Energy saving tips for people who are looking to save money and cut down on expenses when possible.
Home energy conservation is a great saving strategy that is often overlooked. While there has been a lot of talk about renewable and alternative energy sources, there is also several easy energy saving tips that can add up to big saving on your energy bill. I’ve put together a list of 10 “projects” that you can do at home to increase your energy efficiency and save real money on those nasty power bills.
An energy efficient home gets far more running hours out of its backup generator. In an inefficient home you will find that the backup generator will run out of juice very quickly and that’s the last thing you want to happen during an emergency.
1. Add or Improve Insulation
Insulation may be the single most important energy efficient element. It is critical that you have sufficient coverage in key areas which include walls, ceiling, floors, and the attic. The most obvious place to start is the attic and ceiling which in many cases are the same things. Unless your home is very old (more than 50 years), chances are there is some insulation in the attic or ceiling. Adding more will help to block the heat or the cold from spreading into your home’s living areas. Adding additional insulation to the attic is a fairly easy job if the attic is accessible. The most common type of insulation is fiberglass which comes in various lengths, widths, and thickness. The width and thickness are made to accommodate various wall and ceiling cavity sizes between studs, rafters, and ceiling joists. However, when adding insulation in an attic, this most likely won’t be a factor since you’ll be laying it over existing insulation.
Another option is blown insulation which is loose material inserted by using a blower. Although this provides good coverage, it is a messier and more complicated process. However, if you’re up for a challenge, you can buy the insulation and rent the blower in hardware and home improvement stores. Insulation walls in existing homes is usually a little more challenging due to the fact that the wall cavity has been covered up with drywall or other wall covering. The expenses and work associated with opening up the wall is probably not worth it unless you have an older home with absolutely no wall is probably not worth it unless you have an order home with absolutely no walls insulation.
There is even cheaper option that I once used on a garage which we were covering into a bedroom. At the top of the wall, near the ceiling, we cut holes of roughly 6 by 6 inches between each of the studs in the exterior walls and blew in the insulation. We then repaired the drywall in the small spots rather than replacing the entire wall. If your home is built above the ground with a crawl space or if you’re in a mobile home, it’s important to ensure that the floor is properly insulated. This will not be an easy job because it will involve either removing the flooring to work from above or crawling on your back from below. Both of this these options involve a lot of work. However, if your floor is not properly insulated then heating and cooling the home will be ineffective and expensive.
2. Attic Ventilation
Proper attic ventilation is critical in efficiently heating or cooling your home. When hot, cold, or moist air remains trapped above the ceiling it will travel into the home below even if the ceiling has been well insulated. Ventilating the attic can be accomplished in several ways. Importantly, the better the ventilation, the better and more comfortable the temperature down below will be.
The most common methods are using soffit, ridge, and turbine vents. Even if you’re not familiar with these terms, chances are you’ve seen the vents before. Soffit vents are found in the eaves around the perimeter of the house and may be of a small louver type or continuous with a screen. Soffit vents usually work in conjunction with roof turbines and gable vents to move airflow through the attic and therefore bring the temperature up or down according to the outside air temperature. Ridge vents are long plastic vents that are put in place of the decking and run along the ridge at the peak of the roof. For even better ventilation, you can install roof or gable mounted vent fans which are controlled by a thermostat that automatically turns the fan on or off at set temperature levels in much the same way as a central HVAC system. These can be electrically wired is definitely worth it in the long run considering potential future energy savings.
3. Managing Power to Electronics
While the modern home electronics available today offer great convenience and entertainment value, they are also some of the heaviest electricity users. Managing power to computers, televisions, and gaming systems can reduce your energy costs more than you might think. Computers, in particular, are some of the biggest power hogs. Adjusting their setting to send them into sleep mode or turning them off when you’re not using them will help, but only to a limited degree.
On the other hand, unplugging computers altogether or using a time to completely shut off their power will make a huge difference. Plasma and LCD TV’s as well as gaming systems use lots of electricity so it’s worthwhile spending a little more for models with good ”Energy Star” ratings. In addition, talk to your family about turning things off when not in use. I know that in my house it’s not uncommon to have three or four TV’s on at once while not in use.
