8 Places That Explode Home Energy Bills And What You Can Do About It
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ATTENTION: YOUR HOME IS WASTING ENERGY RIGHT NOW!
While the above statement is not much of a surprise to most people the important fact is that it’s true. But, it’s not all bad news. Those of us living in the United States today are living in a day and age where we have never been so energy conscious and efficient. And, we are consistently improving year after year.
You know the drill. You hear it constantly. Recycle this, use less of that and reuse the other. We are frequently presented with an abundance of new tips and strategies to help us reduce greenhouse emissions and become more energy efficient. Even businesses are being created with the sole idea of going green!
Governments around the world are now backing huge projects that support invention, innovation and changes with this main focus in mind. The end result is an assault of great new products, services and programs available to consumers to help make this world a better place to live in.
People are no longer simply looking for the cheapest upfront price when they purchase big ticket items such as new vehicles or renovations to their house. The consumers of today are truly starting to recognize that a larger upfront price today has two significant end results:
1) A BETTER WORLD FOR OUR FUTURE GENERATIONS
2) SUBSTANTIALLY CHEAPER BILLS DURING THE LIFE OF THAT PRODUCT/IMPROVEMENT
There is a good chance that you have already come across some of these tips and there’s also a good chance that you might learn something new. Despite any prior knowledge on this subject, the key goal is for you to TAKE ACTION. Only you can make changes in your own home! With that being said, if you use just one approach (such as turning your computer off at night) this lens will have served its purpose.
1. Windows and Doors
Did you know that a 1/8″ space between an average exterior door and its threshold is equal to a two square inch hole in the wall?! You can solve this problem by weather-stripping your exterior doors. By closing those spaces can save you approximately 15% on heating and cooling costs and also can reduce the demand on your heating and cooling system.
Rubber provides the best seal; felt and foam are inexpensive but also much less effective and durable.
Be sure to replace the old weather-stripping around doors and windows as well. Other places for heat loss to take place are through walls, roofs, cracks, crevices and glass. If you are in the market to replace your doors, purchase insulated exterior doors.
If you are unsure of you door current door style, feel the inside of the doors with your hand on a cold day. If they seem to be a lot cooler than your exterior walls, think about replacing them with insulated doors.
In the most homes with standard windows, half of the heat loss through windows goes through cracks while the rest of the loss goes directly out the actual panes and frames themselves. To relieve this problem, you should think about replacing single-glazed windows with high performance windows.
There have been significant technological developments over the last 10 years involving low emissivity (low-E) coatings on the glass. The low-E film glass typically costs a bit more than double glazed windows but they will reduce energy costs by a significant amount.
If you choose to go one step further, you could have high performance triple glazed windows installed which provide even more energy savings. If replacing all the windows isn’t a good idea (financially speaking), you should budget for your home’s biggest problem areas first.
The chief sources of winter heat loss are any north-facing windows while full-size south-facing windows create additional heat gain in the summer. Finishing touches such as window shades and specialty blinds will guarantee that your windows are of the highest energy saving standards.
The most common way people heat their homes is through natural gas Furnaces. Normally these pieces of equipment can last anywhere from 15 to 25+ years. The number one concern with Furnaces will always be safety. As with any gas burning appliance you want to make sure that it’s running safely to prevent fire hazards, explosions or potential carbon monoxide poisoning.
This is why it is so important to have your Furnace properly maintained by a licensed gas professional. Having simple things done like furnace duct cleaning or changing your filters can help reduce the cost of running your system. Having your Furnace serviced every year means your Furnace will be operating safely and at its peak efficiency.
When the time comes to replace your old Furnace there are many things to consider in terms of sizing, efficiency, heat modes, filters, fan options and warranties. ENERGY STAR qualified Furnaces have annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings of 83% and 90%, or higher, making them up to 15% more efficient than standard models.
What can you do yourself?
* Before doing anything to your Furnace, make sure you always shut off the electricity either at the appliance switch or the breaker panel.
* Inspect your filter and clean or change it when necessary.
* If your Furnace has a pilot light you can shut it off during the summer months to save energy. If you are not comfortable re-lighting your pilot light in the fall, have a registered gas contractor re-light it during their next scheduled maintenance visit.
* If your Furnace has a fan belt, inspect it for cracks or signs of wear and replace if necessary
* Keep the areas around your Furnace clear of anything that can catch fire. It is ill-advised to store or use flammable materials near any gas appliance.
* Lower your home’s temperature at night and when no one is home. Research shows that doing this can cut your heating costs by almost 20% per year. If you don’t like manually changing the temperature in your house you can get a programmable thermostat that changes the temperature automatically for you.
* Seal any cracks or gaps in ductwork. You can easily do this by using duct sealer or foil tape. It is best to steer clear of using duct tape because over time it will become brittle and crack
What’s more, gas companies often run promotions to give you incentives to upgrade to more energy efficient equipment.
