Save Energy at Home Now
Sure, by now we've all heard how we should set our thermostats a degree or two colder in winter and a degree or two warmer in summer, and wear sweaters all winter long. And everyone has suggested that we buy those cute curly lightbulbs or order replacement windows. But what else can we do immediately — NOW — and at minimal cost, to achieve further energy savings in our homes? In this article, you'll find a number of simple steps you can take to start saving on energy consumption in your home right away and for years to come. All it takes is diligence and some relatively inexpensive home improvement products. Trust me, you'll see payback in energy savings quickly.
First, be diligent about unplugging any extra camera or cell phone or iPod or other chargers when not in use. Unplug any clocks that you no longer pay attention to, or any VCRs that don't get steady use. Ditto with that extra TV you never watch, or the microwave in the basement rec room that you almost never use, except for parties. If you don't need to turn on lights, don't. Be sure that windows not often used are closed and latched, especially those subject to extreme heat, cold or winds. Check any attic or roof vents to be sure they are properly set or adjusted. Adjust the outlet louver dampers for any forced air heating system to balance the heat (or cooling), and to place it where you spend most of your time. Such fine tuning will insure that whatever you spend on energy isn't being needlessly wasted.
Next, replace your HVAC system filters regularly, and see that dryer vents, bathroom vents and exhaust fans are clean and free of accumulated dust, dirt or obstructions. Not only will you breath easier, but your heating and cooling system efficiency will rise.
Examine all exterior seams between window and door frames and adjoining walls to insure that they are filled and appropriately caulked to be weather-tight. Also check doors to be sure that weatherstripping is still performing its function. For many homes, especially in windy exposures, most heat enters or leaves by means of such un-caulked or un-sealed seams and cracks. If at all possible, avoid using a home entrance that is subjected to the most severe seasonal weather extreme. If you must use such an entrance, consider the addition of a lightweight canvas-on-tubular-frame tent-like shelter as a sort of vestibule or windbreak. It may prevent the escape or intrusion of heat at peak times. If your home has a slab on grade or an uninsulated perimeter foundation wall, consider placing additional topsoil, yard mulch and leaves around the perimeter base of exterior walls as extra insulation as winter cold approaches. If your home has a raised concrete block or brick foundation wall, consider adding mounded topsoil, mulch or raised planting beds against the walls as an added buffer to heat or cold (just be sure to maintain proper waterproofing of any wall that is covered).
Consider adding light-colored drapes, sheers, shades or sheets inside any glass that receives intense sunlight or heat, to reflect and reduce heat gain. You may also want to investigate a solar film to be applied to such glass to cut heat gain. When winter sun is at a low angle, consider draping furniture or even walls that receive direct sunlight with dark-colored fabric, blankets, quilts or sheets to absorb and retain the sun's heat. Add mats or rugs to any floor surfaces that are seasonally cold.
Use fans to better distribute heated or cooled air and to improve overall comfort. Ceiling fans can not only provide cooling ventilation air during overheated periods, but can also redistribute already heated room air back down to occupant level during cold spells. Fans can also enhance the effect of stoves or fireplaces by directing room air across hot flues and vent stacks.
Consider adding a windbreak of evergreen shrubs or snow fence from 10 feet to 30 feet from your home in the path of the most severe winter winds, to moderate their effect. Use deciduous trees (that shed their leaves in winter) as shading devices in the path of the strongest summer sun.
If you are in an area that uses substantial air conditioning throughout much of the year, consider adding light-colored roofing or roof coating to your home, to increase its reflectance of the hot summer sun, and thereby reduce your cooling load.
If you need to take even stronger action against excess energy costs for your home, ask your local utility company if they provide free energy audits that can suggest improvements. Also ask if they finance energy-saving improvements or offer energy rebates. Lastly, you can seek help from local environmental advocacy groups or any reputable architect or builder.
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