A number of inexpensive things can be done to improve your home’s energy efficiency. Keep in mind that many of these solutions are longer-term initiatives. The energy savings will be immediate while the true cost savings may not be realized for a couple years. The goal of this post is to inform you of eco-conscious ideas you may not have already heard about. Beyond simple things like switching to energy efficient bulbs an easy way to conserve, if you haven’t already done so.
Steps to make your home more energy efficient for as little cost as possible:
1. Hire a certified Home Energy Rater (HERS)
There are many things you can do on your own. But a professional can rate your home and find trouble spots, in addition to providing a wealth of experience and knowledge to you regarding the solutions to those problem areas. For example, instead of implementing the garden variety weather proofing, HERS can tell you what type is the best for your home. And even the best way to install it. Oftentimes the most expensive does not mean the “best,” so the expert advice can help reduce the costs of your efforts from the get-go. If you do it right the first time, you’ll never need to do it again. These professionals will be worth every penny. Be sure to ask lots of questions and take lots of notes!
2. Shade your home
Adding awnings over your windows is a great way to trim energy costs because it reduces direct sunlight in the summertime and captures winter light (reflected off the snow) in the cold-weather months. By reducing direct sunlight the cost to cool your home will be significantly impacted. If you live in a condo building or an association that will not allow you to install awnings, try using more opaque window treatments. Homeowners have reported significant changes within an hour of installing black-out-blinds (thick blinds that let no light through) in their living room and thick curtains in the other rooms of their house. The treatments don’t have to be dark material as long as they are thick enough to block the light coming in. For ventilation, open the windows that are not receiving direct sunlight. Use fans where necessary to circulate the cool air. Fringe benefits: A nice dark living room for movie night and a nice dark bedroom for those late mornings!
Tried and true results – I tried this in my home and the results were amazing! I went from having to run the AC on full blast to only having a couple fans going to keep my place cool. I kept the blinds closed while I was at work and returned home to a very cool apartment even on a 90-degree day.
3. Plant a tree
Surround your home with tall, leafy vegetation to help naturally cool your living space and exterior grounds. For those watching the wallet, saplings are inexpensive and a great idea for the long-term landscaping plan. Of course, for a quicker return on investment you can throw a little more cash at more developed trees. Either way the benefits are tremendous. According to the Public-Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology (PATH), shading and evaporative cooling from trees can reduce the air temperature around your home up to 6 degrees (www.pathnet.org). Planting deciduous trees (those that seasonally loose their leaves every year) on the northeast/southeast and northwest/southwest sides of the home help decrease cooling costs in summer and allow solar heating during the winter.
4. Insulate the water heater and pipes
Put an insulating jacket around your hot water heater and insulate the pipes around the water heater. This type of jacket costs under $20 and you can get pipe insulation for less than $1 per six feet. Also consider turning the temperature on the water heater down to 120 degrees (read your manual or consult a professional) this will save you even more energy and money.
5. Give your HVAC a tune up
Consult a professional for the service. It should cost around $100, but it will save you 5 – 10% on your heating and cooling bills.
6. Clean or replace your air filters every month
Home inspectors cite this as one of the easiest and cheapest things you can do to help your HVAC system run more efficiently. Professional inspectors recommend buying the cheapest air filters you can find. The allergy filters that cost 10 times what the cheap ones cost can block airflow to a point where your HVAC unit has to work much harder (less efficiently) than if you used the cheap ones and replaced them more often. The cost savings with this tip is huge!
7. Cover your windows with plastic during winter
You’ve probably heard about this one before, but it is surprising how many people still don’t do it. Make sure you follow the instructions and the results will be staggering, especially for homes with older windows.
8. Watch the weather report
Tune into the local weather report before you water your lawn. No sense in soaking your grass and garden with water you pay for right before a rainstorm. Use storm water cisterns to collect rain and use it for exterior irrigation.
9. Lights out
Shut off lights when you leave the room. This is a very common sense act that many people find hard to remember. If you’re one of them, start with sticky notes on doors to remind yourself and eventually it will become second nature.
10. Water-conserving sink etiquette
After you wet your toothbrush, turn off the faucet. Brush your teeth. Then turn the water back on to rinse. You will save gallons of water per week. When doing dishes there is no need to leave the faucet running. For two-sided sinks, fill up one side with warm sudsy water and place washed dishes in the other side. Then rinse them off in groups rather than one dish at a time. For people with single bowl sinks, get a small plastic bucket from the dollar store to keep in your sink while doing the dishes. Fill it with hot soapy water and use a soap wand (which can also be found at the dollar store) to scum the dishes. Place washed dishes in the sink for rinsing in bunches. Spend at most two dollars and save gallons of water every week.