You can’t do it all
. When was the last time you had maintenance done on your heating and cooling system? If you are like I was, you only called them when there was a problem. And then you either melted or froze for days waiting for them to make it out. You can avoid most of this discomfort by having your annual maintenance done. It bears a small cost, but reaps many more rewards.
Everyone and everything gets slower when they get old.
How old is your heating and cooling system? By nature of its age, it may not be efficient. Look for the ENERGY STAR label on your equipment. If your equipment does not meet or exceed government energy standards, then you might think of changing it. ENERGY STAR labeled products can cut your energy bills up to 30%.
Cooling accounts for 10% of the annual energy use for the average home in our area.
If your heating and cooling systems are one in the same, many of the above steps will cover both areas. But a few things to check specific to cooling are below.
Do your A/C a favor.
Just like your heater, your A/C will appreciate a little helping hand. Close south facing curtains or blinds during the day in the summer. Open them back at night.
Spring and fall days and nights are great for turning your system off completely and opening the windows
. Not only will the temperature stay nice, but your home will also have a chance to air out a bit.
Use small fans in workspaces or ceiling fans in larger rooms to help cool your home.
You can raise the temperature on the thermostat a couple of degrees by having fans help keep you cool.
Get the plants to help
. Plant low growing evergreen shrubs around the base of your home to protect it from the cold wind. Plant trees on the south and west side of your yard to shade and cool the house in the summer. Once they lose their leaves, they will let the winter sun help to warm the house.
Hot Water accounts for 19% of the energy used in average homes in our area.
Check your water heater setting.
You can probably lower the setting on your water heater to the warm setting (around 120F).
Is your water heater naked?
If it is, get an insulating blanket for it. They will pay for themselves in no time.
Don’t forget the pipes.
Just like the water heater loses heat through its body, so do the pipes. You can lose a great deal of heat in your water as it travels through cold pipes.
Drips sound like coins falling away.
If your hot water drips one drip per second (faucet, shower, etc), you can be losing up to $35 per year. That is one entire water bill for me.
Curtail your usage.
I know you think that I am talking about taking a shorter shower, and that will help a great deal, but I am actually talking about your shower heads and faucet aerators. Changing these two items in the rooms you use them can reduce the flow of water you use…thus reducing the amount of hot water that is used. Two birds with one stone.
Appliances account for 15% of the energy use in average homes in our area.
Heat, heat and more heat. The overall theme in saving money for your home is to reduce the amount of heating you have to do. Whether it is air or water, heating elements use energy very inefficiently. That is what our home energy checklist is helping you fix.
Dishwashers use a heating element to heat the water as it washes.
While you need a temperature of 140F to properly clean your dishes, you don’t have to have it for a long period of time. Try using a shorter wash cycle.
Clothes washers don’t need hot water.
You can get away using cold or maybe warm water for nearly all of your laundry. Even if you have to use hot to wash, make sure to use cold for the rinse.
Heating your food.
Do you fire the oven up and preheat it for 15 minutes to cook 10 fishsticks for 7 minutes? That is a giant waste of energy. Not only are you using the heating element to heat the cavernous space of your stove, if it is summer, you are also heating the surrounding area; making your A/C work that much harder. Try a toaster oven instead.
Close the fridge door!
Did you know that the fridge door may not be closed even when it is closed? Try putting a piece of paper between the fridge and the seal of the door when you close it. If you can easily pull the paper out, you are leaking cold air and may need new seals.
How well do you clean?
When was the last time you
vacuumed the coils
on the back of your fridge? Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone. I will tell you that keeping those coils clean will keep your fridge running more efficiently.
Other devices account for 13% of the yearly energy usage in average homes in our area.
Stand about 6 inches in front of your tv for a few seconds.
Feel that heat? Guess what, your A/C feels it too. Don’t just walk away from it knowing the "power saver” will come on in a few minutes. YOU are the power saver. Just turn it off when you aren’t watching it. The same goes for your computer or laptop. Not only the monitors, but the devices themselves.
How much stuff do you have running in standby? My blue ray player has said "welcome” on the screen for about three weeks. As it turns out, that sucker is not really saving me any money waiting for me to watch another movie. Turn things in standby mode off. If you rarely use them, it is better to unplug them completely. They still use small amounts of energy when they are "off”.
Lighting accounts for 5% of energy usage in average homes in our area.
Replace those old bulbs with LED or CFLs.
Don’t wait for all the old ones to go out. Just rip the band aid off and do them all at once.
Do you use lights when the sun is out?
If so and you can get away with a small lamp instead of a big light fixture, then do it. It is much cheaper to light a small area than it is a big one.
Use motion sensors.
Install motion sensors on your outdoor lights so you don’t have to keep them on all the time.
Just turn the lights out.
How many times have you left a room and left the lights on? Hundreds of dollars’ worth I would imagine.
Think about replacing these with solar ones if possible.
Drafts create untold energy losses in homes on our area.
Add film to old windows.
If you cannot afford to replace all your windows, you can add film to them to help insulate the heat and cold from radiating in.
My Grandfather caulked everything.
I never caulk anything. Perhaps I should. There are lots of cracks around my windows. Heading to the hardware store right now!
If it whistles, it is asking for help.
Seal up those whistling gaps. Look in all your vents and make sure the ducts are sealed tight so you don’t lose any of that expensive heat and A/C.
Plumbing can be drafty.
Look for places where plumbing comes in the house or cuts through dead spaces. These can be the cause of lots of your draftiness.
Check for drafts in your recessed lighting. This is another drafty place that you may never notice because it is out of the way.
Check your insulation.
This one also can bear a bit of cost, but if it is bad, it will pay for itself in the long term.
Check around your doors.
Can you see light through the edges with the door closed? It probably needs some weather stripping.
Using our home energy checklist will help you quickly go through most of the items listed above. Keep in mind, neither this page nor our home energy checklist is all inclusive. We recommend you call your local electric company to receive a comprehensive home energy efficiency audit. They are sometimes free, but usually in the $25 – $50 range. The savings you can gain from this visit will almost always pay for it in a matter of months. You will also receive valuable information on how to get rebates if you decide to make any of the changes they recommend.