Five cheap ways to save money on energy bills
by Gabriel Cross
With Turkey Day just behind us and C-Day still a month away, it’s the last chance to batten down the hatches for winter. It doesn’t hurt to know that you can save a few dollars on your energy bills with relatively little up front cost, and maybe use some of that savings to help recoup from your holidays. Also, many of the things that help reduce your heating bill in the winter are equally effective at reducing your cooling bill in the summer.
Most homes built from the ‘50s to the ‘90s, a period when energy was cheap and nobody but a few hippies cared about global warming, are incredible energy wasters. The good news: There is usually some juicy low hanging fruit when it comes to making them more efficient. While replacing your windows and doors is probably out of your budget, adding a little weather proofing and applying some caulk and mastic can go a long, long way for very little down.
1. Energy Audit: The first step is to check with your local utility provider, and find out if they do energy audits. Many will send someone out to your house with an IR camera to help you identify the places where you’re loosing the most heat. It may be as simple as pulling the molding of the wall, filling the gap with caulk and putting the moulding back. Many houses have a lot of little air leaks which, if filled, can reduce your energy bill significantly.
2. Weather Stripping: Air leaks are also common around and under doors. There are number of cheap products that are made specifically to solve this problem. Simple rubber strips that attach to the bottom of the door, or foam strips that attach to the jamb, can instantly turn a leaky door into an air-tight energy saver.
3. Seal Exposed Ducts: Similarly, if you have central air in your basement or attic, making sure that the ducts aren’t leaking can save you big time. For DIY projects, don’t bother with ducts that are in the conditioned space (those “leaks” are leaking air into the right place), the leaks outside the insulated area are costing you much more money. One roll of metal tape or one container of mastic can provide a quick and cheap solution that will last many years. If the current seams have duct tape, you will want to replace it (duct tape does not last nearly as long as newer products like mastic and metal tape).
4. Insulate: Speaking of ducts, put some insulation around any duct work that is exposed in your basement or attic. While you are at it, put some insulation around your water heater and any hot water pipes. Insulating water pipers saves energy and water, since you might not have to wait as long to get the good hot water out of the tap (sure you could capture the cold water that comes out first and use it for something else, but be honest, you probably won’t).
5. Window Treatments: If you can’t afford to replace the windows, getting insulating curtains or blinds may be a cheap alternative. Though not nearly as effective as new triple glazed fiberglass windows, the right curtains make a noticeable difference in both thermal comfort and energy use for a tiny fraction of the cost. The only downside is that they usually have to block the daylight and the view to do their job.
Doing all five of these things, if they all apply to your home, can dramatically reduce your bills, literally saving you thousands of dollars over the next several years. None of them take that much time, and each one can be dirt cheap. Fall is a great time to get a jump on these little projects, so you can start saving from the moment that winter officially sets in.
With fall fast running out, early December is your last chance to take full advantage of the potential savings.