Ten Steps To Improve Your Home's Energy Efficiency

With rising energy costs and with more concern for the environment, many people look for ways to save energy. You may find that by taking these steps though, you might not be saving money from your current bill since the cost of energy is always increasing.
However, most people now recognize the need to take active steps in this area. Some steps will be practical to do right away, but for others you may need a while.

1)Unplug appliances. The latest versions of our coffee makers, televisions, and phones will use energy, even if we are not using them. I place items like this on a power strip, which I turn off when not in use. Think about it; do you need to see the clock on the coffee maker when the oven has a built in clock. Use a lap top instead of your desk model computer for energy savings. Anything with a "vampire box" (a power converter) will always be draining electricity when not in use.

2)Install solar screens on your windows. Look for a screen roll that has the phrasing indicating solar protection. Not all dark screens actual reduce heat produced by UV rays. There are also window film products which are said to accomplish reducing this heat from the sun. I have never checked out how well they work.

3)Replace your bulbs with compact fluorescent. Every so often you will see a sale on these units. It would be wise to wait for a sale, since changing your entire home over can add up. These compact fluorescent are now designed for all situations in your home, and they should last longer than an incandescent bulb.

4)When replacing appliances, look for units that are Energy Star certified. They may cost more, but you do have savings on the energy cost side. I do not like to mention manufactures by name, since many makers produce good products, but Bosch has a line of appliances out that are reasonably priced, and the firm has worked hard towards making them energy efficient, but I did not see them certified by Energy Star yet. Purchase new appliances in the early spring, before the new year models come out, since this is when appliances are on sale.

5)Turn off gas pilot lights. If you have a natural gas furnace to heat your home, you may have a gas pilot light burning all year. The gas can be turned off during the warmer months, and then re-ignited for the cooler months. Gas water heaters of the tank variety have pilots as well, but here you would want to make the investment of switching over to a tankless water heater to save on energy costs.

6)The sun will heat the southern and western sides of you home more than the other sides. By planting trees and bushes for shade, you will cool down your home, but prune branches away from walls and roofs to help air flow and moisture control. This is to prevent damage to the roof and walls. Moisture being their biggest enemy. By planting deciduous plants, you will heat up your home by the sun during the cooler months.

7)Going back to your windows, look at how they are placed into the wall from the inside and the outside. If you see gaps or holes, you will want those filled to prevent your conditioned air from escaping. I discovered that my front window had a gap leading to the attic on the inside edge, so really look at the frames.

8)Adding insulation to your existing insulation can help. Older insulation may be light or missing, and adding batts of the highest R-value insulation can improve energy efficiency. You can even add a lower R-value batt on top of this insulation to obtain an even greater R-value. The R-value refers to the resistance to heat passing through the insulation. Insulation should be at least the depth of the joist in your attic (typically 6"). Going over the joist is fine, but for some one working in the attic, finding a path to walk will help prevent someone from going through your ceiling, so think about where you can cover joists, and where you should not.

9)Create air movement. By turning on fans or using the older method of opening windows for a cross breeze creates air movement. When we feel hot, the temperature may be fine, but we feel uncomfortable because of the lack of air movement. By turning the air conditioning lower, we force the fan to come on, which moves the air. We can accomplish this effect by having a ceiling fan running.

10) Have a programmable thermostat installed, and learn how to program it. These units go for around $50, and they are not that difficult to install, but you may need some patience to hook up the wiring. You do not want wild swings in the temperature though. Do not set it for 83F during the day, and then 74F for when you are home. Go for the gradual, like 80F when you are away and 77F when you are there. In this way, you will not overwork your unit.

You may have heard these tips before, but I hope that I have given you some further insight into them. I find that a list like this will just hit the bullet points without explanation, and I want you to realize some thinking behind them. Keep receipts for these projects, because they may help reduce your taxes.

About the Author

A real estate inspector in Houston, Texas, who writes on issues concerning buying and selling your home, as well as evaluating your home.