9 Easy Ways to Cut Your Electric Bill by up to $750

With just a few simple adjustments, you can plug into big savings on your annual utility spending.

We all want to save energy and money, right? But it’s not always so easy — perhaps you don’t have the time for a home energy audit, or maybe there simply isn’t room in the budget for that energy-saving appliance you want.

No worries! Here are some quick and easy ways to reduce your home energy usage right now.

Reduce hot water usage

Don’t worry — you don’t have to take a low-flow shower! But heating up hot water does require energy, so take the simple and painless route:

  • Adjust the water heater’s temperature. Lower your water heater to 120 degrees F (49 degrees C). An added bonus — you’ll lower the risk of scalding accidents.

  • Don’t overuse the dishwasher. Try to run your dishwasher only once a day or when it’s completely full. See if your utility company offers savings for running appliances at off-peak times.
  • Wash clothes in cold water. Most modern detergents clean clothes very well with cold water. If you have items that you really need to wash in hot water, save them up and do one hot load every few weeks.

Projected savings: Up to $250 per year, depending on the number of people in your home.

Turn it off

Little things add up! An easy way to save money on your energy bill is turning off the lights, electronics, and other energy users when you’re not using them.

  • Leave a room, switch lights off. Make a habit of turning off everything in the room when you leave it — the TV, lights, your computer, etc.
  • Get the kids involved. Make a game out of turning off the lights instead of constantly reminding them to do it. Offer some sort of small, nonmonetary reward for remembering to turn off their bedroom lights for a week.
  • Install countdown timer light switches. For intermittently used rooms, such as the bathroom or laundry room, install a countdown timer light switch that will turn off the lights after a specified period, so you don’t ever have to worry about it.

Projected savings: Between $100-$300 per year, depending on the number of people and rooms in your home.

Heating and cooling bill savings

Generally speaking, the furnace and air-conditioner are the big energy hogs in your home. Here are some easy ways to reduce your dependence on them — and save money!

  • Use windows strategically. Install heavy drapes or blinds on windows located in sunny areas of your home. Open the blinds on cold days to take advantage of the sun’s warmth, and close them on warm days to block out the sun.
  • Install ceiling fans. This one takes a bit more effort than the others, but the payoff can be quite large. Run ceiling fans counterclockwise or downward during the summer to force cool air down into the room. Run them clockwise and upward in the winter to better distribute the warm air.

  • Adjust the thermostat. Yes, this sounds obvious, but one of the best ways to save on heating and cooling bills is simply lowering the thermostat in the winter and raising it in the summer! A programmable thermostat is ideal, but you can save money even with a traditional thermostat. In winter, lower your thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees for at least eight hours — when you leave for work, before you go to bed, or both — then raise it when you’re back.  If you have air-conditioning, do this in reverse come summer.

Projected savings: From 10-30 percent on your heating and cooling bills each year.

Saving energy doesn’t have to be a chore. With some very simple lifestyle changes, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save big!

 

Posted by Jane Drill on Zillow

Advertisements

How to Winterize a House: Tips to Prevent Ice Dams, Drafts, and More

CatLane/iStock

When the weather turns chilly, your house needs to button up, too. And the way to do that is to learn how to winterize your house. No, not once the snow starts falling, but now. Trust us, you’ll want to nip any issues in the bud before the temperature drops too much.

Here’s a handy list of things to check on your house to keep it cozy, save on energy bills, and prevent a nightmare’s worth of damage you’ll have to tackle come spring (or even worse, in the dead of winter).

Conduct a pre-winter inspection

First, size up how prepared your house is for winter by taking a walk around its perimeter and eyeballing these features, says Bob Hanbury, a Newington, CT, builder for 40 years and a board member of the National Association of Home Builders:

  1. Check the ground to make sure it slopes away from your house, which helps prevent melting ice and snow from seeping into your home.
  2. Look for gnawing marks on vents and trim, which signal that critters are trying to make their winter home in your attic. If you see teeth marks, patch holes to discourage unwelcome visitors. The animal type, that is.
  3. Inspect caulking around doors and windows to make sure it’s not cracking or peeling, which will let cold air in and heated air out, increasing winter energy bills.
  4. Check roof shingles, and replace any that are curled or missing.
  5. Cut back tree branches overhanging the roof, which could cause damage during storms.

