There are a lot of things you can do to make your home more energy efficient–having plenty of insulation, weatherstripping, installing energy efficient appliances, etc. All of these things can make you more comfortable in your home and save money on electricity and gas bills. But did you realize that certain home improvements are tax deductible if they are designed to improve energy efficiency?
Here is a great article that gives an overview of what is tax deductible:
We’re all looking for ways to save money, and making your home more energy efficient is one way of doing this… BUT…are you listening to me? Good…DO NOT COVER YOUR ROOF TURBINE VENTS! There is a misguided idea that turbine vents should be covered to prevent heat from escaping from your home. Attics require ventilation all year long, especially in the winter. The reason is that without proper ventilation, moisture can accumulate in the attic. Condensation can form because of the difference in temperature between the inside and outside of the roof. This can lead to wood rot and mold! Besides, if heat from your living area is escaping into the attic, that means you don’t have adequate insulation, which is a far bigger problem.
The best way to keep your house toasty in the winter is to make sure that your weatherstripping for your doors and windows are in good shape, and your heating unit is in good working order. But sometimes, that’s not enough. Here are some easy tips for staying warm this winter:
Before you reach for the thermostat, reach for a sweater instead! Or what about that Snuggie your great-aunt gave you last Christmas? Adding clothing indoors is the easiest (and cheapest!) way to feel cozy. Don’t forget about a good pair of house shoes, too! Your energy bills will thank you.
Close off the vents in unused rooms and shut the door. No need to be heating the guest bedroom or game room when they’re not in use.
On sunny days, open up the curtains on the windows that receive direct sunlight. Just remember to close them again when the sun goes down to hold the heat in.
Reverse your ceiling fans so they rotate clockwise. There’s usually a switch on the fan that will reverse the motor. Since warm air rises, this will help push the warm air at the ceiling back down into the living space.
Switch your regular bed sheets with flannel or jersey knit sheets. These are warmer to the touch, so your bed won’t feel chilly when you get in. Speaking of which, remember in old cartoons, they would show people sleeping in night caps like this?:
It’s actually a really good idea! OK, maybe not an actual old-timey night cap, but a stocking hat works great!
Area rugs are your friend when it comes to keeping your house warm. The more surface area you can cover on your floor, the better insulated it is.
And lastly, if possible, move your furniture toward the middle of the room and away from windows.
If all else fails, just remember those blistering days of summer and know they’ll be back again before you know it!
With summer coming to an end (I know; it’s still hot outside but bear with me), now is a perfect time to get your home ready for the coming months.
There are new regulations on tank-top hot water heaters that go into effect on April 16th, that says any water heaters manufactured after that date be more efficient. While this is a good thing, it will also mean that the new units will be larger. Many homes cannot accommodate the increased size due to the space limitations of the closets in which most water heaters are installed. That could mean costly remodeling. Here is a video that was on Fox 4 recently:
Thinking of switching to a tankless water heater? Now might be a good time!
Before temperatures begin to soar during the summer months, now is a good time to give your air conditioning condenser a quick cleaning to ensure that it’s working at peak efficiency. The condenser is the unit that sits outside of the house and is responsible for cooling the air that is blown through the house.
Begin by making sure that there is no tall grass or weeds growing around the condenser unit. Rake up any leaves or grass trimmings that have collected around the base of the unit.
Shut off the power to the condenser. There should be a box on the house by the unit that has either breaker-type switches or a fuse block that you pull out to shut off the power. If you are unsure, shut off the power to the unit at the main breaker panel.
Rinse the coils with water from a garden hose. Be careful not to blast it with high pressure water, as the metal fins are delicate and are easily bent. The goal is to rinse away dirt, pet hair, leaves, or any other debris that has accumulated.
Check your owner’s manual to see if you need to lubricate the fan motor. Some units have enclosed bearings and don’t require this step, but some have a small port to add oil. Only use the proper oil that is recommended and NEVER use WD-40.
Turn the power back on and verify that it is cooling by switching on the air conditioner inside the house. Make sure that your air filter is clean, and change it if needed.
This simple bit of home maintenance can save you money throughout the summer months.
Almost every call I receive for a home energy audit comes from someone that has just received their electric bill in the mail and are shocked at it’s size. Rarely people are concerned about energy savings when their bills are low which are during the spring and fall months. Summer usually instigates more calls than any other time. The client is in a panic and wants to know what they can do to lower their energy bills immediately. Unfortunately, there is usually no magic bullet when it comes to home energy savings, but the good news is that there are things that can be done to lower your bills that an energy audit can address.
One thing to keep in mind is that it takes many small improvements to make an impact. Also keep in mind that the older a house is, the need for an audit is greater since house built long ago were not built for efficiency as they are today. I get calls from people for an energy inspection where the house is only a couple of years old and I tell them upfront that the audit may not benefit them at all since the house should already have everything in place for energy efficiency.
* The inspection and reporting of all energy aspects of the house such as the insulation levels and ventilation of the attic, the condition and types of the windows, the age and performance of the air conditioning and heating systems, and the efficiency ratings of the water heater and appliances.
* The audit report should also be generated with a software program that will calculate the ROI…..Return On Investment. This will let you know where you should spend your dollars for improvement and bang for the buck. Or in other words, if you are planning on staying in you home 5 – 10 years and if the energy savings on upgrading all the windows takes 15 years to break even on the investment, that may not be a wise decision to make.
* There should be a blower door / air duct test performed on the house. A blower door is a high velocity fan mounted in a covered frame that is inserted in an exterior door opening. The fan pressurizes or de-pressurizes the house to determine how “leaky” the house is and the audit technician can determine where the air leaks are located so sealing can be performed.
* Finally, the audit should give you suggestions on improvements as well as a break down cost analysis of such improvements.
Technology was caught up with heating and cooling thermostats. With more and more internet based devices coming out, tech savy people can utilize this technology to save money. Since the heating and cooling of a home makes up the majority of the utilitiy costs, it makes sense to keep a tight rein on how long and often it cycles off and on.
The thermostat has evolved somewhat over the years from simple manual controlled units with a mercury switch to programmable ones that gave people the ability to have their air conditioning or furnace temperatures set back during the night or at work to the newest version that can be controlled through the internet. Programmable thermostats may not benefit everyone, for example if someone is at home all day it may not make sense to have automatic set back feature. But depending on the lifestyle of the household, having greater control may prove to provide significant savings.
One problem with standard programmable thermostats is that your household may have an unpredictable schedule with people coming and going and leaves programming the thermostat usless. The new internet controlled thermostats, or “smart thermostats” are controlled through a wireless gateway connected to the home’s internet connection and transmits signals to the wall mounted thermostat to lower and raise temperatures and even switch between heating and cooling modes. This allows you to remotely control the thermostat through any internet connection from anywhere, even with internet enabled phones and PDAs. Most of these have the ability to control up to four different thermostats so if you lived in a two story home for instance, you could turn on the air conditioning to your upstairs office before you get there and leave the downstairs set back.
Not all electric providers have the service, but may in the future. TXU is offering these at a low price if you join their energy conservation program. For more information, you can visit their website at: https://www.txupartners.com/thermostat/programdetails/index.php