Tips to Trim Your Home’s Energy Diet
Turn It Down !
Turn down the furnace thermostat. You can save as much as $3-$5 per month by simply turning down the thermostat one degree, and another $15-$25 by setting it back 5 degrees at night or when no one is at home. Installing a set-back thermostat will do this automatically. Remember, keeping your furnace clean and in good repair will ensure that it runs to peak efficiency. It is good practice to change your furnace filter monthly during the heating season. Turn down the water heater thermostat. Most people have their water heaters turned up way too high (160 degrees), 120 degrees (the low setting for gas water heaters) is high enough to meet your hot water needs. Wrapping your water heater and inlet and outlet pipes with additional insulation will decrease heat loss and pay for itself in less than one year.
Use low wattage task lighting where illumination is needed only for a small area, such as a favorite reading chair. Consider replacing frequently used high wattage bulbs with compact fluorescent light that last ten times as long as incandescent bulbs.
Install low-flow showerheads. Typically a standard showerhead allows more water flow than is needed. Installing a low-flow showerhead can save you close to 10 gallons during a five minute shower.
Seal It Up !
Caulk, weather-strip, and foam to seal air leaks. Even though you may have a furnace and an air conditioner that run at or above standard efficiency, losing all that conditioned air through leaks in your house is truly “conditioning the great outdoors”. Pay special attention to the areas around windows and doors, where pipes enter walls, around light switch and outlet boxes (foam gaskets work best), and anywhere two materials meet. Caulk the interior of wall cracks, not the exterior. Use rope caulk around very leaky windows. Weather-strip your attic access hatch to prevent conditioned air from escaping. Seal your exposed air ducts with mastic or metal butyl tape and wrap them with insulation. Close your fireplace damper when it is not in use. Don’t ever start a fire and turn up the furnace thermostat at the same time! If you rarely or never use your fireplace, consider covering the opening with cardboard or some other type of material to decrease loss of conditioned air. Repair or replace windows. When repairing windows, don’t seal cracks in the glass, replace the whole pane. Make sure your windows shut tight and fit properly. Windows are expensive to replace, if you are considering replacing all or a large portion of your windows, make sure it will be a cost effective upgrade.
Fill It In !
Make sure walls, attics, and floors are filled with adequate insulation. Too often existing homes have little or no insulation in the walls and attics. Removing switch plates or outlet covers on outside walls and paying a visit to your attic can help you determine how much insulation you have working for you during those cold winters and hot summers. Attic insulation should be at an R-30 or greater level for a cold climate. The type of insulation you have in your attic determines the thickness and R value present. An insulation specialist can help you determine if it is necessary to add to your attic insulation. The R value of the insulation in your walls is harder to determine and difficult to increase. With typical 2 x 4 construction, you should have at least an R-11 in your walls. If your walls have no insulation and there is space to add it, consider having insulation blown-in. This will help to keep the conditioned air in and your energy bills down. Make sure that it is a cost effective improvement. If you have an unfinished basement or crawlspace, adding insulation to the ceiling (floor joist) will work to ensure that you are not allowing heat to travel to this area. Heat only the areas that you want to heat and not the unconditioned parts of your home.
Keep It Full !
Wash only full loads of clothes and dishes, but do not overload or oversuds. Wash clothes in cold or warm water and rinse in cold. Always remember to vent your clothes dryer to the outside. Keep your freezer full, even if only with containers of water, to keep it operating at peak efficiency. If you have a second freezer or refrigerator, be aware that it may be costing you more than $20 per month. Remember to vacuum the condenser coils on your refrigerator or freezer every three months. Also, replace your refrigerator door seal when it becomes worn. To keep your freezer running efficiently, defrost it whenever the ice inside gets to be a quarter inch thick. Use small cooking appliances like microwaves, frying pans, and crock pots. Save the big appliances for the big jobs.
Make It Happen !
The most important thing you can do to increase your home’s energy efficiency is to determine what your needs are, make a plan, and do it! You may not do everything at once, but each improvement will add to your comfort and increase your savings!