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Tips to Making Your Home More Energy Efficient on Any Budget

With utility costs steadily rising, now is a great time to look into the efficiency of your home. Whether your budget is big or small, there are always ways to save on energy. Here are some tips we’ve gathered on how you can lower your utility costs:

1. Heating & Air Conditioning
“Heating and cooling account for about 56{447216cae66a4d332ab0ac71eb11e27716218036a4f422ac40162b059a195e14} of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most homes.”  – US Department of Energy

$ You can definitely make your current HVAC unit more efficient while spending very little money. Switching out the filters once every couple of months is an easy way to keep costs down. When a filter is clogged with dust and dirt, the unit has to work harder to keep the house warm or cool. You can also do things like close the vents in rooms that are used less often, keep fans running to help spread heat and cool air, and take advantage of a fireplace if you have one.

$$ You can control the temperature during hours when you’re not home or while you’re asleep by installing a programmable thermostat. Program the temperature to be higher while you’re gone in the warmer months, and lower in the colder months. The US Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that using a programmable thermostat can save you 10 percent in heating/cooling costs. Also, installing ceiling fans is a great way to spread heat and air throughout your home.

$$$For those with a substantial budget, you can replace older furnaces with a high-efficiency system. If your furnace was built before 1992, it most likely has an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating of 65 percent. Not only is the furnace approaching the end of its life, but it’s costing you a lot of money to run. Replacing it with a high-efficiency furnace that has an AFUE rating of 90 percent could save you 25 percent on your heating bill. For more information, check out the US Department of Energy website.

2. Electricity
“By replacing the five most frequently used light fixtures in your home with ENERGY STAR® qualified models, you can save $70 each year in energy costs.” – ENERGY STAR®

$ There are so many affordable ways to save on your electric bill! It can be as simple as turning off lights when you leave a room. When something is plugged in, it uses electricity, even if it is turned off or not being used. Utilize power strips that have an on/off switch for items like phone chargers, fans and lamps. When you’re not using these items, simply switch off the power strip.

$$ Switching your lightbulbs from incandescent to compact fluorescent lamps (CLFs) is a great idea that can save you a decent bundle of money. Yes, CLF bulbs cost more upfront, but they are 75 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs and they last 10 times longer. On top of that, they generate about 70 percent less heat, so not only are they safer, but the can also help® reduce energy costs associated with cooling homes in warmer months. The DOE estimates that upgrading 15 incandescent lightbulbs in your home could save you about $50 per year.

$$$ Replacing your appliances with certified ENERGY STAR® appliances is a surefire way to save. Refrigerators are the biggest energy suckers in your home. ENERGY STAR® estimates that replacing your old fridge with an energy-efficient one can save you up to $150 every year.

3. Insulation & Windows
“For optimal energy efficiency, your home should be properly insulated from the roof down to its foundation.” – US Department of Energy

$ An affordable way to improve the insulation of your home is by purchasing a tube of caulk and plugging up small holes and leaks around windows and doors, and in between floors and corners. Adding weatherstripping to exterior doors is another easy and affordable way to ensure your home is sealed tight.

$$ If you have a little more money that you can throw towards improving the insulation in your home, you could look into adding storm doors and/or replacing old exterior doors with new insulated ones. If your exterior door is older but still in good condition, adding a storm door can be a smart investment. If your windows have aluminum or metal frames, you should replace them with vinyl, fiberglass or wood frames.

$$$ Adding new insulation throughout the home in places like the attic, exterior walls, and foundation will definitely help make your home more efficient. If your windows are old, replacing them with double or triple panes is a great way that will not only make your home more efficient, but will also add value to it.

4. Water
“An American home can waste, on average, more than 10,000 gallons of water every year due to running toilets, dripping faucets, and other household leaks.” – Water Sense®

$ There are literally hundreds of cheap and easy ways to cut down your water bills. Doing things like turning off the water when you brush your teeth, taking shorter showers, running your dishwasher only when it’s full (and choosing to run your dishwasher over hand washing dishes), and wearing clothes such as jeans and sweatshirts more than once, are free ways to cut back on water usage. Go around the house and make sure none of your faucets are leaking. Take your car to a car wash instead of washing it yourself. Instead of waiting for tap water to get hot, heat some water up in the microwave or on the stove. These are all very simple ways to cut back on your water bills.

$$ You can easily lower your water bill by switching to a low-flow shower head, which can help reduce your water bill by 25-60 percent, according to the DOE. Low-flow shower heads use approximately 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) while ordinary models can use up to 5.5 gpm. Use mulch in a garden and around plants and trees. Install timed-sprinklers and set them to run during early morning or in the evening.

$$$ Replacing your toilets with new dual-flush or low-flow models can save you a bundle. According to Kohler, older toilets can use 3.5+ gallons of water per flush. Their high-efficiency models use less than 1.28 gallons, saving households up to 16,500 gallons of water per year. Dual-flush toilets have gone a step further by having two different buttons – a light flush button which uses 0.9 gallons, and a heavy flush button that uses 1.6 gallons of water. Another way to save on water is by upgrading to a high-efficiency washer. According to the DOE, a high-efficiency washer can by as much as three times more efficient than a regular one.

**BEWARE** – The goal of making your home more energy efficient is to save money. Don’t let moral licensing interfere, meaning don’t consume more energy because you feel you are saving energy. For example, let’s say you install a low-flow shower head. This doesn’t mean you can add an extra 15 minutes on to your shower. By taking a longer shower, you are still using more water. You won’t see a difference in your utility costs if you let this happen. If you really want to see difference in your utility bills, we recommend trying out at least five different energy-saving ideas.

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