For those of us lucky enough to live in a tropical paradise year round, this article may be no more than a humorous diversion between beach volleyball sets. For the rest of us, these tips might save some cash this winter.
According to both the Canadian National Energy Board and the U.S. Energy Information Administration, over 90% of North Americans can expect to pay more for energy this winter due to higher prices on utilities. While these prices will vary by province, state, and by energy source (natural gas, electricity, propane etc.), we can all expect that rates will trend in an upward direction.
There are lots of ways you can make your home more energy efficient without a lot of extra fuss or muss. One of the best ways to start is by doing an energy assessment of your home. Energy.gov offers a good article on how to conduct your own evaluation if you’re not prepared to pay for a professional home energy audit. Taking steps to locate air leaks; check insulation; inspect heating/cooling equipment; look at your lighting and review appliances/electronics use can build you a good checklist.
Even if your home was recently built, there can still be a lot of ways you can improve efficiency. Energy.gov tells us that energy-saving technology changes quickly and often outpaces training offered to builders – even reputable ones. So, new house or old house, there is always room for improvement.
Armed with your newfound understanding of your home, you can take some basic steps to improve energy efficiency and save some money. Here are some quick and easy tips that you can do on your own. Even if you don’t want to go through the hassle of doing your own energy audit, you can still use these tips to get it done:
Love your water heater:
1. A Moneytalks News article states that water heaters are the second biggest expense on your utility bill. It pays to treat your tank right.
2. The Residential Energy Services Network points out that most water heaters are set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. By lowering the thermostat to 120 degrees, you can save some cash without noticing any difference in your morning shower.
3. Buying an insulation jacket for your older water heater and ensuring that your hot water pipes are insulated can save on lost heat transfer between your tank and your kitchen faucet as well.
4. Anode rods are key to the survival of your water heater. These little beauties are designed to attract and hold the corrosive elements in your water and save your tank from rusting. Replacing the anode rods periodically – variables such as make/model of heater, water hardness, size of tank, water pressure etc. determine how often – will extend the life of your tank. HouseImprovements has a great Youtube video on how to change an anode rod. This is one way to save on energy bills.
5. Draining/flushing the sediment from your water tank will also increase the life span of your water heater. As mentioned above, sediment can corrode your tank and “gum up the works”. Ron Hazelton gives us a run down on how to do this.
Finesse your furnace:
6. Buy a good quality filter and change it frequently. This helps your furnace work at optimum efficiency and assists with removing unwanted dust and allergens from your air. How often you should change your filter varies by make and model. Bob Vila gives some good tips on buying the right furnace filter.
7. Install a programmable thermostat and regulate the temperature of your house. You can save between 5% and 15% a year on your utility bill by optimizing the temperature around your lifestyle. Program your thermostat to drop the temperature by 10 to 15 degrees over an eight hour period – perhaps while you’re sleeping at night or while you’re away at work during the day. This is another way to save on energy costs.
8. You can use similar cost-saving methods with air conditioning in the summer.
9. A final note on programming your thermostat: you might need to use difference strategies depending on your heating system (electric baseboard heating and radiant floor heating, for example). Read more about how to save on energy this way at the Department of Energy (DOE) website.
10. If you’re really ambitious, How Stuff Works has a good article on how to clean your furnace. Doing this on a regular basis will go a long way to preserving the life of this noble heat bringer. There are several places your furnace can clog up with dust and dirt and this can impact efficiency and stress the inner workings. I’m not sure I’ll ever make this a DIY project for myself, I don’t know that natural gas and me will mix very well.
Mind Your Gaps:
11. Take a close look at your home for cracks and gaps that will allow hot air out and cold air in. These can most commonly be found around windows, electrical outlets, exterior doors, and fireplaces/chimneys.
12. Windows are usually a big offender when it comes to heat loss in the winter. An affordable solution to energy-saving can be found in insulating window film. Lowes shares tips for picking and applying the right film for your home. They talk about how insulating film can retain up to 55% of your home’s heat in the winter and reflect ultraviolet rays and warmth in summer. It keeps you comfortable year round and pays for itself in less than a year.
13. Install door sweeps on exterior doors to reduce draft found under doors. These are usually available at most home and hardware stores for varying prices.
14. If you find cold air coming in through your electrical outlets, be careful how you work with this since you’re dealing with your electrical system. The easiest way to solve this problem is to buy foam insulating gaskets made specifically for light switches and electrical outlets. Home and hardware stores like Home Depot sell them for less than two dollars.
15. Other gaps and cracks can usually be sealed up using a caulking formula or spray foam. Do your research to figure out what will work best for your crack de jour.
Light Up Your Life:
16. This isn’t limited to winter but replace your indoor and outdoor lighting with Energy Star rated compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) or light emitting diodes (LED) bulbs. These are designed to use 75% less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb and will save $6 per bulb/per year in electricity. Energy Star has a calculator to help you determine price savings. This will save on energy and electricity costs.
17. Also, while ceiling fans can be used in summer to cool down your room, they can also be used in the winter. Reverse the direction to bring hot air down to floor level in the cold season. Good times with moderate temperatures year round.
Shop Wise for Appliances:
18. This is also not snow-specific but when you are in the market for washers/dryers/dishwashers and other big ticket items, keeps in mind that spending a few extra dollars might save on energy bills in the long run when you buy energy efficient products.
19. Energy Star is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that helps individuals and businesses protect the environment and save money. They have a lot of initiatives but one of their more popular programs is their “Energy Star” rating system for appliances. Often times, buying an “Energy Star” rated appliances will qualify you for government rebates. Save on energy and free cash from the government – what’s not to love?
20. This is a shameless plug but sign up to receive emails from Cents, Sense & Sensibility. Get articles delivered right to your inbox with fun, and semi-factual, posts on saving money. All the cool kids are doing it – peer pressure is so in right now.
Stay warm and thanks for stopping by.