With winter around the corner, there are many alterations you can do that will significantly reduce your winter utility bills. Here are my top six things that you can do:
1 - Make sure your walls and attic are well insulated
Effective insulation slows the rate that heat flows out of the house in winter or into the house in summer, so less energy is required to heat or cool the house. If your house has no wall insulation, and it has more-or-less continuous wall cavities (such as conventional stud walls), blown-in insulation can greatly improve your comfort and save enough energy to be very cost-effective. (It rarely pays to blow additional insulation into already insulated walls.) If your attic is unfinished, it often pays to upgrade its insulation.
2 - Replace incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
These lightbulbs use less energy, give off less heat, and last longer than traditional light bulbs.
CFLs can save three-quarters of the electricity used by incandescents. Most people don’t think about the fact that the electricity to run a lightbulb costs much more than the bulb itself. One of the new CFLs costs about two or three dollars, but it lasts 10,000 hours and uses only about 27 watts to generate as much light as a 100-watt incandescent bulb. During its life, it uses about $22 in electricity, so the total cost is about $25. A 100-watt incandescent bulb costs 50 cents, but lasts 1,000 hours so you need 10 of them ($5 to buy) to last 10,000 hours. In those 10,000 hours you will use 1,000 kilowatts of electricity, which will cost more than $80 at a national average price. So the lighting cost of the CFL is less than one-third of the cost for the incandescent. The best targets for replacement are 60- to 100-watt bulbs used several hours a day, because usage affects how long it takes to recover the investment.
3 - Plant shade trees and shrubs around your house
If your house is older, with relatively poor insulation and windows, good landscaping (particularly deciduous trees) can save energy, especially if planted on the house’s west side. In summer, the foliage blocks infrared radiation that would warm the house, while in winter the bare branches let this radiation come through. Of course, if your house has very good insulation and Energy Star or better windows, the effect is much, much smaller because the building shell itself is already blocking almost all the heat gain.
This one might have to wait for next year!
4 - When you replace your appliances, look for Energy STAR appliances
If you live in a typical U.S. home, your appliances and home electronics are responsible for about 20% of your energy bills. These appliances and electronics include the following:
5 - Unplugg and turn off unused electronics while out of the home
Did you know that anything plugged in will consume electricity, whether the device is powered on or not? There are special plugs you can purchase from Amazon that allow you to set a timer for a device that cuts power when not home, or after a certain duration. Anything you can do to shut off needlessly wasted sockets during the work day, or when on vacation, will reduce your bills marginally (but it all adds up!).
6 - Replace your garage door
Although this is something that needs to be done prior to winter to get maximum effect, replacing the garage door can have a great impact. If your home has a wooden garage door, with R-value (insulating efficacy value) around 2, the effects are doubled. A traditional, and even low-grade garage door replacement has R-value around 10-13, depending on the brand and quality. The additional insulation around gaps also contributes to the efficacy here. One garage bay in this area might cost $900-$1300 for all installation and removal of old door (not including new motor).
Note: Windows on a garage door adds light, but reduces the R-value average for the whole door.
There are countless more ways to help reduce the utility bills in the winter, such as adjusting the hot water heater temp, the refrigerator temp, and replacing filters, so pay attention to the mechanicals this winter!
We (Joe and Chris Balestriere) are Realtors in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Our blog is meant to educate buyers and sellers and equip them with tools to get the most out of their Realtor, whether it is us or someone else. We focus on technology and how it enhances the work we do for our clients--we are not top CT Realtors by accident.