Not every energy-efficiency project is free. Here are a few ideas of things you can do that are relatively inexpensive and easy to implement. Again, many apologies if this is old hat to you:
- Replace light bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs. Using compact florescent or LED (light emitting diode) lights can save lots of energy; estimates from ENERGY STAR say that a single CFL bulb can save more than $40 in electricity costs over its lifetime. It uses about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs, lasts 10 times longer, and produces about 75% less heat so it is safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with cooling. CFL bulbs are slightly more expensive, but watch for sales at your local store.
- Install a digital thermostat. A programmable thermostat offers pre-programmed settings to regulate your home's temperature in both summer and winter. For example, during the summer you can set your thermostat so that your home automatically cools when you are home and awake, and becomes slightly warmer when you are asleep or at work. You can buy a digital thermostat for about $30.
- Insulate your hot water heater with a blanket/jacket. This is fairly simple and inexpensive, and it will pay for itself in about a year. You can find pre-cut jackets or blankets available from around $10–$20. Choose one with an insulating value of at least R-8. Some utilities sell them at low prices, offer rebates, and even install them at a low or no cost.
- Purchase green power or green power credits. Instead of burning fossil fuels to create electricity, green power is electricity created from clean, renewable sources such as wind power, solar photovoltaics, landfill methane capture, or biomass. Many utility companies offer the option to buy “green power,” “renewable energy credits (RECs),” or “green tags.”
- Use landscaping strategies to improve your home’s energy use. A well-designed landscape not only can add beauty to your home but it also can reduce your heating and cooling costs. For example, trees can help shade your home, reducing the need to cool it in the summer. Landscaping can provide a windbreak to help protect your home from winter winds.
- Make sure your doors are airtight. You can use weather-stripping to help reduce drafts around windows and doors – keeping the conditioned air inside and the unconditioned air out.
- Use a clothes line. Consider purchasing a clothesline if your community allows them. Retractable lines can be purchased at your local hardware store for less than $15.
- Replace your AC filter with a reusable one…and wash it monthly! The most important maintenance task that will ensure the efficiency of your air conditioner is to routinely replace or clean its filters. Clogged, dirty filters block normal air flow and reduce a system's efficiency significantly. Keeping the filter clean can lower your air conditioner's energy consumption by 5%–15%. Many hardware stores sell reusable, washable filters for about the same price as a regular disposable filter.
Some slightly more expensive or challenging projects include:
- Improve the insulation in your attic, basement, or crawl space. Properly insulating your home will not only help reduce your heating and cooling costs but also make your home more comfortable.
- Switch to a tankless hot water heater. Tankless water heaters, also called instantaneous or demand water heaters, provide hot water only as it is needed. Traditional storage water heaters produce standby energy losses that cost you money. A tankless water heater is used only when there is a demand for hot water. Many tankless water heaters have a life expectancy of more than 20 years. They also have easily replaceable parts that extend their life by many more years. In contrast, storage water heaters last 10 – 15 years.
- Restore porches and awnings. Awnings and porches provide protection from the sun, rain, snow and wind. They can also protect your indoor possessions from fading in locations that receive a great deal of sun streaming through the windows, and help save on energy bills by shielding the sun from heating up the home’s interior in warmer months, and diminishing the amount of wind that hits the windows and doors.
- Insulate your pipes. Insulating your hot water pipes reduces heat loss and can raise water temperature 2ºF–4ºF hotter than uninsulated pipes can deliver, allowing for a lower water temperature setting.
Image Source: Triple Pundit