The following is a guest post…
Have you been wondering about your home’s energy efficiency lately? Seen the neighbors upgrade their homes in interesting energy-efficient ways and wonder what you’re missing out on? In order to get a good grasp of your home’s current level of energy efficiency, start with the EPA’s Home Energy Yardstick and move on to hiring a specialized energy auditor if necessary.
Once you have identified your needs, the recommended steps to transforming your house into a more energy-efficient one start with focusing on the house’s shell, e.g. walls, windows, doors, then moving to more efficient systems and appliances or to clean energy generation, e.g. solar.
Sealing and Insulating
Insulation from the cold of winter and the heat of summer can easily reduce energy costs in any home. It’s important not to forget insulation in critical spaces like attics, where extensive heat losses can occur during the winter. Every home is different, so predicting leakages can be sometimes senseless, but leaks are often found in seams between the foundation and wood framing, along baseboards, around electrical boxes, and around fireplaces. Experts can utilize an infrared light or “blower-door test” to identify existing gaps that need to be sealed if your house is already insulated. If you are not the first owner of the home and have little knowledge of the existing insulation, it would be wise to spend a bit extra on an assessment.
A basic upgrade of your home’s shell can save you more than $200 a year on your total energy bills, making for a significant return on your investment in just a few years.
Doors and Windows
Your home’s windows and doors are potential sources for serious air leaks and if you’re interested in replacing them, make sure to choose models with high insulation values. Some bargain shoppers instead just cover the windows with thin plastic sheets from their local hardware store. Though not a long-term fix, it will make-do for this winter before you have time to invest in replacements, which are, in fact, better for those looking for long terms returns on their energy investments.
Heating and Cooling Equipment
If you are looking for even more energy efficiency and have more to invest in the project, the next step is to shop around for heating/cooling systems with EnergyGuide labels or the ENERGY STAR logo. If you can only afford one upgrade at this time, keep in mind that air conditioning is more energy-efficient than heating, mostly because of the insulation failures that let the heat escape. And if you cannot afford a heating system upgrade at this time, be sure to invest in a programmable thermostat to save lots of money while you sleep and while you’re away. The bottom line is, though, if your current technology is more than ten years old, you are not taking advantage of the latest energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, so you should consider an upgrade soon.
Overall Move towards Efficiency
An overall move towards an energy-efficient home has significant financial benefits, as addressed above, further incentivized by the government’s Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency. So when you file next year, you can expect a ten percent return credit on purchases of windows, doors, heaters, coolers, insulation, etc., making the investment pay off even more.
If all of the aforementioned structural changes are currently outside of your price range, consider taking some smaller lifestyle changes that can really up your overall energy efficiency. Lastly, it’s important to remember that structural changes will also require a few changes in your routine. If you decide on energy-efficient appliances, be sure you use them correctly!
This is a guest post by aspiring freelance writer Jonathan Mehlig for www.TexasElectricityProviders.com. Jonathan usually covers frugal living and personal finance topics and loves hiking in the Rocky Mountains in his free time.