Curbing That Shocking Moment

by Mario Acosta on February 18, 2013

in Local Topics

Hi everyone, I hope you are enjoying our recent warm spell as much as I am.   Like you, I enjoy a little bit of winter – I know we need the rain, but after all this is Southern California and most of us are here for the sunshine.  I have talked in the past about fixing up your home, and simple things that you can do to increase its value.  I was discussing this with friends the other night when we drifted into a discussion about increasing our home value in other ways as well.  This of course led inevitably to a discussion about utilities – in particular the shocking moments we all experience when opening our electric bill in the deep of winter and again in the peak of summer.  Running an energy efficient home can make a big difference in your monthly budget.  If you step back and take a long view – the years you are going to live in your home, it can add up quite fast.  So for some of us a small investment now pays off in the long run.  Sometimes it’s just a change of habit.

So I started looking around the house and reading up on what I can do to help curb that monthly shocking moment when you open your utility bill. Here are some tips I found that I wanted to share with you.

1. Turn Off the Lights – Save 2%*

Be mindful about shutting lights off when you leave a room. If you have a forgetful family member or roommate, paste reminders on the switch plates. Consider installing motion-detector switches, they are a particularly great upgrade if you have kids – they automatically turn on and off your lights when entering or leaving bathrooms or hallways. Especially useful in areas like a garage or walk in closet where you may not have a free hand.

ADVANCED: Replace your bulbs with fluorescent, LED or  high efficiency bulbs. They also tend to last longer than incandescent bulbs.

2. Install Ceiling Fans – Save 19%

Install Energy Star ceiling fans in the rooms you use most often.  They’ll help keep you cool in the summer while your AC works less or not at all. In the winter, switch them to turn clockwise to circulate the warm air rising up to the ceiling, then back down into the room.

ADVANCED: Go with a white roof or install a green roof, which will prevent heat loss through the roof in winter and cool your home down in the summer.

3. Show Your Fridge Some Love – Save 4%

The refrigerator is one of the biggest energy-users in your home, and if it was built before 1993, it’s a huge energy hog. Clean the coils of your fridge every six months to keep it running efficiently, and take up unused space with jugs of water, which hold in the cold. Eliminate a second refrigerator, if you have one.  Look at the cost of replacing older units. The overall savings will often pay for a new unit in a relatively short time.   Also – as all women know – standing in front of an open fridge guys, wont change the contents!

4. Wash Clothes in Cold, Let Them Air Dry – Save 9%

Washing clothes in cold water gets them just as clean as hot, and cuts your washer’s energy use in half. Drying your clothes on an outdoor line or indoor rack can save around $100 in energy costs every year.

ADVANCED: Water and energy use are intertwined: producing energy uses water, and providing clean drinking water requires energy. Take steps to conserve water everywhere in your home.

5. Upgrade Appliances – Save 12+%

Appliances use 20 percent of the energy in the average US home. When it’s time to buy new appliances, look for the most efficient Energy Star model you can find. The biggest energy hogs in a home are usually the refrigerator (particularly if it was built before 1993) and clothes dryer.

6. Give Your Water Heater a Blanket  – Save 1 – 3%

Adding an insulating cover to your water heater can reduce heat loss by 24-45 percent. Also, turn your water heater down by ten degrees, if possible. If half of US households did so, it would prevent 239 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

ADVANCED: Upgrade to a tankless or solar water heater, and save 14% off your energy bill.

7. Plug Air Leaks – Save 12%

Replacing windows is often the most expensive, least cost-effective step you can take to save energy. Instead seal air leaks around doors and windows with caulk and weather-stripping. Also, consider putting up insulating curtains, pasting low-e film to the window glass, and installing storm windows or plastic window films to further cut down on heat loss in winter.

ADVANCED: Get an Energy Star audit to help pinpoint your biggest energy losses.

8. Use Your Programmable Thermostat – Save 10%

Nearly half of US homes already have a programmable thermostat. Dig out that owner’s manual and learn how to use yours to maximize the efficiency of your heating and cooling systems. Program your thermostat to turn itself down or off when you’re sleeping or are at work or school.  But here is a big surprise to most people – it’s much more cost effective to keep your house at a relatively even temperature then it is to let to heat up and then cool it down or let it get real cold and then try and heat it up.  So program that thermostat to work around your lifestyle.

9. Air Dry Dishes – Save 3%

Using your dishwasher instead of washing dishes by hand can save water, but if you let the drying cycle run, you’re wasting energy and money. Skip the drying cycle and let your dishes air dry. Newer, more effective and efficient dishwashers allow you to skip the step of pre-rinsing your dishes before you load them in the dishwasher.

ADVANCED: Run your dishwasher (and your clothes washer, for that matter) at night, during off-peak hours. It’s our country’s peak demand that determines the expansion of dirty coal-fired power plants.

10. “Eliminate Phantom Load” – Save 5%

Many electronics still suck energy even when they’re turned off–such as powering that little clock on your microwave when it’s not in use.  Unplug your electronics or plug them into a power strip and switch it off to save on this “phantom load.”

ADVANCED: Use a Kill-A-Watt meter to measure the energy use of appliances and gadgets, even when they’re turned off. You can also keep track of your home’s entire energy use with a whole-house energy monitor.

Anyway I hope this helps.  There are many great articles out there more extensive than my little hit list here.  But I hope it gets you thinking and helps you save a little here and there.

Take care all and I will be back next week with more.

Sherman Oaks Home Search Sherman Oaks Home Values

Post by Mario Acosta

Mario has written 117 articles.

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