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Our home is one of our favorite places to hang out. We live in a lovely area with a view, and we have done a lot of work to make our home attractive and inviting.
Yet we have one major problem: our house is super exposed to the elements. Tons of windows are south-facing, extreme wind storms attack our house, and no large trees provide shade or protection.
Our house needs every bit of energy savings we can throw at it.
Thankfully, not every energy saving idea involves expensive remodeling, repairs, or appliance upgrades. Although these things help, plenty of small, inexpensive weekend maintenance and updating projects have had a major impact on our utility bills.
Plus, several usage hacks save hundreds of dollars. Without spending a dime, we (and you) can reduce electricity and water consumption. Here’s how you can save money on your monthly energy bill:
Weatherization and Temperature Control
Heating and cooling your home accounts for 35%-40% of your home’s energy use. Yet so many homeowners are wasting money heating or cooling air for no good reason. Here’s how to fix:
Air seal: Air leaks in your home cause the greatest amounts of energy loss in a home. Simply by sealing up gaps and holes, you can save 10-20% of your heating and cooling costs. Here’s what you need and what to do:
- Identify leaks: Using an incense stick on a windy day, check for air flow around all windows, doors, plumbing and lighting fixtures, switches, and electrical boxes. Don’t forget possible leaks on the ceiling- lighting fixtures, attic hatches, etc. If the incense blows horizontally, congratulations! You have found a place to air seal.
- Caulk or spray foam: Depending on the size of the gap, either seal the gap with silicone caulking or spray foam.
- Add weather stripping around doors and windows: Obviously you can’t caulk your doors and windows shut, so use weatherstripping to add a layer of insulation.
Replace filters: HVAC systems and furnaces have air filters. When was the last time you changed yours? They should be changed monthly to improve the function of your unit.
Adjust temperature on the thermostat: We are such spoiled people with temperature controlled homes, but maybe being ever-so-slightly uncomfortable is good for us. Save 10% of your heating and cooling bill simply by lowering the thermostat down 7-10 degrees in the winter for 8 hours a day. And in the summer, turn it up. People pay for hot yoga—so it must be healthy, right? A Smart thermostat is a worthy investment if you want to get serious.
Install insulating drapes or cellular shades: If you have super exposed windows like we do, these can reduce passive solar invading your house in the summer and prevent cold infiltration in the winter.
Water heating is the next big utility expense—13% average. The best way to save on energy and water consumption is to use less hot water. Here’s how:
Lower hot water temperature: The optimal temperature is 120 degrees. Hot enough to be comfortable, cool enough to save dollars.
Install low-flow faucet aerators and shower heads: These little babies are great at reducing water use. Ours is adjustable, so when I need a little more pressure, say to rinse my hair, I can turn it up.
Repair leaky faucets: This is a no-brainer. One drip a second wastes 1,661 gallons of water a year, roughly $35.
Insulate water pipes with pipe insulation: You may not be able to reach everything, but even insulating under sinks and directly around the hot water heater can help save 3%-4% of your hot water bill.
Appliances are such great modern conveniences, but they do use a lot of energy. Just a few changes can make a big difference to your electricity bill.
Take advantage of off-peak hours: Many electric districts offer incentives to use electricity during off-peak hours. The savings can be pretty substantial. Check with your district to see what they offer, and then plan your appliance use accordingly.
Run your dishwasher wisely: Always run a full dishwasher and turn off the heated dry feature.
Clean condenser coils on the fridge: Pull your refrigerator away from the wall and clean the condenser coils on the back. Usually, they are full of hair, lint, dirt, and grease. Clean them as per the manufacturer’s instructions to improve efficiency.
Wash and dry clothes smartly: Use warm water, or better yet cold water, instead of hot water to cut your energy use in half. Spin on high to get as much water out as possible, and then dry on a low setting. The dryer may run longer, but what costs the most money is the heat—not the tumbler.
Electronics and Lighting
Most homes today have at least 20 electronic devices. Every one of them draws power, whether they are in use or not. You can reduce the energy suck substantially with these ideas, plus save on your lighting expense.
Invest in advanced power strips: This alone can save you 10% on your electricity bill. They have timers and other sensors that prevent your electronics from drawing power when not in use.
Stream smartly: Did you know your game console uses 10 times more power than a laptop? If you are watching something by yourself, do you really need a giant display?
Adjust your TV settings: Reduce the brightness on your TV to save 18%-30% of its energy use.
Update lightbulbs: Most people know this one—LED light bulbs use 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs. If you haven’t already, change every bulb in your house.
A Cost Breakdown
I’ve just given you 16 great ideas and quick projects to save you money. While I can’t give exact numbers of what you will save, I can give you an estimate of what you will spend to implement some of the ideas and the average yearly savings for these changes.
- Caulk or spray foam: $7-13 per container
Savings for Air Sealing: $83-$166 a year
- Weather stripping: $10 a roll
Savings for Weatherstripping: $42-$83 a year
- Smart Thermostat: roughly $150
Savings for Temperature Adjustments: $83 a year
- Lowering Water temperature: free!
Savings for lowering water temp: $12-60 a year
- Pipe insulation: $5-10 a tube
Savings for Insulation: $8-12 a year
- Advanced Power Strips: $25
Savings for Power Strip: $100 a year
- LED lightbulbs: $1 or less each
Savings for just 5 most-used replacement bulbs: $75 a year
This isn’t even every idea, but just these 7 changes can save $579 a year!
To find more specific answers to the energy savings available on your home, you can perform your own home energy audit. This will break down estimates for return on investment, yearly savings, and payback times.
Contributor’s opinions are their own. Always do your own due diligence before investing.
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