Union of Concerned Scientists offered up these helpful tips for winterizing on a budget. I’ve added a few of my own energy saving tips below as well.
While there are many ways in which you can reduce your home’s energy use, these five projects can deliver the quickest payback on your purchase:
- Insulate your attic. It is relatively easy, yet very cost-effective, to add insulation to your attic. The Department of Energy (DOE) suggests a minimum attic insulation level of R-38 (R-value is a measure of resistance to heat flow), equivalent to 12 to 15 inches of insulation. The DOE provides a map on its website (see the Related Resources below) that lists recommended insulation levels for U.S. climates.
- Seal air leaks. Weather stripping, door sweeps, window shrink wrap, and other materials can be purchased at your local hardware store for $50 or less, and can save you as much as 10 percent in energy costs. If you have an old fireplace, consider installing glass doors (which can cost a couple hundred dollars or more) to help prevent heat from escaping out the chimney when not in use.
- Seal heating ducts. Leaky ducts from forced-air or heat pump systems can allow up to 20 percent of the warm air to escape. While most ductwork is hidden in walls and floors, you can seal duct leaks on your own in attics, basements, or garages, and in areas where ducts meet floor or wall vents. The DOE estimates that sealing leaky ducts can save you up to $140 annually.
- Install a programmable thermostat. An Energy Star-qualified programmable thermostat can cost as little as $30 but save you $100 or more each year on heating costs by automatically turning the heat down when you are asleep or away (so you don’t have to remember to do it yourself).
- Upgrade your furnace. If your heating system is more than 10 years old, consider replacing it with an Energy Star-rated model to cut your energy costs by up to 30 percent. Before you buy, make your home as efficient as possible first (following the tips above) so you can purchase the smallest system to fit your heating needs.
Homeowners can save even more money on energy efficiency improvements through tax breaks and other incentives offered by your utility or state government. And as part of the federal government’s recent economic bailout legislation, certain home improvements made in 2009 will be eligible for a tax credit (see the Related Resources).
A few more energy saving tips:
- Let the sun shine in! If you’re lucky enough to get direct sunlight, keep your drapes open during the day to let the sun’s rays add a little heat. If your windows are drafty, close the drapes at night to keep the cold air out
- If you have a window air conditioner, take it out for the season
- When you bake or use the oven, keep it open after your done (and it’s turned off, of course!) to add a little extra warmth to your home
- Wash your hands in cold water — don’t worry, you’ll kill as much germs as with warm water
- Also, wash your laundry in cold water. This can also extend the life of your garments
- Keep lights off during the day and only use lights in the room you’re in at night. And switch from incandescents to
- If you have a programmable thermostat, have it set to 55°F when you’re not home and at night when you’re sleeping, and raise the temperature to 68°F for when you’re at home and awake
- If you have control over the hot water heater in your home (unlike many apartment dwellers!) set it to 120°F. According to the US DOE, for each 10ºF reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3%–5% in energy costs
- Layer! Keep the thermostat low and wear warmer clothes
- Unplug the energy vampires, those appliances you only occasionally use like the toaster, microwave oven, DVD player
- Use power strips where multiple appliances are used (think TV, DVD player, stereo, etc.); switch the power strip to off when you leave the house
- Power down your computer when not in use
Get yourself a thermostat