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5 Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

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Conserving energy in the home is not as complicated or expensive as it sounds. Big projects like installing solar panels, planting a rain garden, or replacing the furnace will greatly improve energy efficiency in any home, but they are not the only steps homeowners can take.

The Department of Energy says that an average household could cut energy costs in half by employing a few simple, energy conserving tricks. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ensures that any upgrades and improvements homeowners make to conserve energy can be used as deductions and for credits come tax time, and for those homeowners who still don’t know where to start, Accredited Energy Efficiency Auditors are available for hire and are trained to help folks discover their homes weakest energy points.

Here’s a list of 5 areas in the home where conservation is most necessary, and suggestions–large and small–of ways each area can be improved.

1. Lighting

One of the easiest fixes for any home, changing a single light bulb won’t get anyone a tax write-off, but it will make a dramatic difference in the efficiency of a lighting fixture. Replace the bulbs in only frequently used lights–tossing the old ones and installing compact-florescent bulbs –and it will make a dramatic impact on the electricity bill.

Turning off lights in empty rooms and always making the best use of natural light–when available–are two more steps that can be made every day. They sound small, but they make a big difference.

2. Heating and Cooling

More energy is expended keeping a home warm in the winter and cool in the summer than on any other element of home energy use. Luckily, there are a vast array steps that can be taken to reduce energy loss, and improve efficiency.

The best place to start is with the home’s insulation. Focusing on walls and (if applicable) the attic, ensure that the insulation in place is adequate. Otherwise, the walls will bleed whatever kind of air you’re trying to keep inside the house. Selecting the appropriate insulation, and installing it properly (using a professional, ideally) is a crucial step in any comprehensive efficiency program.

After insulation comes windows. One of the most leaky places in any home, replacing windows can be expensive, but simply upgrading them is easy. Consider storm windows or weather stripping, because the Department of Energy says that improving windows in and of itself can save 7 to 25 percent on energy costs.

Even easier steps include: planting shade trees in hot environments, filling exterior cracks with caulk to assist with insulation, checking the seal on the fireplace, and weather stripping any outer doors.

Obviously, replacing old inefficient heaters and air-conditioners is a great way to improve any home’s efficiency. But short of doing that, make sure that furnace filters are replaced on a monthly basis during the heating season, doing so improves a furnace’s performance drastically and reduces the amount a household will spend on heat too.

3. Electronics

Think of every electronic device plugged into a wall or power cord as a hungry monster. When the device is turned off, the monster is simply behaving–eating quietly–and when it’s turned on, the monster is noisily gobbling up every last bite of energy it can consume. The point: whether or or not electronics are “turned on” they consume energy. An estimated 15 percent of a household’s energy is sucked up by hungry electronics. Prevent this by unplugging items that are used infrequently, and when buying new electronic devices, check for the Energy Star logo, which guarantees efficiency.

4. Water

No one wants to hear about how much energy their shower uses, or how much it costs to take a nice relaxing bath, but taking quicker, cooler showers can dramatically reduce water use. If the long hot shower is just not something the family is willing to part with, installing a low flow shower head, and reducing the amount of baths taken per month can still save a good deal. Don’t forget to make sure each bathroom has a ventilation fan, they’re crucial to control excessive moisture.

5. The Kitchen

This room single-handedly beats any other room in the house in energy consumption, water consumption, and general waste produced. Taking a few simple steps regarding large appliances will help a lot.

Start with the refrigerator. The factory settings for both the fridge and freezer over anticipate the degrees of cool needed to keep food fresh, try turning down the temperature dials–just a smidgen–in the cooler months especially, and see what a difference it makes.

If there’s a dishwasher in the house: use it carefully. Don’t run half empty loads, always rinse dishes before loading them in the machine, and use the energy efficient option of air-drying every time. Even in the event you’ll need a dish right away, the quickest most energy friendly way to get it dry is to use a towel.

Turn to the oven/stovetop. Whether it’s gas or electric, preheating an oven is not always necessary (food will cook without the “preheat”) and often the highest setting is unnecessary for cooking food on the stove. Is an exhaust fan installed above the stove? These are another good way to avoid moisture accumulation, and damage to the walls and ceiling from steam and smoke.

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