Home Energy Efficiency is Good for the Environment and Your Wallet

2012-12-02T00:00:00Z Home Energy Efficiency is Good for the Environment and Your Walletby Michelle Krueger Times Homes Columnist nwitimes.com
December 02, 2012 12:00 am  • 

There’s no doubt that the choices we make and the products we buy test our commitment to maintain a healthy planet. When it comes to our homes, we burn fossil fuels for heating, cooling and lighting.

These energy sources - oil, coal and natural gas - release carbon dioxide into the air, and scientists have demonstrated how that causes climate disruption.

“Everything flies under the ‘green’ flag today,” Chris Schwarzkopf, the green specialist for Energy Diagnostics of Valparaiso, the area’s leading experts when it comes to reducing home energy consumption, said. “Whether you believe in global warming or not, it all comes down to how much you’re paying on utility bills. While all existing homes have many different variables, there are several basic improvements that will typically help reduce those bills.”

After this summer’s scorching heat, who knows what Mother Nature has in store for us this winter? So, as the falling leaves disperse and we prepare for snow to fly, consider these tips for making your home more comfortable and energy efficient.

Get started by controlling the temperature.

Contrary to popular belief, you actually have more control over the temperature of your home, and the bill that follows, than you might think. Invest in an electronic thermostat to help regulate your settings. When you’re home, set the temperature as low as comfortably possible. Then, for the times you are out or retire at night, set it to adjust slightly. Just by applying this top recommended tip from utility companies, you can save up to 10% on your monthly bill.

Next, tackle air sealing.

“It all comes down to air sealing,” Schwarzkopf explained. “If a home’s not air-sealed properly, adding more insulation or expensive high-tech windows and doors isn’t going to solve your problem.”

For each degree you can lower your thermostat in the winter, utility companies estimate you can cut your energy bills up to 3%. Leaks in the attic and basement, as well as drafty windows and doors are often the culprits when it comes to a chill in the air at home.

“Start up at the top in the attic,” Schwarzkopf said. “Check the sealing around the entrance and any canned lights. Also, look for shaft cavities that go all the way down to the basement. In a lot of older homes, these are like leaving a window open. Then move down to the lowest level and carefully inspect the walls and windows. Seal up any penetrations including key infiltration points - where the gas, electrical and plumbing lines come in - some ‘Great Stuff’ insulating foam sealant is a good investment for these areas.”

One thing that Schwarzkopf often finds is that many people mistakenly believe their windows are securely shut.

“I always suggest unlocking and opening all the windows to clean the weather stripping before carefully shutting and locking them so they are sealed for the winter. New windows are expensive, so I’m a big fan of plastic over the window,” he said. “Peel and stick weather stripping also helps eliminate drafts.”

Utility companies report that caulking and weather-stripping large cracks throughout a home can save up to 5% on energy bills.

Have your heating system serviced.

Every household to do list should include an annual heating system check-up by a licensed HVAC technician, according to Schwarzkopf.

“Along with routinely changing the filters yourself, since they can restrict the amount of air coming through, it’s important to have a professional come in once a year for a quick cleaning. They will clean the dust off the fan, check that the gas pressure is correct, make sure the switches are working properly and more to ensure your furnace is running efficiently,” he explained.

Properly preparing your home for cold weather can save energy and reduce your carbon footprint while also reducing your winter energy bills, keeping your family more comfortable and saving you some green.

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