Cutting Costs: Save Money by Making Your Home More Energy Efficient
Making your home energy efficient is one of the best ways to save money. By making simple improvements, you can easily lower your utility bills, increase the value of your home and make it more comfortable.
A Home Audit
To find out what improvements are needed, you can hire a professional to audit the energy efficiency of your home. The auditor can give you a list of ways in which your home is losing energy and improvements to make. An energy auditor can also set you up with contractors who can make these improvements. Or, you can inspect the home yourself.
To audit the energy efficiency of your home, make a diligent walk-through. As you walk through your home, note where you have inspected and the problems you have found. With this list, you will be able to prioritize your energy efficient improvements.
A drafty home zaps your finances. Look for drafts around windows, doors, electrical outlets and switch plates, baseboards, corners, fireplace dampers, wall and window mounted air conditioners, and attic doors. Look around the plumbing pipes, electrical wires and mail slots for air leaks. Check to see if the caulking is still in good condition. If you are having trouble detecting leaks, use a stick of incense since the smoke will waver where there is air movement. When you find leaks, you can fix these with caulking or weather stripping. If you have big gaps around pipes and are experiencing a mouse problem, fill the hole with steel wool before caulking. This will prevent the mice from chewing their way back into your home. If your windows are drafty, and you cannot afford to replace them, install clear plastic sheeting over the windows.
Once you have taken care of drafts, check the insulation. Poor insulation in the walls or attic of your home will cost a small fortune in the coming years. Good insulation will help to keep the home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Other areas of the home that need to be checked for proper insulation are the floors under living areas, around heating ducts, plumbing pipes and around the hot water heater.
Keep the filters clean on your heating and cooling systems, as dirty filters require more energy to do the same work. By emptying out your water heater twice a year, you will keep sediment from building up, which helps it to run efficiently.
Appliances and light bulbs are other potential energy hogs. Take time to examine the light bulbs you are using. Do you really need 100 watts in your reading lamp? Have you switched your main lighting to compact florescent bulbs? When upgrading or replacing appliances look for the energy efficient star. An old refrigerator may cost $100-$150 a year to run, while a new energy efficient one will only cost $30-$60. A full fridge or freezer is more efficient to operate, so keep bottles of water in it when you are low on food.
(c) Copyright text and photo Christa Dovel 2010