Now is the perfect time to know how to save energy and make sure your home is buttoned-up and running at maximum efficiency — before the first heating bills arrive. Here are ten energy saving tips.
Did you know that all the little air leaks in a typical home add up to the size of a window that’s left open all year round? Talk about throwing money out the window! Old, inefficient heating equipment is another huge energy waster. The costs can be considerable, too, given that the average U.S. household will spend about $2,350 on energy in 2013, up from $2,125 in 2012, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.
Plug air leaks. Tiny holes around windows, doors, recessed ceiling lights, and other places contribute to stack effect, whereby heated air escapes through the attic and is replaced with colder air from below. Plugging these leaks with caulk, expandable foam sealant, and weather stripping is an easy DIY task.
Check your insulation. Most homes in the U.S. lack sufficient insulation in the attic. There should be at least 11 inches of fiberglass or rock wool insulation, or 8 inches of cellulose insulation. That includes the attic hatch, which homeowners often overlook. A federal tax credit will cover 10 percent of the cost up to $500, if you finish the work before the end of 2013.
Seal ductwork. This is a dirty job best left to the professionals, who will charge you a few hundred bucks or more. But given how much conditioned air escapes through leaky ductwork, the work could pay for itself in a year or two.
Maintain your equipment. If your home has a forced-air heating system, it pays to clean or inspect your furnace once a month during the heating season. Clogged filters cause the furnace blower to work overtime, raising your electricity costs.
Control water heating costs. As much as 25 percent of a home’s energy use goes to water heating, especially if you linger in the shower on cold winter mornings. Turning down the temperature on your water heater to 120°F can trim costs by 10 percent.
Install a programmable thermostat. These devices, which replace your old manual thermometer, automatically turn the heat down when you’re asleep or out of the house. A difference of 5 to 10 degrees can reduce your heating costs by 20 percent.
Harness the sun. Never mind solar roof panels — they can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Simply opening blinds and shades on cold days can raise your home’s temperature significantly, so you won’t have to rely as much on the heating system.
Limit use the fireplace. Sure, they add ambience, but wood-burning fireplaces are one of the least efficient ways to heat your home, since most of the hot air escapes up the chimney. Save the fires for holidays and other special occasions.
Upgrade your windows. Replacing old single-pane windows with new double-glazed units with insulating glass and low-emissivity coatings could lower your energy bills by 15 percent. That’s not quite the 50-percent savings that manufacturers sometimes claim, but if your windows are old and dilapidated, this is an energy-smart upgrade.
Update your lighting. Consider using CFL or LED bulbs, especially with outdoor fixtures, which work overtime during the dark days of winter. Energy Star-qualified fixtures come with automatic daylight shut-off and motions sensors that also reduce energy use. Solar-powered pathway lights are another energy saver.