Home Improvements That Increase Energy Efficiency (and Save You Money)

Why should you care about energy efficiency? Perhaps the biggest reason is to save money. A home that isn’t energy efficient takes more energy to heat in the winter and cool in the summer. This means you are spending extra money every month on energy bills, bills that can be significantly lowered by undertaking a few simple home improvements. The key to making your home more efficient to correct air-flow problems. Make sure air is flowing where it needs to be and isn’t flowing where it shouldn’t be. A few small cracks in your home can be as bad for your heating and cooling as a window left open. Older homes frequently have undergone small changes to accommodate updated wiring, and this can be an energy sink. Caulk all small holes where wires go through walls or floors. Check brick facades and the outside of your home for small cracks and signs of wear that may be counteracting insulation. If your home has a chimney make sure it is sealed with high-temperature cement and metal flashing. Keep the flue closed when it is not in use to prevent air flowing indoors from it. Tight fitting glass covers can also help keep cold air where it belongs. Plumbing stacks also need to be sealed on the outside. In general look for any holes between the attic and the heated space and seal them as much as possible. Use weather stripping on the entry to the attic as well as insulation on the attic-side of the door. Now, how’s your insulation? Making sure you have enough insulation is key to keeping your home efficient. 18 inches of fiberglass batting or cellulose will greatly improve your heating and cooling systems. The attic does need air flow, however, so make sure air vents are clear and unobstructed. Each window needs to be checked to make sure it closes completely and locks. Windows can be weather stripped just like doors. Outlets and switches provide access for cold air to enter, but this can be prevented by installing foam gaskets behind them. Child-safety plugs for the outlets also reduce cold air flowing from the sockets. Old windows and doors need to be checked every year. If one doesn’t fit properly, seal it with caulking or weather stripping. If the piece is warped heavily replace it with a new energy efficient model. Expanding foam is also an option to use around door- and window-frames. Every hole on the outside face of your home can increase inefficiency. Seal laundry vents, water faucets, electrical outlets, and other hookups. Install storm- windows and doors where you don’t already have them to create a buffer of air that retains heat and coolness. When it comes time to change siding, add foam insulation behind it. Basements and crawlspaces need to be checked and sealed. If you have a crawlspace, place a layer of plastic over it to help insulate. Regular basements with concrete walls can be a major problem for efficiency. Consider adding insulation and drywall over the concrete. Appliances are rated for their efficiency. Choose products with Energy Star ratings and choose compact fluorescent light bulbs that fit in standard sockets. These fairly inexpensive home improvements can save you a lot of money in the long run. It’s definitely worth taking steps to increase your home’s efficiency, and as you can now see, it’s not even that hard