by Kelly R. Smith
This article was updated on 10/16/20.
One thing nobody likes to do is throw away money. But if your home is a perpetual slacker on its attempts to restrict energy usage, that is exactly what you are doing. As a general rule of thumb, the older a home is the less energy efficient it is. There are many reasons for this but the two main ones are:
- In days gone by, utility expenses were not what they are today. For one thing homeowners didn’t have all those confounded contraptions that we just can’t live without today. And why does everything have to have a clock?
- The building technology wasn’t what it is today. Our forebears knew nothing about tight envelopes, radiant barrier foil and passive solar concepts.
Keep in mind that in the long run it is not necessarily one big thing that will reduce your bills, but the sum total of a lot of smaller home improvements. Let’s look at a few, shall we?
Insulation is a Bargain
In most cases insulation is a good place to start, especially if you are a frequent rider on the climate change bandwagon. It gives you the most bang for the buck. Your attic should have the recommended number of inches for your location. Even if your home started with the suggested amount, remember that the fiberglass settles over time. If you want to take your savings a step further, roll out some radiant barrier foil over it.
Exterior walls are also a concern. This involves a bit more expense and hassle because obviously these walls are closed on both sides. The best solution is to hire someone to install blown insulation between the studs. Can you do it yourself? Yes, but a pro has the right equipment and knows how to make it look like there never was an intrusion.
Use Thermal Mass to Your Advantage
OK, the term thermal mass doesn’t mean what you might think it does; let’s not go there. Thermal mass simply refers to an object that absorbs and retains heat. Some examples are brick, concrete, ceramic tiles, and eco-friendly cork flooring.
In the wintertime of course, we want those objects to absorb heat during the day and release it at night; this will save tons of money in utility bills and wear and tear on your HVAC equipment.. This can be accomplished by the sun coming through the windows or from areas where the home’s heating system affects the objects.
In the summertime the opposite is true; we want to shield these objects as much as possible. For all seasons, homes should be built or remodeled with the concept of passive solar building in mind.
Seal All Air Leaks
Checking for and sealing all air leaks in your home’s exterior is an easy, inexpensive DIY project that can and should be done twice a year. Just pick days before the weather transitions from cold to hot and visa versa.
Possible leak culprits include windows, doors, even things like recessed light fixtures on your ceiling and behind cover plates for your switches and outlets. Special wall plate insulation gaskets are available and you can complete the job in just a few hours with a screwdriver. The materials to put all things air-leakable right are inexpensive and readily available. Most likely things like caulk and floor sweeps will do the trick.
Keep in mind that the tighter your home’s envelope becomes, the greater the danger of radon is. What is radon? Radon gas is a radioactive, invisible toxic vapor that results from a natural process which is the radioactive breakdown of the uranium isotope. It pays to test for it.
Consider Installing Energy Efficient Windows or Window Film
Today’s higher-end windows are head and shoulders above those flimsy contractor-grade windows. Yes they will cost you more money but isn’t it worth it to be able to see outside and save on utility bills?
If your bank account isn’t flush don’t despair. Solar window film is an acceptable alternative. It won’t perform as well as the new super-windows but they will still make a huge difference. If you have tinted windows on your car you know what we are talking about.
Finally, if your electricity company allows it, get on one of those plans that averages your bill so you don’t get slammed on those peak months. Follow these tips and you will maximize your home’s energy efficiency in no time.
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About the Author:
Kelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.