5 Energy-saving DIY projects

It happens every winter: As the temperature plummets, energy bills skyrocket. But you don’t have to let winter get the best of you this year. By tackling a few projects around the home, you can keep your home warm without going broke. If you’re looking to save money on bills this year, here are five DIY projects to finish before winter fully sets in.

Replace outdated bulbs with new energy-efficient LED bulbs

With new energy efficiency standards on light bulbs going into effect, traditional incandescent bulbs are becoming increasingly scarce on the shelves and will soon become extinct. However, many people still have these energy hogs in their homes. In the past, some consumers have steered clear of more energy efficient CFL bulbs because they don’t look as good as incandescent lights. LED bulbs, however, combine the warm tones of incandescent bulbs with the energy savings of CFL bulbs. At $10 or more a bulb, the price tag on these lights is still pretty steep, but they are projected to last up to 20 years, making them good long-term investments.

Insulate hot water pipes

In many homes, the hot water pipes running from the water heater are completely uninsulated. And because these pipes often snake through cold basements and crawl spaces, they can cool down pretty fast, causing your water heater to work overtime. Fortunately, insulating these pipes is simple and affordable. Pipe insulation runs around a dollar for six feet, which means you can probably do the job for less than $20. Simply wrap the pipes in the polyethylene tubing and secure it with a bit of electrical tape. To insulate joints and bends in the pipe, cut two pieces of tubing at 45 degree angles and attach the two angled pieces together.

Seal windows and doors

Leaky windows and doors are one of the biggest causes of energy loss in a home. If the caulking around windows has become dried and cracked, it’s time to strip it away with a caulk remover and reapply a new layer to seal the exterior of the frame. You’ll also want to seal the window from inside the house with either foam weather stripping or a clear plastic window film, both of which can be easily removed in the spring when it’s time to open the windows again. For doors, get a weather-stripping seal, which you can easily attach around the door with a few screws.

Check vents and openings

After tackling leaks coming in through windows and doors, you’ll want to check for leaks inside your home. A leaky duct system in your home could be dumping valuable heated air in all the wrong places, making some rooms too hot and others too cold, while forcing you to forever fiddle with your thermostat in the hunt for the perfect temperature. Start by checking exposed ducts for any obvious holes and feel around ducts to see if warm air is escaping through small leaks. If you do have leaky ducts, use mastic or a heat-approved tape rather than duct tape, which does a poor job of adhering to heated ductwork. If ducts run through uninsulated areas of the house, such as crawl spaces and attics, you’ll want to add a layer of insulation around the ductwork. While you can handle exposed ducts on your own, you’ll likely have to call in a professional to insulate ducts located inside walls and ceilings, because these spaces can be tough to access and require the removal of drywall.

Replace your water heater with a tankless water heater

Tankless water heaters are becoming an increasingly popular option for those looking to save money on their monthly bills. As the name implies, a tankless heater gets rid of the traditional water tank and instead uses powerful boilers that only heat up water when you need it. Because these units can cost quite a bit more than a traditional water heater, you probably won’t come out ahead if you upgrade a tank that is still in good working order. But for those looking to replace a heater that is on its last legs, a tankless water heater is an attractive alternative, particularly when you factor in the rebates for this energy efficient upgrade.