 

How to prevent ice dams

Those darn ice dams. Maudib/iStock

Ice dams, however lovely they may sound, are ice mounds around the edge of your roof created when melting snow can’t drip into gutters, through downspouts, and away from your house. Ice dams are not your friends.

If any of those exits are blocked with leaves or ice, then water stays on your roof and continually melts and freezes, causing dams that push water under eaves and into your home.

Adequate and properly installed insulation helps prevent ice damming; so does making sure gutters and downspouts are in good shape and unblocked by leaves, bird nests, and other debris.

If ice damming has been a past problem, you can increase your odds of a drip-free winter by laying heating cables along the edge of your roof, in gutters, and down spouts, which will keep ice from forming. Cables typically cost $200 to $400, depending on the size of your house.

How to protect pipes in winter

Mother Nature laughs at the calendar (true) and can create a hard frost weeks before or after you expect. So it’s a good idea to protect outside garden hoses by detaching them and turning off the water to outside spigots by Thanksgiving.

After you shut off water valves, open spigots to let water drip out and prevent freezing, which can burst pipes.

And while you’re disconnecting garden hoses, hold them waist-high as you’re coiling them. That will let water drip out, keeping your basement dry if you store hoses there in the winter, or prevent cracks from frozen water if you store hoses in an unheated garage.

How to save on energy bills this winter

Another essential aspect of winterizing is making sure your home keeps heat in and cold out! Here are some ways to make that happen:

  • Clean or replace filters: Before temperatures drop, make sure your furnace is blowing hot air. Clean or replace filters, “the most important piece of preventive maintenance you can do for your furnace,” says Mike Clear, vice president of operations at American Home Shield, the country’s largest provider of home warranties based in Memphis, TN. Also vacuum burners to remove dust and debris, and be sure drapes and furniture don’t block floor vents. It’s also a good idea to hire an HVAC professional to oil the furnace blower motor annually.
  • Seal leaks: Sometimes stopping hot air from escaping your home is as easy as stuffing a draft snake (a tubelike cushion) under doors. You can make your own by filling a knee sock with dried beans or popcorn kernels. Other ways to stop air leaks are to replace weatherstripping around windows, replace door and window screens with storm doors or windows, or replace old door sweeps on exterior doors.
  • Cover water heaters: If your water heater is located in a garage, attic, or other unfinished space, cover it with an insulated water heater blanket that will help prevent heat loss.
  • Maintain fireplaces: If your wood-burning fireplace is just decorative, plug and seal the chimney flue to make sure heated air doesn’t, literally, go up the chimney. If you still burn wood, close the flue when you’re not making a fire.

 

Posted by Lisa Gordon on realtor.com

12 Tips for Cutting Costs at Home

Understanding the details about your home can help you find some hidden savings that can help you cut costs at home. Learn from these 12 tips in this infographic on how save at home.  Many of these tips are great savings and simple tasks that you can do on your own.

SimpliSafe is a simple installation, no hassle wireless security system that protects your home in a user-friendly way with their easy-to-use, fee free system. A security system can not only save you the average 20% insurance discount but with the SimpliSafe system, you can save up to $624 yearly.

Posted in HomeZada

Everything You Need To Know About Cooling Your Home

Chilling out this summer will be a breeze with these tips for getting the most out of your air conditioner and fans.

Summer may be lazy and hazy, but in many areas of the country, it’s also a time of sweating and sweltering in scorching temperatures. To cope, homeowners employ a variety of methods to ensure a steady supply of cool, fresh air.

These cooling solutions include a wide variety of fans and in-home ventilation systems as well as some tried-and-true techniques from the days before air conditioning. Here’s how to keep your whole home cool this season.

The dog is cooling down with the fan while watching the yellow ribbons in motion. Depth of field in eyes line and center of the fan.; Shutterstock ID 211241179; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

The dog is cooling down with the fan while watching the yellow ribbons in motion. Depth of field in eyes line and center of the fan.; Shutterstock ID 211241179; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

The advent of air conditioners

By far the most common form of cooling in the United States is air conditioning, which can be found in more than 88 percent of new single-family homes constructed today. Keeping the house comfortable this way, however, can be a costly investment in terms of both equipment and energy use — we’re talking an average $400 household electric bill from June to August. So it makes good sense to carefully evaluate your home’s cooling options to select the right system to meet your needs.

