You skip out to the mailbox, hoping for a letter from a loved one. Maybe there will an invitation to a party, or better yet -- a chance to win one million dollars! The metal door screeches a bit as it opens to reveal today’s haul. You grab it eagerly, and shuffle through. To your dismay, all you get is a big fat wad of utility bills. Nobody looks forward to the day when the utility bill arrives in the mail. Especially if your home tends to “leak” energy like a cracked glass. But maybe you don’t have to dread your utility bills. With a few, simple home improvements, you can save money year round.
Get an Energy Audit
First and foremost, you need to determine the weak spots in your home. You can do a rundown on your own, which will give you a good idea of what needs attention. If you want to be more thorough, however, hire a professional. They have access to equipment that is otherwise difficult for the average homeowner to obtain and can give you a more concise outline of which problems need to be addressed. Once you have the information you need, you can begin making improvements efficiently.
Lose Your Incandescent Lights
Incandescent light bulbs are a very common household feature. They are cheap to buy, easy to replace, and bright. But your trusty incandescent light bulbs are not so cheerful in the long run of your finances. According to a study by AJ Design Software, incandescent light bulbs cost more than three times as much in electricity as fluorescent light bulbs after 2000 hours, assuming they last that long
(http://www.ajdesigner.com/fl_light_bulb/light_bulb.php). Although fluorescent bulbs typically cost more initially, the money you save in energy costs with fluorescent bulbs can make up to a 75 percent difference in the amount of electricity used for lighting, and have a bulb life that is 10 times longer than traditional incandescents (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/06/save-money-by-using-compa_n_344063.html). A switch to fluorescent lights bulbs is the first step in saving money around the house.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
Heating and air conditioning contribute to about 50 percent of your utility billing. Maintaining a comfortable temperature in your home takes a lot of energy, especially if your furnace is heating to the same temperature all day. One of the best things you can do to remedy this problem is to install a programmable thermostat. This allows you to set a program for the temperatures your home will be heated to during the day. While you are at work or sleeping, you can allow the house to rest at a temperature that is more economical. You can set the thermostat to raise or lower the temperature a half hour before you normally arrive at home. That way, you are comfortable when you arrive at home, but you are not breaking the bank to do so. In addition to that, you can set the thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter and as high as is comfortable during the summer.
Seal or Replace Your Windows and Doors
Windows and doors are the places in your home that allow the most passage of energy, whether it be hot air escaping or hot air entering. If your windows and doors are in fairly good shape, caulking the seams may be sufficient to remedy most of your energy problems. If your house is of an older generation, however, window and door replacements may be a must. Although that is a spendy process, the return in energy can reduce your heating and cooling bill by up to 30 percent (http://www.localprice.com).
Maintain Filters and Air Ducts
Regularly monitor your heating and cooling system. Cleaning, repairing, and replacing parts of your ducts and air filters improves the efficiency of air distribution throughout your house. Check your ducts for cracks or holes; depending on the severity of the problem you can replace or simply patch up leaks. Replace your filters once or twice a year to ensure that air has a relatively easy passage through your home. This will also improve the quality of the air in your home, as clean filters do a better job. In addition to that, insulate your ducts to save money.
Install Low Flow Water Appliances
Water is a precious commodity and costs a lot of money and energy to heat and pump. Improving your water efficiency can make a big difference in both your bill and in your community. Traditional toilets use about three and a half gallons of water per flush, which can add up to almost 20 gallons a day per person. Installing a low flow toilet, one and a half gallons per flush, will cut your water bill down significantly. If that seems like a daunting task, you can install a low flow shower head, which is easier and cheaper than a toilet. Research low flow shower heads for brands that reduce water usage without cutting away from a pleasant shower. If you have an old clunker for a washing machine, it may be worth your while to replace it. Although the upfront cost of a new, water and energy efficient washing machine can be steep, they can save you up to $100 annually (http://realestate.msn.com/slideshow.aspx?cp-documentid=23279607#11). Your new washer will pay itself off in just a few years.
Insulate Your Attic
Have you ever pushed that little square door in the ceiling of your closet up? That’s your door to the attic. If you get a face full of nasty pinkish dust, there is good and bad news. The bad news is that you shouldn’t breathe that stuff in; it’s fiberglass. The good news is that your attic is most likely insulated. Put on a face mask, grab a lantern, and check out the extent of your attic’s insulation. If it looks really compressed, consider adding another layer of insulation. If it looks thoroughly placed and in good condition, you should be fine.
With a few little steps, you can cut big chunks out of your utility bill and keep your house just as comfortable as it was to begin with. Take a close look at the possible weak points of your home and do what it takes to improve your energy efficiency. Your checkbook will be grateful, and it won’t be such a pain to pay your utilities.