Author: Andrew Wroblewski
Looking to save on your electricity bill, or just concerned about power use in light of environmental issues? Heating and cooling our homes is one of our biggest energy sinks, along with inefficient vehicles. By taking a few steps, you can reduce the amount of electricity you need to keep your home comfortable. You'll save money, and be able to feel better about your impact on the environment.
The first step is making sure that your house is well insulated. Seal gaps around windows and doors, check your insulation, and repair any malfunctioning storm windows. Also, be certain to check the attic for drafts. You'll save a lot more on heating if the cold can't get in! A good way to check for leaks is to light a stick of incense or a candle, and hold it near windows and doors. Watch the flame or smoke and see if it's affected by a draft. You can then caulk or weather strip any leaks you find.
Set your thermostat a little higher in summer and a little lower in winter. Most of us do not notice a five degree difference, but your electricity bill will. Five degrees can decrease your energy usage enough to save ten percent on heating and cooling.
Efficiency is important when it comes to your air conditioner and heater. Whether you have a furnace or electric heat, having it checked for efficiency and keeping the filters clean can make a big difference in your energy use. Many furnaces operate around 80% efficiency when new, but can drop as low as 40% if not maintained. The same goes for air conditioners. Keep window units clean and check for coolant leaks, and have central air conditioning maintained each year.
Use fans to circulate air. In conjunction with setting your thermostat a little higher, this will allow you to stay cool in the summer without paying a lot on your electric bill.
Install a programmable, Energy Star rated thermostat, and be sure it's away from hot and cold areas in the house. Your thermostat should measure the average temperature in your home. Having an Energy Star thermostat could save you around a hundred dollars on energy bills per year.
If you have a fireplace, use it only for special occasions. Fireplaces are very inefficient, and you may actually lose more heat up the chimney than your fire provides. Install a fireplace insert to reduce heat loss, and be sure to close off your fireplace to keep warmth from blowing up the chimney when you do not have a fire going.
If your furnace is more than fifteen years old, consider replacing it with a new one. Technology has brought us much more efficient heating options that pay for themselves quickly through the savings they bring.
Consider a heat pump. When it's not quite cold enough for the heater, and not quite warm enough for the air conditioner, but the house isn't comfortable, a heat pump can adjust the temperature without the expense of running the heating or cooling systems.