By improving the insulation in your house, you can easily save hundreds of dollars per year on your energy bills. Some people discover that a good insulation job can pay for itself in as little as two years. Check your house for poor insulation. Nearly 80% of older homes are under insulated.
The most common insulation materials are blankets & batts, loose fill or rigid insulation boards. An environmentally friendly option is renewable, non-toxic cellulose based insulation. Ask for professional advice on the best material to use.
If you are a “do it yourself” kind of person, start by sealing large gaps around chimneys, furnace flues, plumbing pipes, ductwork, light fixtures, and soffits in your attic. After that, place insulation between attic-floor joists and on the hatch or door. As a final point, seal air leaks in the basement and insulate ceilings in unheated basements and around the walls in heated basements or unvented crawl spaces.
When asked how to save energy in your home, a familiar idea such as flicking off light switches is always the first one to come to mind. The same principal goes for almost any electrical appliance in our homes. The idea couldn’t be any easier, if you’re not using it, turn it off.
With that being said, some people think that they are turning off electrical devices when in all actuality they’re not.
For example, many people use the remotes to turn their TV’s and stereos off to standby mode thinking that the power has been cut. Items left on standby use up to 85% of the energy they would use if fully switched on!
Another big waster of electricity is the electric tumble dryer. If possible hang your clothes to dry or get a dryer model with a moisture sensor that will shut off when the clothes are dry.
In addition to these other places that boost energy bills perhaps one of the biggest areas is your in home lighting.
Traditional bulbs waste a lot of energy so try using energy saving bulbs. They work in the same way as fluorescent lights, the tubes coating glows brightly as an electric current passed through gas in the tube. They may be more costly up front but it is certainly worth it considering that they will last approximately 10 times longer and use 4 times less energy.
Any licensed electricians in your area should be able to guide you on which bulbs are best for your particular home.
Another great idea is to use solar power lighting in your landscaping and garden areas. These lights have solar cells which convert the suns energy into electricity. They charge up during the day and light up when it gets dark.
Computers and printers can also run up your power bills. Keep your printer turned off using the actual power switch when you’re not using it. Some printers take as much power as 660 watts (that’s the same as keeping a small microwave oven cooking constantly)!
Most of us like to keep the computer on even if we’re not using it because we don’t want to wait the “couple of minutes” it takes to boot up again, but if you are going to be away from the computer for a hour or more, turn it off. You can save more power in that hour than that used to power one 14 watt compact fluorescent lamp for 24 hours.
5. Air Conditioning & Heat Pumps
If you think this section is only devoted to those people who like to stay cool and comfortable during the summer months, you are wrong. Although these two pieces of equipment are the most common way to lower the temperature of a house, there is much more to understand about the subject.
Before we get into the explanation of what a Heat Pump is and how it works lets first take a look at Air Conditioners and see what current changes have been made that may affect you.
The year 2010 was a big year in the world of Air Conditioning. The reason is because of a major change being made regarding the refrigerants in these units. The refrigerant is the juice or blood of the system. For the past few decades the general form of refrigerant was R22 Freon. However, current scientific theory states that R22 Freon has a harmful effect on the ozone high up in the earth’s atmosphere.
More environmentally friendly options such as Puron refrigerant are now being used in place of this old gas. With that being said, AS OF 2010 MANUFACTURES CAN NO LONGER BE ALLOWED TO PRODUCE AIR CONDITIONERS THAT RUN ON R22 FREON.
Although this change won’t take place for a couple of years, consumers should note that there are regulations in place today to phase out the production of the actual R22 Freon gas itself. This means that the overall supply of R22 Freon will become lower year after year until 2020 WHEN PRODUCTION OF R22 FREON GAS WILL STOP COMPLETELY.
You ask, “How does this affect me?” Well, let’s say you are in the market to purchase a new Air Conditioning system this summer. You will have the choice to purchase a piece of equipment with either R22 Freon or the new Puron refrigerant.
Even though the cost of the older style equipment will be lower today, there is a good chance that those savings will be wiped out in future years in the event that equipment needs to be fixed. The reason for this is simple – supply and demand. Years from now there will be a huge demand for R22 Freon with a significantly minimal supply. The end result will be astronomical prices for R22 Freon.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!
The best way to have your Air Conditioner running at peak safety and efficiency is to have a precision tune up done annually by either accredited electrical contractors or a specialized HVAC technician.
Now – on to the subject of Heat Pumps. A Heat Pump is capable of providing cooling during the summer months and heating during the winter months. This is achieved by reversing the flow of the refrigerant in the system. When it is in cooling mode, the Heat Pump removes heat and humidity from indoor air and transfers it outside. When it heating mode, the Heat Pump removes heat from outside air and transfers it inside.
