In today’s economy, homeowners have to be creative in order to save money on heating and cooling costs. In addition, there is a renewed focus on conserving and reducing energy consumption. So, I’ve had to get creative and find ways to save both money and energy. With that in mind, here are five ways to improve your energy efficiency. I’ve included some links to additional resources to help with some of the details on these tips. Be sure to check them out!
Do it Yourself Home Energy Audit
A great way to start is to do your own home energy audit. It’s easier than you may think! Start by looking around switch plates, outlets, doors, windows, and other openings to see if air can move through these spaces. Inspect doors and windows for cracks of light. Openings can be sealed with weather stripping or caulk.
Outside your home, take a look at all the spaces where different types of building materials are joined together. These areas and the openings around pipes, faucets, and outlets can and should be caulked. Check your heating and cooling equipment for efficiency too; you probably can’t do this yourself but a professional check-up is recommended once a year. Consider also changing traditional light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs for savings. As part of your energy audit, head to your attic to look at your insulation. An older home may need new insulation to prevent heating and cooling loss. Find out more about performing your own energy audit here: http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/energy_audits/index.cfm/mytopic=11170.
How to Install Insulation in Your Attic
While you’re up in the attic checking on your insulation, did you know you can install attic insulation yourself? It doesn’t require extreme skill. You will need to dress protectively and wear gloves, safety glasses, and a filter mask. You may even be able to install new insulation over the old if the existing fiberglass is still in good condition. Rolls or batts (rectangles) of insulation are the way to go for homeowners. Measure the length between the joists and add them up together to obtain the total insulation needed. The value of a well-insulated attic will be clear as soon as you start receiving your first heating bills. For more information on installing your own insulation, click here: http://homerenovations.about.com/lw/Home-Garden/Home-improvement-renovation/How-to-Install-Attic-Insulation.htm.
The Whole House Fan
The attic comes into play for another way to save on cooling. An attic fan or whole house fan can be a huge money-saver and can be used instead of air conditioning. The fan works best if the outside temperature is not excessively high. A whole house fan vents out the hot air and pulls in cooler air through open doors and windows. These fans pull a large volume of air through a home, and can cool it off quickly, especially in the morning and evening. And they’re very effective! Learn more about whole house fans at the following site: http://www.wholehousefans.com/atticfanscom/.
Negotiate for a Better Price
If you want to stick with your current HVAC system, picture this scenario: You’ve just learned you need an entirely new central heating and air conditioning system. You’re obviously upset over how much this is going to deflate your bank account. Take a deep breath, and take some deliberate steps to make the process smoother. Remember it’s always a good idea to get several estimates for a job this large. If you have a preferred contractor and his bid is higher than another’s estimate, show him the lower bid and ask him to explain the difference. Many energy contractors are open to negotiation, especially if it involves a small reduction in the overall price. You can often negotiate for other items too instead of just a lowered price. Ask for a one-year service contract or for a free digital thermostat. Think creatively before you just accept the offered deal. Find more ideas on how to negotiate effectively here: http://www.furnacecompare.com/heating-contractors/how-to-negotiate.html.
Try a Digital Thermostat
The final tip that’s helped my house save on heating and cooling costs is our digital thermostat. These thermostats are programmable, so you can set them to provide heating and cooling when your family needs it, and only when you need it. No one likes the thought of the heat running when you’re not at home! The settings can be entered for day and night; by using the pre-programmed settings, homeowners can save up to $180 per year. To find out more about installing and programming a digital thermostat, check out the following website: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=thermostats.pr_thermostats_guidelines.
These five tips have made a big difference in our money and energy savings at home. If you’re on a budget, a great place to start is with your home energy audit. That will help you prioritize what should be done immediately and what can wait until you save more money. Do you have some tips to add? If so, please let us know in the comments!
[Abby Snyder is a writer for FurnaceCompare.com, a website that helps people find the most appropriate boiler, central air conditioner, heat pump or furnace. The site allows you to compare costs, efficiency ratings and consumer reviews.]
Image: Images_of_Money at Flickr