Save Money With Lower Utility Bills
Well, they say the groundhog saw his shadow and we’ll have six more weeks of winter. If we are indeed going to see cooler temperatures, here’s how to reduce your heating bills.
In case the groundhog is wrong, and hotter days are coming, we also provide some tips for reducing cooling expenses.
With lower utility bills, you can save a lot of money.
TIP 1: Seal Air Leaks
If your home leaks air, you are wasting a lot of your energy budget. A leaky home lets in cold air in the winter and hot air in the summer. To stop this waste, you should caulk, seal and place weather stripping over cracks and large openings to the outside of your home.
For as little as $30 (in the cost of sealing materials), you can save up to $170/year when you seal your home properly.
Visit this link for information on how to caulk.
TIP 2: Give TLC to your HVAC
You spend up to 50% of your home utility costs on heating and cooling your home. If you make smart decisions on your home’s heating, ventilating & air conditioning (HVAC) system, you save a lot and improve your comfort.
One great way to save is to get an annual tune-up on your HVAC system. You can also seal ducts, especially unheated areas of your home (such as basements and crawls spaces). Use duct mastic sealant or foil-baked tape. Visit this link for more information on HVAC maintenance.
It will cost you from $75 to $150 to get an HVAC tune-up. Materials for sealing ducts will range from $7/roll (for tape) to $25 for mastic duct sealant. When done you can reduce your bills up to 15%.
TIP 3: Stifle Your Damper
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you can be sending a lot of energy dollars up the chimney. If you leave the flue open after the fire, you will lose a lot of heated air from your home. Even when not in use, air can cascade out of your home through the unsealed edges of the damper.
To reduce heat loss of an open damper, install glass doors. With glass doors, you can close the fireplace by about 90% as soon as you leave the room. You can then close the damper 12-24 hours later when the last ember has gone out
If you need to fix a leaky damper, you will spend around $40 to $150 and save up to 10% of the money you spend on losing furnace-heated air.
TIP 4: Embrace the Energy Star
Homeowners in the U.S. spend an average of 20% of their electric bill on running appliances. If you are in the market for a new appliance, make sure you buy an appliance labeled Energy Star. The Energy Star label means the appliance consumes half as much energy as older (non-Energy Star) appliances of 15+ years ago.
Energy Star rated dishwashers beat federal energy standards by 41% and clothes washers with the rating are 40% more efficient than conventional models.
Your savings will vary based on the appliance you buy.
An Energy Star labeled:
- Refrigerator saves $80/year,
- Clothes washer saves $110/year and a
- Dishwasher saves $30/year
TIP 5: Insulate Your Attic
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), you can lower your heating and cooling costs by 30% by adding a few hundred dollars worth of new insulation. If your house is 25+ years old, you can save a great deal. If you insulate your attic, you stop heated air (from the house below) escaping into the attic in the winter. During the summer, insulated exterior-facing spots (including garages and crawl spaces) can stop hot outside air from entering your home.
In the mid-Atlantic region, the R-values in your attic should run between R-30 and R-40. You can save as much as $500 if you upgrade attic insulation from an R-11 to an R-40. You would spend about $1,500 to have a pro insulate your attic and much less if it’s a DIY project. Here’s a tool to compute your own savings from improving your insulation.
TIP 6: Kill the Vampires
A Vampire appliance goes into standby mode and uses electricity even when you turn it off. DOE reports that vampire devices in a typical home use about 4% to 5% of the home’s energy. The top vampires in a home include:
- Computers and related equipment such as modems and routers
- Instant-on TVs and DVD players
- Cable or satellite TV boxes and
- Household electric items with a clock (e.g. microwave.)
To slay these vampires, you can unplug devices when not in use. Place a power strip on several items and turn off the power strip when you leave the house. If you kill these vampires, you can save as much as $100/year. This page provides a tool to compute how much you can save by stopping your own vampires.
TIP 7: Get Fans Spinning Correctly
Remember heat rises to the top. You can use ceiling fans to circulate air and improve the comfort of your home. During the winter, your ceiling fans should run clockwise at a low speed. This direction and speed gently draws the room air up towards the ceiling and forces warm air down and out towards the wall and back to the floor.
During the summer months, your ceiling fan should spin in a counter-clockwise direction. When temps are hotter, the speed should be faster. You want to pull the hotter air to the ceiling and away from you. A whole-house fan in the attic can also help reduce the cost of air-conditioning.
TIP 8: Use a Programmable Thermostat
If you are gone for long stretches of time, you can install a programmable thermostat. Set the thermostat to decrease in the winter and increase in the summer when you are away from the house. In the winter, you can also lower the temp as you sleep. As an added bonus, you will sleep better in a cooler room.
DOE reports that you can save as much as 10%/year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7 to 10 degrees (F) from its normal setting for 8 hours a day.
Good luck in reducing your utility expenses.