Our homes are huge investments. For many people, it is the biggest they will make in their lifetime. And it’s not just the monthly mortgage payment to consider, as it can also be a huge monthly expense to maintain the home. One way to help alleviate some of that expense, and at the same time be “green,” is to take a few simple steps to make it more energy efficient:
Windows and Doors
Windows and doors are big areas where air can move in and out of the house. If your windows are in good shape (or you cannot yet afford to replace them) but feel a little drafty, removing the trim and putting in a spray foam around them will help. Be sure to use the proper spray foam, as you want minimal expansion in order to not bend things.
For doors, replacing the threshold will help keep a weather tight seal (and shrews from coming in). Remember to caulk around the trim before you put it back on.
- This Old House: How to Replace a Threshhold
- Fine Homebuilding: Replacing a Door Threshold
- Do It Yourself: Windows insulation, spray foam, taking the trim off without damaging it
- eHow: How to Use Spray Foam Insulation in Gaps Between Window & Frames
Look at your heating system. According to my expert from from a Sarasota heating and cooling repair company, it is important to have it serviced yearly by a licensed plumbing/heating company. They will ensure that it is running at maximum performance.
Furnace filters should be changed out regularly. If they are dirty, now is a good time to buy a pack in bulk. Remember to inspect your filters once a month.
Another great way to improve the efficiency is to put in a programmable thermostat. You will be able to set it so that when you are not home it is keeping it at a reasonable temperature (not freezing) and to warm up before you get home. There are many different types available. A heating company should be able to help you decide which is best for you.
If you’re looking for a definitive way to make your home more energy efficient, replacing your refrigerator is where you should start. Older models use much more energy than Energy Star-rated ones do now-a-days. Make sure it is Energy Star-rated. They use 20% less energy than non-rated models and 40% less than models sold in 2001. This is one appliance that is ALWAYS on. Check out these tips on appliances for your kitchen.
That noisy, old bathroom fan is very inefficient. Newer models are much less noisy, use less energy and help keep air from getting into the bathroom. Broan and Panasonic are two popular manufacturers. Be careful though, they still have noisy, inefficient models on the market for much less money.
- Energy.gov: Fans, Ventilating
Take a look at your plumbing fixtures. Low-flow does not have to mean that it is low on pleasing you. Replacing faucets and shower heads in the kitchen and bathrooms are a great way to reduce the amount of water being used. Many manufacturers have fixtures that are low-flow, but maximize the water being used.
Also, take a look at your toilet. Older models use more water, and when the government standards went to 1.6 gallons per flush toilet manufacturers did not have the technology to make them work as well. Now toilets that use .9, 1.2 and the maximum 1.6 gallons per flush are working much better. I recommend using a name brand and not surrendering quality for a cheaper price.
Insulating your attic is one of the top things you can do to improve the energy efficiency of your roof. Blown-in or padded insulation are two popular options. How you should insulate your attic is up for debate. A good insulating contractor will give you your options and tell you the draw backs and benefits of different systems.
- How Stuff Works: What can I do to my roof to save on energy costs?
- Green Home Guide: Three Ways to Make Your Roof More Energy Efficient
Updating your lighting is another great way to become more efficient. Old style incandescent bulbs are highly inefficient, though many people prefer the light they put out. Our country has moved to CFL bulbs, but they have their drawbacks. Halogens are another option, not as efficient as CFL’s some prefer them. One drawback of halogens is that they generally require an entirely different fixture, while CFL bulbs can be used in the same fixture as incandescent bulbs. Another new option is LED bulbs. Consider what the room is used for when choosing how to light it.
Many of us prefer bottled water over tap water. I used to cringe every time I had to purchase a 24-pack of water and then throw all of that waste away (or recycle). It was a huge waste of time, money and the earth’s resources. A few years back, I switched to a reverse osmosis filter for my drinking water. Turns out it is way better than the bottled stuff and I have the ice maker in my freezer hooked up to it (the clear ice cubes are amazing). While a reverse osmosis system might not be your preferred choice, there are other types of filters you can use. Some hook-up directly to the faucet or some you add water to and leave in the fridge. Whichever you chose it is a good alternative to bottled water.
- Livestrong: Why are water filters energy efficient?
- Consumer Reports: Top Water Filters Reviewed
- Wikipedia: Reverse Osmosis
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to drive a Prius to enter the recycling center. Trust me: they allow even the biggest trucks. It only takes time for you to recycle. Use smaller trash cans to help sort the recyclables in your area. And don’t forget to recycle your Christmas (or holiday) tree!
- Alaskans for Litter Prevention and Recycling; Christmas Tree Recycling Now Through January 15
- Muni.org: How do I recycle these items?
- Green Star: Frequently Asked Questions
Making your house more energy-efficient is not only going to save you money in the long-term, it will also make your house more comfortable and add value if/when you go to sale. These are some of the simple things you can start to tackle. When you go to do a larger remodeling project always keep energy efficiency and sustainability in mind. Go with products that will last and designs that will stand the test of time. By doing so you might spend more money up front, but a home is a long term investment.
Interested in more information about energy efficiency in Alaska? Here are some great sites for energy efficiency tips that work in Alaska:
- www.akenergyefficiency.org (provided by Alaska Energy Authority)
- www.achpalaska.com (energy efficiency education for homeowners and renters)
- http://www.cchrc.org (Cold Climate Housing Research Center, everything from energy efficiency tips to the latest in Arctic building science research)
- http://www.greenstarinc.org (Alaska Green Star, they focus on efficiency and recycling in businesses)
- http://akcenter.org/climate-energy/energy-conservation-efficiency (Alaska Center for the Environment)
- http://ahfc.us/energy/energy.cfm (Alaska Housing Finance Corp, lots of resources with information on how to get funded, finding an energy rater, etc… This is mostly geared toward homeowners, although the weatherization program is made available for low-income renters)