Home Efficiency

Energy Right

Replace your fireplace screen with glass doors. They are safer and they reduce the amount of heat that escapes through the chimney from your home. Consider saving your fireplace for special occasions – it might be pretty, but it sends your heated air right up the chimney. And, after a fire is completely extinguished, don’t forget to close the damper.

Dry out. Attics and crawl spaces should be well ventilated to reduce moisture build up. Under the house, install a vapor barrier by covering about 80% of the ground in the crawl space with 6 mil plastic, leaving several feet around the perimeter exposed.

Check your ducts. Leaky ductwork often accounts for 10–30% of your total heating and cooling costs. And, if you are losing 20% of your total airflow due to leaks, the efficiency of your cooling or heating system can drop by 50%.

Don’t rush. If you have to purchase a new appliance, like a water heater, don’t panic and buy the first one you see. Remember, this is an appliance you will be using for quite a while. Take your time to make a smart choice. In the long run, a few extra hours will not make that big of a difference.

Insulate your outlets. Believe it or not, those tiny holes in your electrical outlets let cold air into your home. You can remove the outlet covers and insert specially designed insulation pads underneath. Also, put insulating plugs in all outlets that are not in use.

Water-heater upgrade. Your water heater may be costing you more than it should if it’s more than a dozen years old. Upgrading to a new, high-efficiency model could pay off in just a few short years, especially if you switch out a standard electric water heater to a heat-pump type.

Plant a tree. Mature shade trees not only look beautiful, they can also cut your cooling bills. Check with a local nursery to find out which trees are best for your area and then plant them around your home, especially on the southern and western sides.

Switch to compact fluorescent lights. Make the switch from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescents. They use 75% less energy and last up to ten times longer. That adds up to more light for less money.

Chill out. Let cooked foods cool to room temperature before putting them in the refrigerator. Hot foods and their containers will raise the temperature in the fridge, making it work much harder. But be careful not to leave food out too long, or it will spoil. Always follow practical food safety advice and recipe instructions.

Energy Wrong

Wash after every meal. Don’t run your dishwasher unless you have a full load. It uses the same amount of hot water whether there is one dish or its full.

Buy it and forget it. Just like your car, your heating and cooling units require periodic checkups. Have your heating and air conditioning contractor inspect your system annually.

Why not cut corners on insulation? Since hot air rises, the greatest heat loss is often through the ceiling. Insulating your attic will make a big difference in savings and comfort. Storm or double-paned windows, storm doors, weather stripping, and caulking will also help. Make certain that the floor above your crawl space is well insulated. An insulation value of R-11 or greater in the floor will help achieve greater comfort and lower heating bills.

Fire up the oven. In the summer, do not add to the heat in your home by using your oven. Instead, cook outdoors on your grill and use smaller appliances like toaster ovens. Use your microwave whenever possible, too.

Wide open garage doors. Your garage doors could be the last line of defense between you and the great outdoors. During the winter months, keep your garage doors shut. In the summer, let heat escape by opening a window or installing a ventilation fan. Also, consider insulated doors for even more efficiency.

Set the thermostat to 90 degrees. But only if you want a higher heating bill. Your home warms up at the same speed, regardless of the temperature setting. It will not reach your desired temperature any sooner if you set the thermostat to a higher setting than what you are actually seeking.

Clean out your freezer. Actually, your freezer works best when it is full. And the fuller it is, the less cold air you lose when you open the door.

Check your oven often. But only if you want your food to take longer to cook. When you repeatedly open and close your oven door, warm air escapes. This is especially bad during the summer as it puts unnecessary heat into the air, making cooling more difficult and more expensive.