Now that we’re starting fresh for 2013, we can start thinking about being “green” in two ways: Becoming just a little bit more energy efficient will save you money and help the environment. Small changes can make a big difference.
Heating and cooling your home is the biggest energy use, accounting for about 55% of your utility bills. By applying energy-efficient methods you can cut your use, and thereby both carbon emissions and utility bills, by 20-50%.
- Maintenance. Have your heating system serviced during the heating season and cooling system in the cooling season to keep them running at peak efficiency and spot any trouble ahead.
- Programmable thermostat. If you don’t have one, get one; if you have one, use it. By setting your thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter while you are asleep or at work for 8 hours a day, you can save about 10% of your utility use.
- Down 2, up 2. Raise your thermostat by two degrees from your usual setting in the summer and lower it by two degrees from your usual setting in the winter. There’s a good chance you won’t notice the change all that much, until you get your reduced utility bill.
- Filters. Change the filters on your heating and cooling system at least every three months, or monthly if you have pets or suffer from breathing difficulties. Doing so will increase your system’s efficiency and improve the air quality inside your home.
- Humidity. Keeping the recommended 40%-50% humidity in your home can help it feel more comfortable, allowing you to raise your thermostat in the summer and lower it in the winter. Get a humidity gauge at a local hardware store to determine your home’s humidity level, and consider installing a whole-home humidifier or dehumidifier.
- Weatherize. Seal cracks and air leaks around outlets, doors, and windows. Keep fireplace dampers closed. Unchecked air leakage in many homes is equivalent to a 9-foot hole in the house.
- Energy audit. Get a free energy audit if your utility company offers one, or pay to get a comprehensive whole-house audit. It will pay for itself the first year if your house has air leaks.
- Insulation. There’s a very good chance that your home doesn’t have the proper amount of insulation. To find out the correct amount recommended for your zip code, visit ornl.gov/~roofs/Zip/ZipHome.html.
- Duct sealing. Ductwork runs through your walls, floors, and attics. If your ducts aren’t sealed properly, up to 30% of the air you are heating and cooling is lost before it ever reaches its destination. That means that 30% of your utility bill is wasted. Have a professional evaluate and seal your ducts.
Following right behind heating and cooling, water heating is your second largest energy user, accounting for about 20% of your utility bill.
- Use less hot water by installing aerators on all faucets and shower heads.
- Set your water heater to 120 degrees and install a water heater blanket. Both will make your water heater use less energy.