Free Ways to Save Energy and Money
The no-brainer – it’s what mom and dad drilled into our heads: if it’s not being used, turn it off.
Save hot water – take shorter showers and wash clothes in cold water. Hot water averages 15% on a home’s energy bill.
Hang-dry clothes, indoors or out – your dryer likely uses more energy than any other appliance except the refrigerator!
Only heat and cool the rooms that are in use – that guestless guest room has a vent control, doesn’t it?
Troubleshoot and calibrate the zone thermostat – Yes, calibrating the zone thermostat is free and easy too.
Cheap Ways to Save Energy and Money
Change the air conditioner/heater filter every month.
Replace old ductwork – nobody needs a serviceman to do this.
Change the incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent, low voltage bulbs, or LED light bulbs.
Always look for the Energy Star label on any new appliance bought.
Buy and install a water heater insulation wrap – they’re cheap and recoup the cash outlay in just a few months.
Install low-flow showerheads – it’s surprising the difference it makes in the long haul.
Use a programmable zone thermostat – experts these days highly suggests to use programmable zone thermostat as it one less thing to keep up with.
Change the door and window weather stripping.
Install ceiling fans – and make the blades rotate one way in the summer and the opposite in the winter.
Bigger Ticket Ways to Save Energy and Money
Plant shade trees where the sun strikes the home – the leaves will block the sun’s heat in the summer and when they fall in the fall, the sunlight flows through to warm the home.
Add insulation to the attic and crawlspaces – at least R-49 is recommended.
Spray radiant barrier paint on the underside of the roof decking – it pays for itself quickly; rent a spray rig if needed.
Install Energy Star-rated windows or storm windows – in the winter, heat loss is reduced by up to 50%.
Install a tankless water heater – it’s an even better way to save energy. Why heat water while the family sleeps?
Installing a new central air conditioner? Get one with a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) of 13 or higher. Once again, look for an Energy Star label for a window unit.
If the home is in an arid environment, install an evaporative cooler instead of an A/C. It will add humidity to the home, not remove it like an A/C will.
Don’t Make all the Energy Efficiency Changes at Once
It’s tempting, but don’t. Think seasonally. Attic work should be done in cooler weather if possible. Look into what will reap tax credits and finish those near the end of the tax year. Plant trees on Arbor Day.
Home Energy Audit
A Home Energy Audit can save a homeowner hundreds of dollars with tips on improving energy use and making a home more efficient. Whether the homeowner chooses a professional audit service or completes an online survey this is an important step towards energy efficiency.
Professional Home Energy Analysis
A Residential Energy Audit involves a thorough inspection of multiple parts of a home. This inspection can take upwards of an hour and should cover the following:
Heating and cooling systems
Insulation of exterior walls, attic, basement or crawlspaces, ceilings, floors and interior walls
Major Appliances – such as refrigerator, oven/stove, washer and dryer
Windows and window coverings
Existing utility bills
This professional audit will include individual tips and suggestions to improve the home’s overall energy efficiency. If done in conjunction with the homeowner’s electric or gas company rebates may be available to upgrade to Energy Star rated appliances, or for HVAC (Heating, Venting and Air Conditioning) equipment replacements.
Finding a Professional Residential Energy Auditor
A homeowner or landlord will want to start with their local electric or gas companies to see if this service is provided to customers. Other sources for low cost to free energy audits may be with local or state government energy offices.
These low cost or free energy audits do not compare to the extensive audit to that of a professional one hires though. Local contractors and builders may be good leads to a professional service that performs comprehensive energy inspections and may be able to help with necessary home improvements to improve energy efficiency.
Online Energy Audit Programs
The power of the internet can be a great thing for homeowners or renters looking to save some money on heating and electric bills. Here are some websites that offer various features to walk a user through a do-it-yourself home energy audit:
The Home Energy Saver – sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy for the Energy Star program The Home Energy Saver is a very comprehensive online software audit. Helps users to calculate energy costs, probable savings and to research options to improve the home’s energy efficiency, especially with Energy Start rated appliances and systems.
In Helen Hunter’s article, Home Energy Audits Only a Website Away, published by Home Energy Magazine Online November/December 1998, she outlines various websites available.
Do It Yourself – Without the Software
Someone who is handy around the house can conduct their own home energy audit. Basic steps to include are:
Checking the home’s insulation – from the attic to basement or crawlspace. Inspecting a wall’s insulation may be possible during renovations where drywall has already been cut and access is easy. Other options may include removing an electric outlet when the power has been turned off and checking the insulation with a flashlight and tape measure.
Heating and Cooling – upgrading to equipment newer than 15 years is recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) program. Annual inspections are a good idea for furnaces, whole house cooling systems and other heating and cooling equipment.
Airtight Homes – checking on draft locations is important – look not only at obvious sights such as around doors and windows but also electrical outlets and switchplates, access doors or hatches to the attic and wall or window-mounted air conditioners.
Local hardware supply stores can provide general advice on ways homeowners can improve their home’s energy efficiency by installing weatherstripping, various forms of insulation and replacing energy-hogs such as older appliances.