Has the record summer heat and drought hit your budget hard? Homeowners all across the country are feeling the pinch of their utility bills for cooling their homes, sprinkling parched lawns and flower beds, and the increasing cost of all utilities. Looking for ways to reduce your use, or even home improvements and repairs that can save you money on your utility bills? Lorri Molnar has a great article with tips to help you save money!
Few have unlimited resources, so deciding what home upgrades to do is never an easy choice, especially when you’re on a budget.
But maybe this summer’s excessive heat and the widespread drought could help you to narrow the project field a bit.
After all, there’s still time to capture some summer energy savings. And , though people usually think about insulation and energy costs when the temperatures plunge, summer upgrades can contribute to energy savings throughout the year.
Moreover, some upgrades could help later on when you’re ready to sell your property. Why? Buyers are placing greater value on energy efficiency and lower energy costs. Take a look this chart to see what’s driving home buyers.
Here are 7 strategies you can employ right away to slash energy bills.
- Switch your lights. Analyze your lighting costs and swap your expensive incandescent bulbs for something more efficient.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, using the new lighting technologies can reduce your lighting energy use by 50 to 75 percent. Or consider that you can save approximately $50 by upgrading 15 of the inefficient incandescent bulbs in your house. Yes, the upfront cost of efficient bulbs is higher than incandescent bulbs. But consider this:
- CLF bulbs last 5 to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use 75 percent less energy
- LEDs last 15 to 50 times longer and use 80 percent less energy than an incandescent bulb
And yes, it’s daunting when you’re faced with a wall of confusing bulb options at the hardware store. It’s why www.lightbulbfinder.net is such a useful resource.
You walk around your house and type in some basic information about each bulb and light fixture. The app then provides recommendations for appropriate replacement bulbs and calculates the potential energy savings of the new bulbs. It can’t get any simpler than that.
- Keep it clean. Change air filters monthly. Clean filters can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent, says the U.S. Department of Energy. Also clean evaporator and condenser coils. Dirty coils reduce the system’s cooling power and cause the system to run longer and boost costs. It also reduces the system’s longevity.
- Seal air leaks. Doing duct sealing and weather stripping jobs are as important during the summer as they are in the winter. After all, as much as 20% of the air moving through ducts is lost to leaks and bad connections. Learn the 101 of sealing by visiting here. And keep more of your cool air inside by weather stripping your doors and windows. The U.S. Department of Energy has a good chart, to help you pick the correct product for your projects.
- Program your cooling. Programmable thermostats also can help you all year. Use them correctly and they can save you up to $180 every year in energy costs. Get the details here. And keep in mind that the rule of thumb is that you can save 1 to 3 percent on energy costs for every degree your thermostat is set above 72 degrees.
- Insulate your water storage tank and set the thermostat to 120F or about 48.8C.
- Repair faucet and toilet leaks. A minor faucet drip seems innocuous. Yet it adds up over time. Two leaky faucets that drip five drops of water a minute can add up to 347 gallons each year, according to U.S. Geological Survey. See its calculator to estimate just how much waste one leaky faucet causes.
- Install aerating, low-flow faucets and showerheads.
- Buy or rig your own rain barrel (see www.rainbarrelguide.com, http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/water/az1052/harvest.html, and www.harvesth2o.com/resources.shtml) to capture rainwater for outdoor water needs.
- Make sure you have full loads before doing laundry or running the dishwasher.
- Wash your clothes in cold water, not hot water, and save $63 per year, suggests the Alliance to Save Energy.
- Turn off the drying feature on your dishwasher and let dishes dry naturally. And if you have outdoor space, hang out your clothes to dry in the sun.
- Because it uses less energy than the stove, opt for your microwave for cooking when it’s possible.
- Keep your refrigerator out of direct sunlight and set the temperature between 36 degrees and 38 degrees F. The freezer temperature should be between 0 to 5 degrees F.
The easiest thing is to unplug the items, such as a TV/DVD set-up in a guest room, that you rarely use. When you’re done charging your cell phone and other gadgets, unplug the charging unit. Even things you use regularly, such as computer printers, DVD players, and CD players, also should be plugged into a power strip. That lets you power all of them down with one flip of a switch.
- Turn off lights, TVs, and computers each time you leave a room.
- Don’t cool the outdoors. Keep windows and doors shut when you’re running the air conditioner.
- Block peak summer rays and the heat gain they cause by closing blinds and drapes during the day.
- During peak heat, avoid warming up your house with the oven or stove. Try grilling outside or eating cold meals.
- Location-specific information. Given climate variations, it’s a good idea to check with local experts about the location-specific steps to take to cut energy use.
- Tap incentives. It’s possible that you can further offset the cost of home upgrades through rebates and incentives.
- Find such incentives at www.dsireusa.org in the U.S.
- More information. Delve more deeply into topics about saving energy by visiting some online sites. Here are several to get you started.
written by Elyse Umlauf-Garneau