Cold winter weather and hot summer sunshine mean high heating and cooling bills. New homeowners may be especially surprised at the utility bills as they experience the seasons for the first time in their new home. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to conserve and manage your home energy costs.
Is There Enough Insulation?
Proper insulation is crucial. If you didn’t join the home inspector in the attic before you bought your house, put it at the top of your list and get up there. Inspect the insulation, noting bare spots and any uneven levels of insulation materials. If you can, identify what type of insulation it is, then use the U.S. Department of Energy insulation checker to determine if it’s adequate for the area you live in. ENERGY STAR offers a free guide to sealing and insulating to help homeowners understand insulation R-values (thermal resistance ratings) and how to evaluate the effectiveness of the existing insulation. Generally, the higher the R-value, the better the insulating effects. If you find your insulation isn’t adequate, add more to prevent heat loss during the winter and to keep cooled air in during the summer.
Check for Leaks and Air Seal Your Home
Gaps and cracks in windows, doors, roofs and vents cost you money. ENERGY STAR recommends weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows when you have drafts, uneven temperatures between rooms or cold floors in the basement in winter. Check for leaks and seal around windows and door frames and trim, as well as ductwork, electrical outlets, fireplaces, crawlspaces, basements, and vents in the clothes dryers, bathroom and oven hood. If you want to take it a step further, a blower door test will pinpoint all the leaks in your home. You can rent blower door equipment to do the testing yourself or hire a professional home energy auditor.
Other leaks to check for to save money on energy costs are appliances like refrigerators, freezers and dishwashers. Older appliances with loose doors and worn gaskets work harder and leak conditioned air, costing more money to run. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy recommends checking door seals by putting a dollar bill in the door as you close it to see if it stays in place, or placing a lighted flashlight inside a fridge pointed at the door seal in a darkened room; if you can see light shining through, you’ve got a worn gasket. Replace worn gaskets with custom-made silicone housing seals to extend the useful life of older appliances while reducing energy costs.
Use the Vents in Your House
If you’ve weather proofed and air sealed your home and checked that the insulation is adequate, you can use the vents in your house to control your energy use even more. Close the vents in unused or little-used rooms and close the room up. You won’t be sending heat or cooled air to that space or paying to do so. Family Handyman cautions homeowners to consult an HVAC professional before closing off vents this way, especially if they have a high-efficiency system, because if the return air duct isn’t also properly sealed, it can cause problems like an overworked furnace or forced air through leaks into wasted areas like crawlspaces and basements.