Keeping comfortable and cost-friendly

No matter what unit or system you choose, how you adjust your thermostat determines your ultimate savings on your electric bill. Start by setting the temperature as high as is still comfortable, keeping the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures as small as possible.

Take advantage of the “energy saver” mode on window units, and use programmable thermostats for multiroom or whole-house systems so your machines don’t do extra work to cool the place when nobody is home.

When you’re ready to cool down, don’t drop immediately to an extremely cold temperature — starting that low won’t speed up the cooling process, but it will make your machine work harder and expend more energy.

If you want to offer your machine — and your energy bills — a little relief, proper ventilation in your home can certainly aid your cool-down efforts. Ventilation improves indoor air quality, removes moisture and odors, and allows fresh, cool outside breezes to be exchanged for stuffy indoor air.

Start boosting your home’s natural ventilation simply by opening doors and windows, especially in the evenings. Encourage airflow by installing ceiling fans, window fans, and attic exhaust fans to push hot air outside and draw cooler air into your home.

In the summer months, ceiling fans should be set to run in a counterclockwise direction, drawing cooler air up from the floor. A whole-house attic exhaust fan will pull hot air into the attic, where attic vents can dissipate the heat. Even positioning a few portable fans near windows or a basement door at night can draw the cooler air from these areas into the home.

Regular maintenance for maximum cool down

With a variety of cooling practices in place, you’ll want to maximize the efficiency of your efforts by performing proper maintenance.

  • Seal the deal. Make sure you have adequate insulation in the walls and ceilings to keep hot air out and cool air in. Caulk leaking windows and doors, and use draft “snakes” to cover the gaps at the bottom of these entry points. Adding aluminum blinds,insulated curtains, or window tint film can block even more sunlight from entering your home and heating up the place during the day.
  • Change your filter. This quick and easy chore reduces the burden on your air conditioner, improves indoor air quality, and helps you — and your air conditioner — breathe easier. Check the filter once a month and clean out any dust particles that might clog the system, forcing it to work harder and waste energy.
  • Clean the coils. An air conditioner’s coils and fins on the outside of the unit should be kept unobstructed and cleaned regularly. Use a soft-bristle nylon brush to gently remove any debris, and hose off any leaves or caked-on dirt. Clean the inside coils using the soft brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner, or wipe down with a soft, damp cloth.
  • Call in a pro. Even though much of keeping your home cool can be considered do-it-yourself work, it is still important to call in a reputable HVAC contractor regularly. An annual system tune-up can help ensure that your air conditioning system is working efficiently and will go a long way toward prolonging the useful life of the components.

Posted by BobVila.com

 

Eco-Friendly Home Updates That Save You Green

Invest in home improvements that benefit the environment (and your budget) year-round.

banknote house icon concept; Shutterstock ID 99611015; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

banknote house icon concept; Shutterstock ID 99611015; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

Each year, Americans save billions of dollars by employing energy-saving measures and investing in energy-efficient homes. Some upgrades — like Energy Star appliances, new hot water heaters, or geothermal pumps — can be pricey upfront, but there are plenty of small, inexpensive updates that will make a big difference in your budget over time. Here are some places to start.

Go low-flow

Thousands of gallons of water go down the drain every day. Toilet flushing and showering are the two biggest culprits. One solution is to upgrade your home’s plumbing fixtures so you use less water to accomplish the same task.

Low-flow fixtures, which are both inexpensive and easy to install, can reduce your home water consumption by as much as 50 percent, and save you up to $145 a year on electricity, according to Energy Star.

Insulate, insulate, insulate

Upgrading your home with energy-efficient insulation is one of the quickest energy payback projects you can undertake. If your house doesn’t have enough insulation (and many homes don’t, especially those built before 1980), bringing it up to current standards will not only make it more comfortable all year long, but you’ll save money — anywhere from 10 to 50 percent on your heating and cooling bills.

Consult the Department of Energy’s ZIP code specific recommendations for the right amount of insulation for your climate.

Use compact fluorescent light bulbs

Yes, fluorescent bulbs are more expensive that regular bulbs, but each bulb can save up to $40 over the lifetime of the bulb, and they last 10 times longer than conventional bulbs.

Install a programmable thermostat

Did you know that the average household spends about $2,000 annually on energy bills, and that close to half that figure can be attributed to heating and cooling?

