6 Ways To Cut Home Energy Costs

By Melissa King, Contributor


Utility bills can make up a significant portion of a family’s monthly budget. With a little planning, research, and work, you can cut your home’s energy consumption by a substantial amount. With Earth Day next week, here are 6 ways to get the job done.

Improve your HVAC’s Efficiency

HVAC systems account for half or more of your utility bills. There are several steps you can take to improve the efficiency of your home’s system. They include replacing filters regularly and keeping thermostats set at a constant level.

You’ll also want to make sure all windows and doors fit correctly, are properly installed, and sealed to reduce air leakage to the outside. The goal is to keep heated air inside in the winter, and air conditioned air inside your home during the summer. Which brings me to my next point…

Check Your Insulation

This helps by reducing loss of heated/cooled air and reduces strain on your system. There are several options for upgrading insulation in existing structures. You can either pay a professional to do blown-in insulation or do it yourself. But be sure to wear proper gloves and a mask if you do the latter.

Team Clark staff member Joel Larsgaard recently did it himself at his new house. He got free rental of an insulation blower with the purchase of 20 bags of insulation ($11 a bag) at a local big-box home improvement store. Then he grabbed a friend to help him.

Joel got a reimbursement from his local power company. So they covered half of his $274 total bill for the job! Visit DSIREUSA.org (Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency) to see similar incentives that may be available where you live.

Know Your Appliances and Their Use Patterns

Energy used by major appliances also makes up a large portion of the monthly energy bills. When you replace your older appliances, consider upgrading to high efficiency models. The initial extra expense will be offset over time by the reduced energy costs.

Timing the use of your appliances can also be a factor. Try to do laundry either in the early morning or at night. These hours are considered ‘off peak’ hours and power is actually less expensive at these times.

Some usage patterns are easier to control than others. For example, you should allow adequate space for the cool air to circulate around food in both your refrigerator and freezer. That’s easy to do.

Finally, consider using the microwave oven instead of conventional oven or stovetop when cooking or reheating your food.

Avoiding Chills and High Bills

By — Valerie Finholm

The autumn chill feels a bit ominous this year. Halloween has passed, but energy prices have us spooked. We consulted some experts about inexpensive ways to winterize our homes (besides buying everyone in the family down booties and a warm comforter to wear inside the house.) Here are some suggestions (for more ideas, see “Hints From Heloise” below):

* Reduce drafts and save up to 30 percent on your heating bill by replacing cracked or broken windows and caulking gaps between windows and window frames and between doors and the floor. Use weather stripping on moveable window and door parts. Draft blockers (those things that look like snakes) also keep out drafts.

* Make sure your attic is well insulated. If you don’t have insulation in your attic, put down rugs or carpets to keep the heat in the house.

* Vacuum register grills and radiators and make sure they are not blocked with furniture or drapes.

* Install a programmable thermostat. If you don’t have one, turn down the thermostat when you go to work and to sleep at night to save energy. (Consult your plumber about how far you can safely turn down your thermostat without freezing your pipes.)

* Have a professional clean and tune your furnace for better energy efficiency. While the plumber is there, ask him or her to make sure your water heater is set at 120 degrees.

* Close the doors to unused rooms. The Department of Energy calculates that by closing the vents to one spare bedroom in a five-room house, you can cut your heating bills by as much as 20 percent.

* Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use. Let the dishes in your dishwasher air dry.