Sometimes the best way to save money is to spend money. If you have the means and your windows are 10 plus years old – change them. Highly efficient windows are the number one cause of both a) heat loss in winter and b) heat gain in summer. Change your windows and watch your bills plummet.
While you’re having the windows done – head to Home Depot for some weather stripping. Caulk all around doors, outlets, etc. so that hot air is not being sucked out. This is especially important in the area that your hot water heater sits. The tighter that room is – the warmer it is – the less your water heater needs to work in order to keep water hot. (And lower your hot water setting a notch as well while you’re in there).
Other high ticket items that are much more efficient today than they were 15 years ago include: dishwashers, refrigerators, furnaces and air conditioning units. Change them if you can. Also, if you have the ability to, plant a tree or two in front of your central air conditioning unit. Doing so cools the ambient air and allows the unit less work to cool incoming air. Strategically placed trees can also provide shade and breeze for your home in general. Another quick tip is – run your kitchen sink water to hot before starting your dishwasher at night. Then when it is put on – it is not using its expensive to run coils to heat the washing water – the water is already hot…
If you have a fireplace – either ditch it by closing off the chimney or have a high efficiency wood burning insert installed. A fireplace actually sucks warm air out of a home – it has negative efficiency! A stove can be 60-70-80% efficient – you may be able to turn off your furnace completely.
Close off vents in rooms that you do not use often. This works for both heating and cooling. And absolutely check out your attic to make sure that it is well insulated. Insulation is cheap and effective.
Utilize curtains, breezes, ceiling fans and more to warm or cool your house. If you have the time – open shades to let the sun in during the winter. Also, make sure that your homes humidity levels fall between 45-55% as this actually makes a lower temp (and we’ve all been told to lower our thermostats) feel warmer. Close shades that face the sun during the summer. This can actually be done on an hour by hour basis depending on if you are trying to cool or heat. Open cross facing windows at night in the spring and fall in order to cool your home instead of always running the A/C. Throwing a ceiling fan in the mix really mixes up the nice cool air and makes you feel cooler.
An often overlooked technique is unplugging certain items in your home. We’ve all been told to put fluorescent lights in – but how many of you have been told to unplug your microwave when not in use? Any appliance that has a) a remote control or is b) available to be turned on instantly is wasting energy. This would include microwaves, remote lamps/ceiling fans, and….TVs. They all have a bit of electricity running a sensor that is just waiting for you to command it on. This alone can save over $50 dollars per year.
There are common sense tips that every ‘how to save energy’ article has. Then there are some ideas that you need to think about. How many of you have your a/c unit in a shaded area?