The three primary reasons to increase your home's energy efficiency are to help the environment, to save money and to increase the value of your home. Some changes are simple, like switching to more efficient light bulbs. Others are more involved, like replacing windows and doors. All will help your home be more appealing to you, your family and to potential future buyers.
With the holiday season here (and the first snow for those in colder climates), here are a few simple tips and tricks to help keep you and your guests comfortable in addition to saving a few dollars on your energy bills.
1. Avoid phantom energy
This negative energy, also termed "vampire energy," is electricity sucked from outlets when devices are turned off but still plugged in, according to Collin Dunn, contributor at HowStuffWorks.com. That means your TVs, computer and chargers for your cellphone and power tools still draw energy just by being plugged in and account for about 10 percent of your electricity use.
Buy an energy-saving power strip and flip the switch off when you're done to help combat this idle current.
2. Use LED or CFL lights
Replacing old light bulbs with energy-saving ones can save as much as $75 a year, according to energy.gov. Although more expensive, LED or CFL lights last 3-25 times longer and use about 25-80 percent less energy than the traditional incandescent. This makes it a no-brainer when trying to increase your home energy efficiency.
3. Replace old windows and doors
Windows are responsible for 25-30 percent of whether the heat or cool air stays in or goes out, according to energy.gov. If you have old, leaky windows, it's a good idea to replace them. Replacing older doors can also help lower your heating and cooling costs. Check out AMSCOwindows.com for multiple selections and price ranges.
4. Insulate your walls and attic
"The most effective strategy for improving household energy efficiency is to first target your home’s envelope — walls, attic, windows and doors," says Harvey M. Sachs, Ph.D. and contributor to greenhomeguide.com. Great insulation will slow the rate of heat leaving or entering the house, lowering your energy bill and keeping your more comfortable longer.
5. Plant trees and shrubs outside
If you already have poor windows and a lack of insulation, consider planting trees and shrubs on the west side of your house. This allows the sunlight to shine through the bare branches during the winter, while the leaves block the sun during the summer, according to Sachs.
6. Buy Energy Star products
Just like the lightbulbs, buying energy-saving appliances, fans and electronics might cost a lot right now, but help keep money in your wallet and last longer. In fact, you can save as much as $750 over the lifetime of the products, according to energy.gov.
7. Install a programmable thermostat
These devices can save you as much as 10 percent annually, according to energy.gov. It also enables you to have peace of mind when you leave the house or climb into your warm bed at night, knowing the temperature will adjust automatically.
9. Weather-proof your home
Seal up leaks around windows and doors and in the basement and attic. Look for cracks in the walls and anywhere else air might be escaping. Also, sealing ducts goes a long way in increasing your home's energy efficiency (30 percent), according to energy.gov. Installing window treatments, unblocking air vents and covering bare floors with rugs or carpet are also easy ways to keep costs low.
10. Utilize your ceiling fan
If you have a ceiling fan, reverse it in the winter so that the warm air is evenly distributed. In the summer, make the fan run counter-clockwise to create a cooling wind, according to homeselfe.com.
11. Turn down the water heater
Don't worry, you'll still have plenty of hot water for you and your guests if you turn down the water heater. Set it to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and you'll be fine, according to homeselfe.com. Also, make sure to turn off your water heater when you go on vacation because there's no reason for it to be heating water when no one is using it.
Utilize some or all of these recommendations to make your home more efficient, more comfortable and to boost its overall value.