Go Green: 5 Ways to Cut Your Energy Costs
Implementing energy-saving measures in your home will reduce your utility usage and costs. Every bit you save has a far wider impact, however. You'll also lessen your consumption of the Earth's natural resources and eliminate a portion of the air, water and soil pollution that occurs in the process. Start with five methods to cut your energy costs and create an impact.
1. Change Your Light Bulbs
While lighting may not be your biggest drain on electricity in the home, it accounts for up to 20 percent of your electricity bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. By switching from traditional incandescent light bulbs to compact florescent lights (CFLs), you can save about 75 percent of the electricity used for each and every bulb replaced. Over the bulb's lifetime, that equals around $30 or more. That's a significant savings when you multiply it by the number of bulbs you use. Look for CFLs displaying the Energy Star logo for best results.
Tip: Install motion sensor switches in rooms where family members often forget to turn off the lights.
2. Perform Regular HVAC Maintenance
Up to half of the energy used in your home goes to your heating and air systems, depending on where you live and the condition of your home. Short of buying a new HVAC system with a better energy rating or fueled with an alternative energy source such as a heat pump – which requires a large upfront investment – proper maintenance will help your furnace or air conditioner use less energy. Clogged air filters force the system to strain and run more, driving up energy use and leading to more frequent breakdowns and repairs. Change your filters at least every three months or sooner if needed. If it looks dirty, it's time. Also, hire a qualified HVAC repair technician to give your system an inspection and "tune up" at least once a year to maintain efficiency and proper operation.
Tip: Install a programmable thermostat to regulate home temperatures. Lower the temperature whenever you will be gone more than a few hours.
3. Seal and Insulate Your Ductwork
An efficient furnace, good insulation and thermostat temperature settings only go so far to save you money. If your HVAC air ducts leak, you could be losing 20 percent or more of your heated or cooled air – you might as well leave a window open all year round! Not to mention that leaky ductwork can circulate fumes and gasses, such as carbon monoxide. This can lead to poor indoor air quality, aggravated health problems or worse, as the Energy Star website explains. Sealing and insulating your ducts is the solution. Use mastic (a glue-like sealant) and metal-backed foil tape to seal each joint and seam. Afterward, wrap the ducts with special insulation designed for ductwork.
Tip – Insulate water pipes, especially the hot water, with pipe insulation for greater energy savings and comfort.
4. Stop Air Leaks
Where is air invading and escaping from your home? Prime problem areas include around electrical outlets and light switches, door and window frames, entry points where cables and lines of any type run into the house through the walls or floor, and surrounding wall- or window-mounted air conditioning units. Also check around gas lines or pipes, fireplaces, attic access doors or hatches, and around any vent or fan. Outside the home, use caulk to seal corners in the siding and wherever two materials meet, such as around water faucets and dryer or stove vents, chimney-to-roof joints and the foundation top. Inside, weatherstripping, caulk and expanding foam insulation can work wonders.
Tip – Don't stop here. Take a look at your insulation and determine if it's degraded and needs replacement or if it's adequate to reach your area's minimum R-values.
5. Unplug It!
Perhaps 10 percent of your energy cost goes to "energy vampires" or "ghosts" that steal your electricity. These are appliances and items that use power even when they aren't actually on and working. Think of anything with a clock, timer, LED light or digital display. Even your phone charger keeps pumping electricity long after the phone is full if you leave it plugged in. To stop this useless drain, turn off nonessentials when you're done with them. Consider using power strips to plug in items and simply turn off the strip when you're finished.
Tip – Look for the Energy Star label, which indicates energy efficiency, when purchasing home appliances large and small.