10 Ways to Shrink Your Energy Bills
There's definitely an art to saving money on your energy bills.
Of course, you can use less energy, but according to ThisOldHouse.com, you can also make some investments that will save you more in the long run.
READ: Slash Your Utility Bill With a DIY Energy Audit
Here are 10 ways to shave your energy bills year round.
Sure, it's nostalgia-inducing and all, but when it comes down to it, your fireplace is terribly—make that laughably—inefficient. According to the Department of Energy, a lit fireplace sucks about 24,000 cubic feet of furnace-heated air up your chimney each hour.
Bonus: It's replaced by cold air that comes in the opposite direction through the same opening, causing your furnace to work extra hard to keep your house toasty. Still, we love gathering round the hearth as much as the next guy. Just remember to turn the thermostat down a little when you use it. Also, crack a window in the room where the fireplace is located and then close the door, so it doesn't suck too much warm air from the rest of the house. And remember to close your damper when it’s not in use.
READ: 100 DIY Upgrades For Under $100
Add up all those overlooked cracks, gaps, and openings around your windows, doors, plumbing, and wiring, and you may find your house has a hole the size of a Mack truck. Seal it up, and you'll save more than 10 percent on your heating bills. Start by caulking or weatherstripping around windows.
For added comfort, pick up a product such as the 3M Indoor Window Kit at the hardware store. Resembling Saran wrap, the plastic sheet costs about $20 and can be discreetly stretched over windows using double-sided tape, blow-dried for a tight fit, and peeled off come springtime. It can increase a single-paned window's R-value by up to 90 percent. Fill in cracks around door frames with caulk, and while you're at it, install a screw-on or adhesive-backed door sweep. Use expanding-foam sealants to fill in larger gaps around plumbing and electrical work, especially where pipes enter your house through exterior walls.
Tackle energy suckers in overlooked places, too—like exterior wall sockets and switches. You can block them up using fitted insulation pads. Just unscrew the switch plates and pop the pads into place.
READ: 14 Household Myths Debunked
Soot buildup, dusty or poorly lubricated fans, flickering pilot lights, and loose fan belts can add hundreds to your heating costs each year. Getting your furnace tuned up regularly by a heating contractor can do wonders for both your wallet and your overall comfort. Natural gas–powered systems should be serviced every two to three years, while oil-fired units need a tune-up every year, since they burn dirtier.
To make your system even more efficient, prevent heated air from leaking into your attic or crawl spaces by sealing ductwork with mastic duct sealant—a nontoxic, paint-on material—or foil-backed tape. Doing so will reduce your home's air leakage and could save you a bundle in heating and cooling bills.
Hire an HVAC pro to service your heating system.
Energy Star Is Your Friend
We spend 20 percent of our electricity bills running our appliances. But we can shrink that number dramatically by replacing them with fridges, clothes washers, and dishwashers that qualify for the Energy Star.
Energy Star fridges, available from major manufacturers such as GE and Frigidaire, use half as much energy as those manufactured 15 years ago and 15 percent less than new non–Energy Star models.
Rated dishwashers exceed current federal energy standards by 41 percent, while Energy Star clothes washers are 40 percent more efficient than conventional models.
The Department of Energy tells us you can reduce your heating and cooling needs by 30 percent just by adding a few hundred bucks' worth of new insulation. This is especially true if your house is more than 25 years old, from the time before building codes became more mindful of energy efficiency, and you haven't added any new batts yet.
We tend to focus on the attic, but it's also wise to see how much insulation you have in crawl spaces, ceilings, basement walls, and around recessed lighting fixtures (just make sure those fixtures are designed for direct insulation contact).
Check that your R-value is right for the climate where you live. In general, R-values should run between R-22 and R-49 in the attic, less in other spots.