Generally, most Heat Pumps can run until the temperature reaches -5°C. Once the outdoor temperature goes any lower than -5°C, the furnace comes on as the main source of heat for your house. In the milder winters, consumers have the choice to heat their homes during most winter months using either gas for their furnace or electricity for their Heat Pump.
This style of heating your home is better known as Hybrid Heat. Customers who have Hybrid Heat systems are no longer obligated to one type of fuel. This is the greatest way to protect your self in the event of a sudden rise in the prices of either gas or electricity.
There are often Financial Incentives offered from utility companies if you choose to install an energy efficient Heat Pump.
6. Water Heaters
By insulating your hot-water pipes and lowering the temperature on your water heater from 54° to 48°, you can save approximately 5% on your energy bills. The average life of a hot water tank is 10-15 years depending on many factors such as the water pressure in your house and the quality of the water in your area. If it’s time for a new water heater, choose a model with a 9-12 year warranty. Those usually have thicker insulation and more powerful burners or heating elements for faster heating than models with shorter warranties.
Tankless water heaters claim to save money by heating water only when you turn on the faucet. But smaller, cheaper units probably won’t produce enough hot water to serve a typical family. Larger, gas-fired units are expensive to install because they often require larger gas supply lines and special venting.
Here are some other tips to use less hot water:
* Run your washing machine with only full loads and always rinse with cold water
* If you need to buy a new washing machine choose a front loading washer. They can use around 40% less water and 50% less energy per load
* Use an electric razor. Shaving with an electric razor requires less energy when compared to the energy required to heat your water. Furthermore, you will use waste less water. Think of how much water you use in a year from shaving alone!
*Only turn on your dishwasher for full loads of dishes and check to see if your dishwasher has an energy saver cycle.
Just like most other industries there have been substantial technological advancements made for water heaters.
When dealing with fireplaces it’s best to use them for ambiance and not as a source of heat. Many people think that wood burning fireplaces save money on heating bills but the opposite is true. In fact, they actually take the heat in your home up and suck it up and out the chimney!
Installing glass doors will somewhat improve the situation. It’s a good idea to shine a flashlight up your wood burning fireplace to make sure the damper fits snug when it’s in the closed position. If your chimney needs sweeping, contact a duct cleaning company and see if they will include it as a small add on to their basic duct cleaning package.
The best advice for fireplaces is to switch from wood burning to natural gas. This will provide you not only savings but also convenience. Choices such as direct venting and electronic ignition are both great positives. For additional comfort and ease of use you can have a fireplace thermostat installed to help control the temperature in that room. As a safety tip you should always remember that the glass can get very hot during and after use.
Keep children and pets away from your fireplace or think about having a safety barrier installed. Finally, if you have a standing pilot light turn it off when you no longer use your fireplace on a regular basis. Again, if you are not comfortable re-lighting your pilot light in the fall, have a registered gas contractor re-light it during your Furnace maintenance visit.
8. Energy Scams
Some people are probably most surprised by this last tip. In previous years there wasn’t much need for a tip like this on an energy savings report. However, with all this talk on global warming, energy scams are great ways for some people trick the general public and cash in on their lack of knowledge.
Be on the alert when dealing with door-to-door salespeople or unsolicited letters or telemarketers that promise to save energy and big bucks on your bills. You could sign up only to find that your monthly bill is even higher due to hidden charges such as switching, service, late, and cancellation fees.
As with any industry you must be thorough and do your homework. Always look for reputable well known companies who have many years of experience working in your community. If you can’t find a trustworthy company ask a friend, family member or co-worker to recommend a business who gave them great service.
Always remember, don’t automatically go with the cheapest price when buying products for your home.
Keep in mind that you are not only buying the product that is being offered but you are also buying the service of that company. Will they be there for you when you need them the most? Like the old saying goes, you get what you pay for!
THIS SIMPLE OVERLOOKED UPGRADE IMPROVES COMFORT AND SAVES ENERGY
Did you know that air leakage accounts for 25-40% of the energy needed to heat and cool your home?
Home builders are good about sealing windows and doors to keep the hot air outside in the summer and the cold air outside in the winter. That’s good. But there’s one important source of outside air infiltration that’s always overlooked – your wall outlets.
A small amount of outside air is constantly seeping into your home through the plugs and switch boxes on your walls. That means while your air conditioner is trying to cool your home, this infiltration is raising the temperature throughout your house.
How much can leak around your outlets and wall switches? A lot; especially when there are 10, 20 or 30+ little leaks. That can add up to quite a bit of additional heat load. In the winter, the opposite is true. Cold air seeps in and makes it that much harder to heat your home.
The solution is insulated outlet seals. These simple add-ons will eliminate drafts and lower your utility bills. You don’t have to suffer to conserve energy, just make simple, smart improvements and you’ll start seeing great results.