September 27th, 2011
We often tell potential homeowners to consider all expenses when building a budget to determine how much they can afford for a home. One of these expenses is utility, including gas and electric.
With long, cold winters and oil at around $90 a barrel, this is especially important for Maine homeowners. Fall is the perfect time to take measure to boost your home’s energy efficiency before the big bills start rolling in.
In his blog post “5 Fast Ways to Boost Home Energy Efficiency,” Jerold Leslie offers some inexpensive and easy tips for lowering your utility costs.
Get a home energy audit. Hire a trained inspector to come take a look at your house, room by room, to uncover any leaks or problems that could drain energy. The inspector should perform a blower-door test – which involves using negative air pressure to feel where air is seeping in through cracks – and a thermal-imaging scan – which shows where heat is escaping. The audit should take 3 to 4 hours, and will be well worth the money.
According to Leslie,
Some gas companies, electric utilities and government agencies offer the reviews at no cost or at heavily rebated prices in a bid to help the environment. Check with your utility or your state energy department for details, as well as for the names of reputable energy-audit firms (the industry has some fly-by-night operators).
Buy a programmable thermostat. This will allow you to program your heat so that it turns down 10 to 15 degrees during the day when you’re at work, or at night when you’re warm under the blankets. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that it will save you up to 10 percent on your annual heating bill. Most thermostats are do-it-yourself and easy to install, and can be purchased for fairly cheap at any hardware store.
Clean and replace furnace filters. For those with gas-powered forced-air heating, clean filters will help your furnace run more efficiently, thus saving you money. Disposable furnace filters cost just a few dollars, and reusable ones that eliminate allergens are around $25 at any hardware store. Again, changing the filters is a do-it-yourself task.
You should also consider getting a professional “tune-up” for your gas furnace every two or three years. get a tune-up once every 12 months if you have oil heat.
Turn down your water heater. Leslie explains that many hot-water heaters are set way above the recommended 120-degree temperature, and every 2.5 degrees above 120 increases your hot water bill by approximately 1 percent.
Once again, you don’t need professional assistance for this quick fix. Just find the thermostat on the side of your tank and make sure it’s at 120 degrees. If the dial says “low,” medium,” and “high” rather than numerical temperatures, put it between low and medium.
Caulk and weatherstrip. If you get an energy audit, they’ll make sure to show you where you could use some caulk and weatherstrip. Otherwise, these two easy-to-use tools can be used to seal cracks around window frames, light switches, and so on.
Caulk — a paste made out of silicone, polyurethane or other chemicals — comes out of the tube as a liquid, but quickly dries into a solid to fill in cracks. A ten-ounce tube costs just a few bucks, and you’ll also need a caulk gun, which come relatively cheap.
Weatherstripping is available in all different sizes and materials, from felt to vinyl to tape. The type you use depends on purpose, location and so on. For example, tape is very easy to install, but is best for low-traffic areas, as it isn’t the most durable. Magnetic weatherstripping is very effective, but expensive.
For more information on how to save energy in your home, visit http://www.energysavers.gov