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Homeowners have a particular advantage over renters as far as what you can do to improve home energy savings — because you have a vested interest in your property.
That doesn’t mean that renters can’t do some of these things, but they will have to live with the fact that whatever improvements are made (assuming the landlord approves your improvements prior to implementation) will stay with the condo, house or apartment.
Here are 4 basic things you can do that are easy and will save you money over time:
#1 – Buy, install and learn to use a programmable thermostat.
Install a programmable thermostat in your home to control your HVAC unit(s). They cost anywhere from $75 on up to $200 but will pay for themselves within 6 months to a year. The key is mastering the controls, so you can optimize your energy usage when you are home or away.
My thermostat is made by Carrier and works great. I’m able to control the temperature and fan anyway I please in 15-minute increments.
It also reminds me when it’s time to change the air filter.
You do not have to match the brand of thermostat with the brand of HVAC units you have, so pick what works best for you.
#2 – Buy and install CFL or LED light bulbs.
Did you realize that you can cut your energy bill by over 50% by updating your home with 2 products and abiding by 1 rule. One of the products to update is: light bulbs. You should replace all of your incandescent light bulbs with CFL light bulbs or — better yet — LED light bulbs.
Here’s the logic: Besides providing light, incandescent light bulbs also produce heat — a lot of it. In fact, 95% of energy is wasted as heat. (Don’t believe me? Touch a bulb that’s been on for awhile!)
25% of the the average energy bill goes to lighting in part because your HVAC unit is busy cooling the house down from all of the heat being generated by incandescent light bulbs. LED’s use 10 times less energy than incandescent bulbs and operate 3 times cooler at around 87°F. (By the way, LED’s run cooler than CFL’s, too.)
They say if you update all of your existing lighting with LED light bulbs, the savings over 6 years in one house (assuming 25 bulbs in the house) would equal $2,000!
The other side to the story is how expensive LED light bulbs can be and how much light they emit (lumens). They may not be as bright as you are used to, so buy one or two and try them out before you go all in. LED’s should become cheaper as production increases with consumer demand.
#3 – Buy and install a smart power strip.
You have probably heard by now that all of the electronics that we Americans have grown accustomed to are constantly sucking energy from our wall outlets by being on stand-by when we’re not around.
You can nip this in the bud by buying a smart power strip. Plug your TV into the master outlet of the smart strip. When you turn the TV off, all of the accompanying peripherals — such as cable boxes, audio system, DVD, etc. — will turn off as well.
I would not recommend doing this with your computer and all of the other items that are hooked up alongside it. That will kill your WiFi and wreak havoc on your peripherals due to improper shutdowns.
One word of caution… be sure to turn off the TV and not the smart strip. Otherwise, you might fry your expensive flat-screen TV in the process.
#4 – Add insulation to your home.
Did you know that 40% of heat loss in a home is due to poor insulation?
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is a great place to start to help you figure out how much insulation you have and how much insulation you need. Enter your zip code to find the R-values best suited for your zonal climate.
You will need to figure out what type of insulation you currently have and what type is recommended for your home.
It gets a little complicated, but the DOE website gives you step-by-step instructions on what you need to do to get the biggest bang for your buck.
These are just a few of the the biggest and best things you can do to make an immediate and long-standing impact on your home energy savings.
The best news: each of these updates and improvements will pay for themselves, and then some!
I started as a home-stalker… visiting brand new homes under construction in the neighborhoods near my house. That inspired me to write about home building and home renovation projects — chronicling homes during different phases of construction from a consumer's point-of-view. Basically, the tips you'll find in my articles are a collection of checklists for what I think should (and should not) go into building or remodeling a quality home.