :)

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      5 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 imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      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. :)

    • Emma Harvey profile image

      Emma Kisby 

      5 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 imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      5 years ago from Arizona

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

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 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 imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      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! :)

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      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! :)

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      5 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?

    • Angelo52 profile image

      Angelo52 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

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

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