As energy costs spike and heating and cooling costs become more and more expensive, any chance to lower utility bills by making a home more energy-efficient is worth investigating. While many energy-saving solutions require a change of lifestyle, daily upkeep, or are very expensive to install, there are some simple things that can be done around the house that will quickly and conveniently make a difference in energy bills. In this article, we’ve outlined some home improvement ideas that work.
According to a report by Energy Star, home heating and cooling costs can be cut by 20% by properly sealing and insulating a home. A one-time investment can permanently benefit your home and save you money.
Heat rises in a home, with warm air leaving from the attic and upper levels and pulling in from the lower levels through the basement, crawlspace, and outside. Reduce the conditioned air exiting from the attic by insulating all areas and replace any insulation that is old or moist. Check that the entire floor is sealed underneath the insulation, and caulk or use spray foam insulation on any cracks or crevices.
Using 10-12 inches of insulation on an attic floor is standard, giving it an R-38 insulation rating. However, adding enough insulation to bring it to R-50 or more is recommended. Attic stairways are also a major escape route for warm air. The gaps created by an attic stairway can amount to as much as 40 square inches! Self-adhesive foam tape can be run along the upper edges of the attic staircase door to help reduce this leakage. Use eyehooks or a latch to jam the door against the foam when it’s not in use.
There are also many places around the home itself where air can leak in. Use caulk or spray foam to seal holes where wires enter into the basement and main house area. Seal around all these cables, pipes and other crevices. Make sure to brush away any dirt or cobwebs before applying caulk or spray foam.
Basements and Crawlspaces
Insulating the basement is a very effective way to add energy-efficiency to your home. Because water vapor comes into the basement through the concrete walls, this insulation should be water resistant and include a vapor barrier. Otherwise, it can become a habitat for mold and the moisture will ruin the insulation.
Encapsulating a crawlspace is also a fantastic way to make a home more energy-efficient. By sealing crawlspace vents, warm air is prevented from entering in the summer, where it would add humidity to the home. Sealing crawlspace vents also keeps cold air out that would otherwise seep into the house in the winter. A seal is created between the crawlspace walls and the air in a home that protects pipes, water heater, and heating ducts from cold.
The water heater and pipes can lose a great deal of heat as they run through a damp basement and especially in a cold, vented crawlspace. Insulating the pipes and covering the water heater with an inexpensive insulative blanket can help the keep the heat where it should be. Heating and/or cooling vents that have been installed improperly can leak 25% of the air they vent into the crawlspace, basement and attic. Have a professional clean the vents and test them for leaks that need to be sealed.
Windows and Doors
As much as 30-35% of the heat in a home is lost through the windows. Glass panes are the weakest link in a home’s insulation, and on cold days, it can feel uncomfortable near the windows in even a properly heated home.
If the windows are broken or have cracked panes, then they should be replaced. Single-paned steel cellar windows that are drafty and rusting also lose a great deal of heat and should be replaced with vinyl, double-thermopane windows. Buying windows with a Low-E coating will take advantage of sunlight to keep warmth in the home in the winter and cool temperatures in the summer. In the basement, installing proper window wells with covers will protect basement windows from blowing winds as well as help prevent flooding.
Installing storm windows and weather stripping over normal windows will do wonders for keeping heat in and outside sounds out. Weather stripping caulk is clear and designed to strip off without damaging paint when it’s no longer needed. Thick, high quality drapes can add beauty and insulation to windows as well- especially if the curtains are drawn during cold weather. Weather stripping the doors is also a fantastic way to keep conditioned air in the house while making a home cozier, quieter, and more secure. And according to USA Today, United States residents can get up to a $500 tax credit on efficient doors and $200 on windows! (Source = http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/columnist/block/2005-08-01-breaks_x.htm)
Proper care of appliances will save a great deal of money in the long run. Most effective maintenance requires a one-time repair or an annual service and should be no trouble at all. Keep appliances in good order, and they will continue to perform at their peak.
- Furnace filters are inexpensive and easy to install. They should be replaced every 30-45 days (more often if there are pets living in the home). This will keep the air circulating through the house more freely and will stop the blower from having to work harder to move the air through a clogged filter. Severely clogged filters can overheat and lead to premature damage in their compressor. Oil furnaces should be serviced and their parts lubricated once a year. Gas-fired furnaces, boilers, and air conditioning systems should be checked every two years. In the summer when the furnace is not running, turn off the pilot light so that fuel isn’t being used to keep it lit during the warm months.
- When a light bulbs goes out, replace it with a florescent light. Florescent lights last ten times as long as regular bulbs and are four times as efficient. Install florescent lights in drop ceilings in the basement for optimum light and efficiency. Replacing outside floodlights with high-pressure sodium lamps will produce a higher-efficiency light that will attract fewer insects because the light is harder for them to see.
- Keep refrigerators away from the wall to circulate the air well. Dust will interfere with the heat exchange coils and prevent the fan from working properly- clean this at least once a year. Defrost the refrigerator regularly to keep it at its best and to increase its life. When cooking food, cover the pots and pans with a lid to save nearly 50% of the lost heat. When doing laundry, remember that colored clothes do not need to be washed in warm or hot water- this just wastes energy and causes the colors to fade.
- Dehumidifying air in a home will make it much more energy-efficient to cool. The lion’s share of an air conditioning’s job is to dehumidify. Install a self-draining and energy-efficient dehumidifier to save on air conditioning, and take care not to block air conditioning and heating vents with furniture or drapes. Keep the doors open to rooms that are normally in use to allow conditioned air to move easily around the area. Shut off rooms that are not regularly used. In the summer, a ceiling fan will give the room a more comfortable feel. Run the fan slowly in the winter to move the warmest air from the ceiling to the main area of the room.
Making your Home Energy-Efficient From the Bottom Up!
Basement Systems and Total Basement Finishing are dedicated to adding energy efficiency from the bottom up. We can insulate your basement walls and floor and dehumidify the space, making a cleaner, healier living space. Our SaniDry Basement Air System can dehumidify your basement while cleaning the air of particles as small as two microns- smaller than mold spores and dust mite feces. Our ThermalDry Floor Matting can insulate your basement floor, making it ten degrees warmer than your concrete whiile providing a vapor barrier that keeps humidity out of your basement and protects any carpet laid on it from mold, rot and mildew. Adding insulation to your furnace, pipes and ducts is a great way to protect your home from the cold air of a crawlspace, but doing so does not protect your home from the air that seeps up through the crawlspace into your home. Basement Systems can seal off your crawlspace vents and encapsulate the area with our CleanSpace Crawlspace Encapsulation System. Our tough 20-mil plastic will keep your crawlspace walls and floor from letting humidity into your home and will discourage pests and insects. It installs in about a day, and once installed, your crawlspace will be usable as storage.
Dropping the humidity below 60% with CleanSpace and a SaniDry will make mold go dormant and stop it from creating spores. Additionally, dust mites will not have enough moisture to live on and will not send their fecal material into the air, which would then travel into the main area of your home. A dry crawlspace will be safer from rot and your entire house will be a healthier place.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jacques Bouchard is a professional writer for http://www.basementsystems.com . Our company does basement waterproofing, crawl space encapsulation, sump pump installation, dehumidification, and basement finishing. Our estimates, consultations, and 90-page full cover books are free and no-obligation, and all our products come with a great reputation and written warranty.