4. Install Radiant Barriers
The installation of radiant barriers has become an increasingly popular method of reducing energy consumption. The process involves installing reflective material on the underside of the roof that will reflect the majority of the sun’s radiant heat. There are several products available, the most common and effective being foil strips that can be attached to the bottom side of the roof either between or over the rafters. If you are building a new home or replacing an existing roof, an excellent option is plywood decking that comes with the foil already attached to one side.
There are several types and brands of foil to suit different applications and budgets, so I recommend doing some research before making a purchase. You should also consider the various radiant coatings and paints that can be brushed, rolled, or sprayed on. Although the consensus is that these paints don’t offer as much benefit as foil, they do help and the installation process is generally considered much easier.
5. Using Energy Efficient Lighting
The use of computer fluorescent light bulbs has become very popular in the last few years because they only use 30% to 40% of the power of incandescent bulbs. They are available in a variety of sizes and strengths and are also now available as dimmable bulbs. I replaced 95% of the bulbs in my house with these and immediately saw about a 30% decrease in power consumption. While they cost significantly more than incandescent bulbs, they should last 7 to 10 times longer and will quickly pay for themselves because of their increased energy efficiency.
You can also find much better prices by buying in bulk online rather than at a hardware store. If you are replacing your light fixtures or ceiling fans, there are also a variety of energy efficient products to choose from.
Whenever possible, use LED lights. They may be more expensive to purchase outright but they have the lowest power consumption of all light sources. As an added bonus, you won’t have to change the bulbs very often at all. LED lights can work for up to 25,000 hours. Even if you never ever turn your lights off this equates to almost three years of use.
6. Replacement Windows
Your home’s windows can make an enormous difference in the amount of energy that is needed for heating and cooling. Replacing existing windows with new energy efficient models can provide huge savings in the long run. However, the outright cost can also be extremely high.
I recommend doing a lot of research because prices vary tremendously. It’s also important to weigh the cost of windows against potential savings to see how long it would take them to pay for themselves.
Building codes in recent years have mandated the use of double insulated windows. Therefore, if your home was built within the last 10 years, there’s a good chance you already have insulated windows. Another more cost effective method of shielding your home from outside temperatures is using tinted glass or window covers such as heavy draperies, shades, or shutters.
7. Weather Stripping and Sealants
This pretty basic concept is often neglected. Cracks around windows, doors, and other wall penetrations are a constant cause of energy loss. Caulking or sealing cracks around windows and doors will do wonders for preventing outside air from entering into the home. It’s also important to ensure that all exterior doors are properly weather stripped. If weather stripping has become loose or defective, there are a variety of replacement products available at hardware and home improvement stores to choose from. One of the most crucial places to check is attics and basement access doors.
8. More Efficient Water Heating
Hot water systems are one of the biggest home energy expenses. Modern homes are almost constantly heating water for bathing, washing clothes, dishes, or even heating swimming pools. Fortunately, there are several measures that can be taken to reduce expenditures. An easy and inexpensive method is to further insulate the tank and pipes where water enters and leaves the tank. Lowering the temperature setting on a heater’s thermostat can reduce power usage while still providing a comfortable water temperature. If you live in a warm climate, installing a solar powered water heater may be a viable option and installation instructions can be found on the internet. On demand or tankless water heaters are available in electric or gas models and will also provide a notable energy saving. However, considering the required additional circuits or gas lines, the installation cost may outweigh the savings.
9. Proper Maintenance of Heating and Cooling System
Ensuring that your home’s heating and cooling systems are operating at peak efficiency can make a big difference to energy consumption levels. Regular cleaning and maintenance will save you money by extending the life of your system. An important thing you can do as a homeowner is to regularly change the filters and clean the coils in your heating and cooling system. The necessary materials can be found in hardware, home improvement, and even grocery stores. I would also recommend having a professional technician clean and inspect your systems at least once a year.
10. Government Grants and Tax Credits
With current nationwide emphasis on energy conservation, the federal government and many state and local governments have established grant programs or tax credits for making energy efficiency improvements to home and businesses. Using a home generator or standby generator may also help get you some tax credits and government grants. If you qualify, this incentive could amount to hundreds or thousands of dollars in addition to those energy efficiency savings.
Check with the Department of Energy or other relevant agencies in your state to see what is available.
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