Tips for an energy efficient home

Real Estate Agent with Right at Home Realty Inc., Brokerage

Adjust Your Habits - Many families could shave at least 25 percent off their energy costs by adopting energy-conserving habits. Furnaces and air conditioners typically log many hours of operation during times when heating and air-conditioning aren't really necessary. Appliances are often left running when not needed. Hot water consumption for many families can be reduced one-half through simple changes in habits. What you can do: control your thermostat faithfully, or install a programmable thermostat and learn to program it. Turn lights and appliances off when not needed. Use less hot water. Wash your clothes in cold water. Use a clothesline instead of a dryer.

Improve Lighting Efficiency - Old-fashioned incandescent lamps are still the norm in many homes, yet compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are inexpensive and easy to install. What you can do: Convert all your incandescent light bulbs to CFLs or tubular fluorescents. Install occupancy sensors and timers if necessary to turn lights off when not needed.

Improve Appliance Efficiency - Your refrigerator and washing machine typically are the most inefficient appliances in the home. Computers and entertainment centers usually draw "phantom loads" even when in the "off" position. What you can do: Replace your refrigerator if it was manufactured before 1993. Buy a model with an ENERGY STAR rating. When you next replace your washing machine, buy a front-loading machine with an ENERGY STAR rating. When you next replace your dryer, buy one with a moisture sensor and an ENERGY STAR rating. Install switched plug strips at computer stations and entertainment centers and turn them off at the switch when not in use.

Improve Water-Heating Efficiency - Most of our homes have water heaters that include a storage tank. Those that consume gas or oil operate at less than 60 percent efficiency, meaning that 40 percent of the fuel you consume goes up the chimney or is lost at the storage tank. This year-round expense will become more important with rising energy costs. What you can do: Lower the thermostat on your water heater. Install a water-heater blanket. Insulate your hot water pipes. Install a water-saving showerhead. Invest in a solar water-heating system.

Provide Summer Shade - Blocking solar heat is the best way to control air-conditioning costs. The best shading comes from trees. Sunscreens, awnings, and window films are also very effective. What you can do: Shade your roof and your hottest windows with trees, awnings, trellises, or other shading devices. When you next change your siding or roofing, choose reflective surfaces for the roof and walls.

Seal Air Leakage- Air leakage wastes energy by allowing expensive heated or cooled air to leak out of your home. It also causes uncomfortable drafts, and can carry pollutants into your home. The most significant leaks are in hidden areas like attics and crawl spaces. Windows and doors aren't usually the main problem. What you can do: Hire an energy auditor who can do a blower door test to locate air leaks. Seal the biggest leaks in your attic and crawl space.

Add Insulation - Almost all modern homes have too little insulation in the attics, walls, and floors. There is no better energy saving measure than installing more insulation. What you can do: Insulate your attic to at least R-40 (14 to 16 inches). Insulate your walls until they are full. Fill floor cavities with insulation or insulate foundation walls with one to two inches of foam insulation.

Upgrade Windows and Doors - The doors and windows in most homes are a major gap in the building's thermal boundary, allowing heat to escape in winter and enter in summer. What you can do: Replace your windows and doors, but only as part of a major energy renovation which includes adding insulation to the exterior of the building. Don't just install new windows and doors without adding wall insulation at the same time.

Improve Heating and Cooling Equipment -Your heating and cooling equipment may account for the majority of your utility expense. Old low-efficiency equipment may be part of the problem, but duct leakage, inadequate airflow, and malfunctioning controls are also to blame. What you can do: Shop for a good contractor and ask for a complete heating and cooling tune-up. Have your technician seal your home's duct system if appropriate. If you plan to install a new furnace or air conditioner, ask for a smaller unit that has a higher efficiency rating.

Seal Your Duct System - Most duct systems are not sealed during installation. If the ducts run through unconditioned areas like crawl spaces, attached garages, or attics, duct leakage can be a major energy problem. Besides the leakage of heated and cooled air, duct leakage may draw moisture and pollutants into the home. What you can do: Have your duct system professionally tested for air leakage. Seal the leaks by starting at the furnace and working your way outwards.

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