As the days start to get shorter and the thermometer begins making its annual trip south, residents across the area are kicking their furnaces into action and using more lighting. The result is a steady increase in energy consumption that will be hitting most homeowner’s pocketbooks next month.
This month, make it your family’s mission to search out the energy wasters in your home and take the necessary steps to improve your home’s efficiency before the truly cold weather arrives, and you can reap the savings for the rest of the season.
Improving your home’s efficiency starts with knowing where your home stands on the scale of energy efficiency, one excellent reason to get a thorough home energy audit or assessment. Many home performance contractors offer this service for a minimal cost, saving you money in the long run because you can fix the most pressing problems with your home first.
A home energy audit includes a homeowner interview on the history and comfort of the home, and then diagnostic procedures such as a blower door test, a pressure pan test of duct work, infrared exploration of hot and cold spots, and a detailed assessment of insulation and thermal barriers in all areas of the house.
Many homeowners are surprised to find out that the biggest energy wasters in their homes are not what they thought they were going to be and recommended improvements are often easier and less expensive than anticipated.
There are many easy steps that homeowners can take themselves to improve their home’s energy efficiency in the fall.
- Use a programmable thermostat. Just setting the thermostat to lower the temperature 5-10 degrees during the daytime when the family isn’t home can save up to 10 percent a year.
- Keep shades and curtains on south-facing windows open during the day, when the sun can warm the house, and closed at night, to prevent heat loss.
- Have your heating system serviced. Most furnace companies recommend at least an annual tuneup to ensure that the system is at peak performance.
- Close the fireplace damper when not in use. Leaving the damper open is the equivalent of having a 6” hole in the wall of the room the fireplace is in.
- Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees to save money. Anything higher is generally wasteful and a lower setting is also recommended as a safety precaution for homes with children.
- Look for energy-efficient lighting for Halloween and Christmas decorations. New LED outdoor lights are not only 80 percent more efficient than older lights, they’re also more durable and don’t need to be replaced as often. For a double dose of good energy-sense, use a timer to turn lights on and off at night.
Know when to seek professional help
Some home performance improvements are best left to professionals, including adding/replacing insulation, sealing crawl spaces and replacing windows and doors. These tasks generally fall outside the skills of most DIY homeowners and it’s often more expensive in the long run to have poor improvements corrected.
If your home energy audit suggested professional-level improvements were necessary, be sure to collect quotes and referrals from at least three different energy improvement contractors who have credentials with Energy Star, The Building Performance Institute, LEED or similar professional organizations.