Affordable Tips to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

By the Staff
Regardless of your income level, homeownership can take quite a bite out of your budget. With energy costs on the rise, maintaining a home has become increasingly difficult and quite costly, particularly if your home is not as energy efficient as it could be. Thankfully, there are many ways to make your home more energy efficient without breaking the bank. On the other hand, if you have some extra money kicking around, there are new technologies and products on the market that can improve your home’s value as well as act as an insurance policy against inflated utility bills.

The Basics

Dealing with Those Pesky Leaks

Believe it or not, you can save more than 30 percent on your utility bills by simply finding and eradicating small openings and alleviating drafts that may exist in your home. The best way to figure out where the air in coming in and the heat is going out is by using a candle, a piece of thread or an incense stick to determine where air infiltration and leakage occurs. In unfinished areas of your home, dirty insulation is a sure sign of air exposure.

If drafts occur around your windows and doors, use caulking or weather stripping to fill in the unwanted spaces. Both are affordable and easy to use. Even if you have installed weather stripping or caulked these spaces in the past, it is important to revisit these areas annually. For drafty windows, you may even consider applying a thin plastic weather barrier on the inside of your windows during the winter months. If plastic covered windows cramp your style, purchase new heavy drapes or curtains to dress up your window and keep the cold air out.

Although leaky windows and drafty doors are the usual suspects when it comes to energy loss, spaces when pipes, ductwork and wiring pass through an exterior wall also contribute to energy loss. Use spray foam or caulking to fill in these gaps.

Blankets Can Keep Mechanicals Up to Snuff

Just like we can keep ourselves warm and cozy with extra layers during the winter months, our home’s mechanical systems can also benefit from extra layers.

By design, your water heater is insulated, but it can always use an extra layer of protection. You can reduce heat loss without spending a lot of money by purchasing an insulating blanket for the unit. You can even insulate it yourself with fiberglass insulation.

In addition, you can insulate your water pipes, particularly if they exist in unheated areas of your home. Hot water pipes without insulation will result in heats loss and ultimately cause your water heater to work harder than it should. For cold water pipes, insulation protects against freezing and sweat. Simply purchase affordable foam pipe insulation sleeves and cover joints and tricky angles with vinyl duct tape.

Other Affordable Options

Maintenance is important when it comes to improving your home’s energy efficiency.

Remember to check the filters on your heating and cooling systems monthly and replace them regularly. Keeping up with annual maintenance and service is the key.

When possible, replace any incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs which are more energy efficient and last longer too!

Money toward Efficiency is a Worthy Investment: If you have money to burn, making substantial improvements in your home’s energy efficiency will save you money in the long run. The following is a list of home improvements that will help increase the value of your home and save you money on future utility costs.

Consider Replacement Windows: Although replacing the windows in your home can be costly. Energy efficient windows will save you a bundle of money in the long-run, particularly if your current windows are old and outdated.

Install Exhaust Fans: Exhaust fans can pull unwanted heat and humidity from bathroom and kitchen spaces during the summer months.

Install Ceiling Fans: Ceiling fans can help reduce your home’s dependence on air conditioning during the summer months and, in the winter you can use the fan to help push heat down from the ceiling.

Install Programmable Thermostats: A programmable thermostat will reduce your energy costs by regulating the temperature in your home based on peak usage. In other words, your thermostat can keep lower the temperature during hours when the home is not occupied and pump it up while the family is gathered at home.

Think About Your Fireplace Use: A fireplace will always rob your home of heat unless you know what you are doing. If you are not using your fireplace, you may consider sealing and insulating both the unit and the chimney. If you do utilize your fireplace, consider adding glass doors if they do not already exist. You may even want to consider a “heater insert,” which includes a blower and thermostat designed to save energy and maintain the character of your fireplace unit.

Replace those Old Appliances: Particularly if you are using older model appliances, you may want to consider replacing them with more energy efficient models.

No Cost Solutions: If you change your daily habits, you may see a dramatic decrease in energy costs. Consider the following energy saving habits:

Take a Shower: Showers require less hot water than baths and water-saving showerheads are easy to install and can help save money also.

Use Your Appliances Properly: Use your washer/dryer, oven, dishwasher and other large appliances in the morning or the evening. In addition, do not waste water with small and medium wash loads and clear your lint filter with every dryer run. Hang dry your clothes in the summer.

Conserve Electricity: Turn off all electronic devices when not in use.

Use the Sun: During winter months, keep all window covers on south facing windows open to allow for additional sunlight.

Keep it Free and Clean: Clean your baseboard heaters and radiators and do not block them with furniture, carpeting, or drapes.

Set Your Thermostat Wisely: In the winter, set your thermostat at 68° F. In the summer, set the thermostat at 78° F.

Use Your Damper Properly: Close the damper when your fireplace is not in use.