Small Chores Can Add Up to Large Energy Savings in an Old House
If you aren't in a position to spend on big-ticket energy conservation right now--insulation or windows, for instance--there still are many avenues to cut energy expenses. A therm here or a watt there, especially if you are in a creaky old house, can add up to hundreds of dollars in savings a year. And they're mostly simple, DIY fixes.
Here are several areas to consider:
- Caulk and weather strip. You know the weather stripping that your cat ripped to oblivion? Fix it! And don't wait for an exterior paint job to re-caulk your windows and doors. If it's cracked and chipped, redo it. Here's a tip: re-caulking is tedious and time-consuming. If the thought of doing the whole house daunts you, lower your sights and do one or two windows a day, starting on the bad-weather side of your house. You'll be done in no time.
- Insulated blinds. If you are already planning to replace some window coverings, like maybe redecorating a room, look into products that provide extra insulating value.
- Programmable thermostats. If you have a truly Jurassic house without a programmable thermostat, consider getting one. They are not too expensive and are easy to install. And while you are thinking temperature, lower it by a degree or two and put on a sweater.
- Hot water. Set your hot-water heater at 120 to 125 degrees. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, for each 10ºF reduction in water temperature, you can save between three percent and five percent in energy costs. Also, wrap your heater with a water-heater blanket.
- Light bulbs. Use energy-efficient light bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs have some downsides (they contain mercury, emit harsh light, can't be used in all fixtures), but properly used, they can save big bucks. Newer LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs can cost $75 or more, but they last seemingly forever and use only pennies of energy.
- Furnace. Clean or change the filter monthly in the winter. (Hint: load up on filters in the summer if they go on sale.) Hire an HVAC pro to tune up your furnace.
- Low flow. Install reduced-flow faucets and shower heads. Some people think they need a fire-hose shower in the morning, but it doesn't get you any cleaner.
- Even insulation. If your attic has blown-in insulation, check to see that there are no shallow spots that may let heat escape.
- Shade trees. If you live in a hot climate, plant shade trees on the sunny side of your house. Consider this a long-term solution.
- ENERGY STAR. If your appliances are going to need replacing soon, go ahead and do it with ENERGY STAR appliances.