Spring is in the air. As summer draws nearer, it’s not a bad idea to work on some energy-efficient home improvements before the heat hits. Here are a few suggestions to prep your home for the rainy spring days and hot summer months:
Modern-designed skylights such as solar tubes or tubular skylights allow more natural light into you’re home without the heat. The tubes reach across the roof of the home and the room, using optics to reflect light indirectly through the tube into the room. The natural light provided will allow you to turn off your electric lights for longer.
Inspect your windows, screens, and doors and replace if necessary.
Make sure your screen is clear of holes, because when the air cools down it’s nice to be able to open up your windows to cool down your home without the risk of unwanted pests. There are many ways to improve your windows, such as energy efficient treatments or replacement all together. According to Energy Star, replacing old windows with Energy Star certified windows can lower household bills by 7-15% and reduce the heat that gets into your home from sunlight without reducing the visible light. Instead of aluminum-framed models, consider going with wood. Similarly, when looking for energy efficiency in doors, avoid hollow metal because it allows air to filter through. A low-cost alternative to a window replacement project is the installation of storm windows if your interior windows are in good shape. Go to The U.S. Department of Energy’s website for information on how to choose the best window option for you.
Make sure your water heater is efficient.
Water heaters can make up anywhere from 14 to 25 percent of the annual energy usage in a home, according to the Department of Energy. To drive down energy costs, make sure yours is an energy efficient model and turn down the temperature of your water heater to the “warm setting” of 120°F.
Install a programmable thermostat.
According to Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, these devices “save about 10 percent on your heating bills and your cooling bills in the summer, so they pay for themselves literally in a matter of months.” You should set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the summer, especially while away. When the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures is insignificant, your home doesn’t need to work as hard to keep cool. A programmable thermostat allows you to have greater control over the temperature of your home, and can usually be set to a timer to change temperatures when you’re gone and shortly before you arrive home.
Have your air conditioner inspected.
This should be done every two to three years, however it often goes overlooked. An inspection will alert you of any problems that could be causing inefficiency and prevent small issues from bigger ones if gone untreated. It’s important to consider getting an updated air conditioner if it is older than 12 years.
Improve your home’s lighting.
A federal law recently passed, requiring the phase-out of traditional incandescent bulbs due to their energy inefficiency. They are to be replaced by compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and LEDs (light emitting diodes), which are much more energy-efficient models. Although they cost more upfront, they have unbeatable savings for the long-run.
Check your home’s insulation for air leaks.
Insulation acts as a barrier to heat, keeping it in during the winter and out during the summer. It’s best to first seal and prevent air leaks by caulking, sealing, and weather stripping all seams, cracks, and openings before adding insulation. Sealing your home with new weather stripping keeps cool air from leaking out and your AC from working harder. Start by getting an energy audit, either by a professional or DIY.
Replace old appliances with Energy Star models to save big on energy. An “energy star” label guarantees a reduction in energy consumption without reducing the quality of the product.
Update your garage.
Many people don’t realize their garage may be the largest culprit of air loss in their home. An easy way to prevent this is to add a weather strip to the bottom of the garage door and the door entering your home, which prevents outside air from coming in and the air conditioned air from escaping.
Other tips for energy-savings:
Find an air conditioning alternative, such as a fan.
Cranking down your air conditioner in the hot summer months wastes a lot of energy. With the aid of a ceiling fan, you can circulate air more efficiently and raise the thermostat around four degrees with no reduction in comfort. It’s important, however, to turn off fans upon leaving the room because fans cool people, not rooms, by creating a “wind chill effect,” according to the Department of Energy.
Use room air conditioners more efficiently.
Using a room air conditioner can be used much more efficiently if it is sized correctly to it’s location. It’s important to avoid placing it’s thermostat near lamps or televisions, because it will pick up the heat from these appliances and cause the air conditioner to work harder than necessary.
Avoid heating your home with appliances and lighting.
Avoid using the oven on hot days. Grill outside to prevent excess heat from entering your home. Efficient lighting runs cooler than traditional bulbs, which only use 10 percent of their energy for light and the rest is wasted on heat. Running a computer, dishwasher, or dryer, burning open flames, using hot devices such as curling irons or hair dryers are among the many sources of excess heat that may be entering your home.
Turn off appliances when leaving a room and use them efficiently
Even in stand-by mode, most appliances still consume electricity. Unless they are completely shut off, they will continue to waste energy going unused. In fact, it’s a good idea to unplug items while not in use, if possible. Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes and take short showers.
10 Energy-Efficient Home Improvements, money.usnews.com
Spring and Summer Energy-Saving Tips, energy.gov
Get Your Home Ready for Spring: Make Every Room Energy Efficient, bounceenergy.com
10 Home Improvement Projects to Plan for Spring, savings.whitefence.com
Home Series Energy Guide, Online & PDFs, iowaenergycenter.org