When winter hits, we can’t help but think of that old song, “Baby, it’s cold outside.”
For many of us, winter means high energy bills, but sitting in the dark or turning off the heat are not your only options. Here are some ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency and save money during the cold months:
Cold air can get in around the sides of windows, doors, and vents. If you hold a piece of tissue near the frames inside on a windy day and it flutters, you need to seal the window. Check out your local hardware store and pick up some weather-stripping. Talk to an employee or do research online about the right product.
Insulating your attic can increase your home’s energy efficiency significantly, and it’s usually fairly easy. Consult with a professional or do some research at the Zip-Code Insulation Program, created by the Department of Energy, at www.ornl.gov/~roofs/Zip/ZipHome.html.
Heating and Cooling Systems
Temperature systems account for about 56% of the energy in a typical U.S. home, so updating can save a lot. You can retrofit or replace your furnace or boiler, depending how long your system has to live and how much each option costs. New heating systems can achieve an efficiency of up to 97%.
Appliances and Electronics
Appliances account for 20% of energy use in a typical U.S. home. Old ones can be energy hogs. To find energy-efficient products, look for the Energy Star label. For more information, check www.energystar.gov.
Insulating or increasing the insulation on your water heater tank and pipes can decrease heat loss and lower your energy bills for a fraction of the price of replacing your water heater. On the other hand, if your water heater is nearing the end of its life, it is probably a good idea to replace it.
Solar panels typically have high upfront costs, though they can provide clean, free energy for years to come. Use the Solar Calculator at www.findsolar.com to estimate the cost of installing panels and how long it will take for your investment to pay you back.
Many cities and states have programs to help pay for green renovations. Contact your state’s energy department to see what low-interest loans, rebates, or other benefits are available. You may also qualify for tax benefits; visit the IRS’s website at www.irs.gov.
*Energy usage and efficiency figures come from the Department of Energy. For more facts and tips, visit www.energysavers.gov.