The cold weather is now upon us, and higher energy bills can’t be far behind, but you can cut your spending and make your home more snug with these easy energy-saving DIY projects. We always make energy-efficiency a priority in all our remodeling projects, but if you aren’t ready for a remodel or retrofit yet, there are simple things you can do yourself to trim your bills and make your home more cozy this winter.
Here’s a real easy one — it doesn’t even count as a project — keep your closet doors closed! Because they’re usually unheated spaces, an open door only add to the square footage that must be heated.
Seal of approval
Your doors and windows are a big source of heating — experts estimate that’s where 7-12% of heat loss happens.
A simple tube of caulk or adding weather stripping can seal up those drafts. Also look at the places in your walls where utilities and pipes enter your home. Spray foam can help here, and there’s a bonus — by sealing these gaps you can discourage mice and other pests from making themselves freeloading roommates.
If you’ve got old single-pane windows, it’s time to install storm windows. Look to home improvement stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s for budget-friendly options. The DIY Network has great step-by-step instructions here — and measure twice, at least.
If your basement is unfinished basement, you can help insulate your living area upstairs by running caulk between the top of the foundation and the sill plate to keep cold air from seeping into the living spaces. Not sure what a sill plate is? The U.S. Department of Energy has this handy diagram.
Adjust your temps
You can cut your energy use just by setting your thermostat below 70F — especially when you’re not home or in bed. Make it easier to track by installing a programmable thermostat, and you won’t have to raise or lower it when you remember. Direct Energy estimates you can save up to 10% on your bills by turning your heat down 7-10F degrees from what you’re used to.
Switch it up
LED bulbs make an immediate improvement on your electric bills. And swapping out your old shower heads for newer water-saving shower heads will save money (if you’re on public water).
Maintain your systems
Regular maintenance on your heating unit will keep it running efficiently — so you use less fuel, whether oil, natural gas, or electricity. Scheduling an annual inspection and tune-up with an HVAC technician will take keep your heating system running at its best. If you’ve got forced air, inspect your filter regularly, and change it as soon as it gets dirty — your warm air will flow more freely.
Cleaning your air ducts will give you cleaner indoor air, and getting rid of dust and debris will move your heat more efficiently, taking a load off your blower system. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association, has more details on its site.
Check your insulation
You may need more insulation on your attic floor. Energy Star recommends a thickness of 10 to 14 inches, depending on what type you use. Don’t forget the back of your attic door — whether it’s a regular door or on that drops from the ceiling. Without insulation, you’ll lose heat as the air rises and works its way up.
Check your water heater
A water heater that’s warm to the touch needs more insulation. A tank should have an insulation level of at least R-24, and you can check the label to see. If it’s not insulated well enough, doing so can cut heat loss by 25-45%, and save 7-16% every year on the energy. Buy insulated blankets for your heater at your local home improvement store.
Consider adding insulation around your water pipes where you can — like in an unfinished basement space.
If you have a well-insulated heater, you can still save by turning its temperature down. Most manufacturers send their units out with a default setting of 140F. You can save 4%-22% of the energy it uses annually by turning it down to 120F. Just make sure your dishwasher has a booster heater — if it doesn’t, the lower temperature might not be enough to get your dishes totally clean. Don’t turn it down if anyone has compromised immunity or has a breathing problem. If everyone’s healthy, setting it at 120F is safe and will also minimize the risk of scalding.
Get an audit
Schedule a home energy audit. As a DIY option, the Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick is a help, and It’s due to be updated by the end of the year. Do it now and then check back in to see how your home fares.
A more hands-on option is to call your energy provider. PECO, for example, offers low- or no-cost (if you qualify) energy assessments. A professional audit will involve special equipment that tests your home for leaks, and infrared imaging to find where you might need more insulation or have hidden leaks.
Along with saving on your energy bills, you’re doing the environment a solid by buttoning up your home. Up to half of your home energy use goes toward heating and cooling it. In an inefficient home, you’re burning your money, using more electricity, oil, or gas, and making a bigger carbon footprint. With a little time and effort, you’ve created a win-win, for your wallet and your environment.
If you're interested in green remodeling, check out this sustainable project! And if you want to remodel your home and make it more energy-efficient, get in touch!