Energy Upgrades Homeowners Can Take On to Save Money and Stay ComfortablePublished on: March 15, 2015
Energy efficiency is important in every home, no matter the age or location. Whether your house is sophisticated and newly built or charming and older, and whether you’re concerned about the environment or simply want to save money on utility bills, there are a number of easy home energy upgrades that can make your Southern home more efficient and more comfortable. Here are a few great options for effective home energy upgrades that you can implement quickly and easily this spring.
Water Heater Adjustment
Water heaters can waste a lot of energy since they heat to a given temperature and maintain that temperature all the time, just in case someone in the house might need it. This means that your water heater is using costly energy to keep water hot while you sleep and while you’re at work. Since most water heaters function this way, it can make a big difference to at least decrease the tank’s holding temperature from the factory default of 140 degrees to 120 degrees. This can be done easily, by adjusting the temperature knob on the water heater, and it won’t have a noticeable effect on the availability of hot water in your home.
Newer thermostats do more than just adjust the temperature; they can save a lot of money and energy in your home. Once you set the schedule in the programmable thermostat, it will then adjust the furnace and air conditioner so your home is only using energy for climate control when you’re at home to enjoy it. This means that you can sit back and let the thermostat adjust itself, knowing that the heat or A/C will only be turned on when you need it, without any extra attention from you.
Some models even have WiFi capability, allowing remote access and adjustments using a mobile device or computer. Other special features include air filter replacement reminders, security system tie-ins, weather forecasting and zoning options.
Sealing Air Leaks
Air leaks can be a major cause of wasted energy in any home, in addition to decreasing comfort and overworking the HVAC system. Many homes have numerous air leaks scattered throughout the house, often near windows, doors, electrical outlets and other fixtures. The easiest way to find air leaks is to schedule a home energy audit, but it’s also possible to find leaks independently.
Once air leaks are located, they should be sealed as soon as possible. Leaks near windows can be corrected using caulk or spray foam insulation, but many homeowners choose to use storm windows or plastic sheeting to seal windows during the winter months. Weatherstripping is a great option for sealing doors, and electrical outlets can be sealed with spray-foam or rubber gaskets. Duct leaks can also be a source of discomfort and waste, so be sure to have your ductwork inspected routinely.
Every home should have sufficient high-quality insulation in the exterior walls, attic, and crawl space or basement. Though many Southern homeowners assume that insulation is only important for those living in colder climates, insulation is just as useful for saving money and staying comfortable during the summer months.
Homeowners should figure out which areas of the house might be missing insulation. It’s possible to do this without specialized tools, but hiring a professional energy auditor will make the job easier, since auditors have access to tools like thermographic cameras. Insulation options vary from low-cost DIY fiberglass sheets and SIP panels to blown foam or cellulose insulation and batting made from recycled materials, so it’s easy to choose the perfect insulation for your unique situation.
Replacing Appliances and HVAC Units
The furnace and air conditioner account for over half of your home’s energy consumption, and major appliances also have a significant footprint. If you’ve been waiting for an old air conditioner or furnace to stop working before investing in an energy-efficient replacement, you’ll be far better off if you go ahead and take the leap.
The same rule applies to appliances. Newer Energy Star models can save a lot of money on your utility bills while still providing the reliable functionality you need, so investing in a more efficient HVAC system or appliance can be one of the most effective home energy upgrades. Often these newer options will have other benefits, as well, such as the improved cleaning power and decreased detergent needs of new high-efficiency washing machines.