With winter setting in, are you finding that your heating and other utilities bills are becoming a bit high? Are you interested in lowering those bills, and in the process making your home more energy efficient? Read on for five handy tips on saving money and energy:
The water heater
If you always have hot water coming out of your pipes, consider lowering your water heater thermostat setting. As long as you don’t set the thermostat below 120 F, you should be able to save a good amount of energy. Also, if you work outside of the home, consider putting your water heater on a timer, so that it is not heating and maintaining hot water when you aren’t around to use it.
Water heaters may also be insulated; this is especially beneficial if they are located in unheated areas like garages or basements. You can purchase an inexpensive insulating blanket kit for your water heater through your local Home Depot, Menard’s, or Lowe’s home improvement store. Or you can make one, using simple duct tape and fiberglass insulation.
First, cut strips of insulation which are of the same length as the circumference of the water heater. Wrap the insulation horizontally around the unit, using duct tape to close the ends. Cut out the regions you will need access to, like the thermostat, drain faucets, and other controls. It is important that gas water heaters do not have the flue cover or burner access flap sealed; leave at least 2 inches open around these areas.
The water pipes
If your water pipes, especially your hot water pipes, pass through unheated areas, then you could be losing heat and energy in the process. However, pipes can be insulated. Most home improvement stores offer pre-formed foam pipe insulation sleeves which are slit down their lengths so as to snap into place over pipes.
You can buy a good amount of these sleeves and fit them onto all your hot water pipes. Using some imagination (and a little vinyl duct tape), you can even place pipe insulation over the various corners and junctions of the pipes too.
Should you also insulate your cold water pipes? Most people would say no. However, if your cold water pipes are exposed to low outside temperatures, and are therefore in danger of freezing, insulating them might be worthwhile. Alternatively, if your cold water pipes are located within humid environments, they will “sweat”, or drip condensation. Insulating them might save your floors and furniture from water damage.
The easiest way to keep your furnace working efficiently is to simply make sure that it has a clean air filter. This single item cannot be overstressed: a clogged or dirty air filter reduces airflow through your furnace, causing it to work harder. If the air filter is really dirty, it could cause your furnace to overheat. In cooling systems, a clogged air filter can even cause the compressor to become damaged.
A furnace air filter should be replaced every 90 days, assuming it is a disposable filter. There are also self-charging electrostatic filters, which filter out really small particles and last several years. These filters need to be pulled out, inspected, and cleaned with a water rinse at least once a month.
Windows are quite often the biggest source of heat and energy loss in a home. By letting in drafts, windows let out your hard-earned money. Your best bet, aside from replacing them with more energy-efficient (and double-paned) windows, is to insulate them.
You can easily increase the energy efficiency of your windows by tearing out the old window caulking and weather strips and applying new caulk, self-stick foam, and rolled rubber around the trim and openings to the outside. You can also weatherproof your windows by attaching a thin, clear plastic sheet to the window trim from the inside of your house. This sheet is then tightened to wrinkle-free fit by using a blow dryer. Many home improvement stores sell window kits that provide all the needed supplies for this project; however, they are not cheap (one window kit costs between $17-$30, depending on the window size). For just a few dollars, you can buy plastic sheet and double-sided sticky tape and install plastic on every one of your window interiors yourself.
Shutters, blinds, drapes, and curtains can also increase the energy efficiency of your windows. By drawing your curtains, drapes, etc., you create another wall of insulation that the outside heat or cold must go through.
Water use costs money two ways: water bills and heating/gas bills. To conserve water, switch from taking baths to taking showers, since showers use up a whole lot less hot water. Install water-saving shower heads so as to reduce your water consumption. You may also consider placing a large stone or brick into your toilet’s water tank; this will reduce the amount of water the tank needs per flush.
Wash laundry only when there is a full load. The same advice holds true for your dish washer. Reconsider using scalding hot water to wash your clothes; most detergents work equally well in cold as in hot water. Don’t forget to clean your dryer’s lint trap too.