Enter the programmable thermostat. When used properly (don’t be intimidated!), this little gadget, which you reset when you’re asleep or away from your home, can pay for itself in a matter of months. Annually, you’re looking at saving up to $150 or more.

Posted by Vera Gibbons on Zillow

 

10 Energy (And Money!) Saving Tips For Renters

Not every apartment, condo or townhouse rental includes free utilities, so for many renters, it is important to use energy efficiently. Reducing energy consumption saving money, and by adopting a few efficient practices in your apartment, you can keep your money where you want it: your wallet.

10 Energy (And Money!) Saving Tips For RentersThis utilities advice will guide you on best practices and other energy-efficient methods aimed at saving you money. Most of these tips are things renters can do on their own. However, if you have questions or need help, don’t be afraid to reach out to your apartment manager or landlord.

1) Low-Flow Showerhead
Temper your hot water usage and the amount of water you use by installing an energy-efficient low-flow showerhead in your shower. If you can’t install one yourself, talk to your landlord or apartment manager about having one installed.

2) Water Collection
When you run your faucet or shower until cold or hot water comes out, you are essentially wasting a good deal of water and sending money down the drain. Consider using a bucket or pitcher to collect water until the desired hot or cold temperature is achieved. You can then use that collected water to manually flush a toilet, water plants or wash things around the house.

3) Full Loads
Instead of washing a handful of clothing at a time, save energy and money by washing full loads. This can also be applied to using a dishwasher. More loads equates to more energy spent and money out of your pocket.

4) Window Covers and Solar Shades
Keep windows that receive direct sunlight throughout the day covered to keep the inside of your apartment cooler throughout the day. In desert climates such as Arizona, consider having solar shades installed to deflect sunlight.

5) Air Circulation
Open your windows to promote cross-circulation in the mornings and when there is a breeze. This can help keep temperature down throughout the day and, in turn, lower A/C usage.

6) Furniture Obstruction
If your couch is positioned over your air vent, it reduces the amount of air flow, which means your A/C or furnace is working that much harder. By positioning your furniture to promote airflow, your apartment will heat and cool faster, thus saving you money on your electric or gas bill.

7) Thermostat Setting
Consider turning off the thermostat or adjusting it for when you are not home. You can save energy and money by only running you A/C or furnace when you are home.

8) Timers
Leaving the lights on all day long can be a big energy drain. Instead of leaving the lights on, buy timers to program a custom light schedule for throughout the day.

9) Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Compact fluorescent light bulbs use far less energy and last far longer than traditional light bulbs, and they are relatively cheap! Swap out your standard bulbs for fluorescent ones to reduce energy costs.

10) Unplug Appliances and Electronics
Even if they are not on, appliances and electronics still draw electricity when plugged in. Consider unplugging seldom-used appliances and electronics when not in use. You can also buy a power strip to control multiple electronics and appliances at the same time.

This article was originally published by Neal J. Leitereg on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

5 Ways to Warm Up an Older House

Older homes certainly have their charm, but they’re not usually the most energy efficient or the easiest to keep warm. About one-third of our nation’s energy consumption comes from the residential sector, and about 70 percent of this can be attributed to homes built before 1983, according to a study by ConSol, a building and energy consulting firm in California. But living in an older home doesn’t mean you have to put up with drafty doors and cold nights huddled around the fire. There are several smart ways to work with your home’s existing structure to improve its efficiency, and make it as warm and comfortable as an old sweater.

No. 1: Do an energy audit

You’ve no doubt heard that knowledge is power. Well, in this case, knowledge can actually save you power. An energy audit is a great place to start when you’re seeking to retrofit an older home to make it warmer, because it will show you exactly where most of your warm air is escaping and cold air is entering. Some utility companies offer energy audits for free, so check with your providers first to see if this is a possibility. If not, you may wish to hire a professional energy auditor who will go beyond pointing out the obvious sources of heat loss and give you a comprehensive plan for warming up your home. If you find a professional too costly, you can do a basic energy audit yourself by finding leaks with the smoke from a stick of incense. On a windy day, simply wave the smoke from the incense near windows, doors and anywhere else there might be a gap to the outdoors. The smoke will blow inwards where you have gaps that let outside air in, and it will get sucked toward heat-depleting leaks. In both cases, you’ll want to close up the gaps with caulk or insulation.

No. 2: Check windows & doors

Did you know that a one-eighth-inch gap beneath a 36-inch door has the same effect on your home as a 2.4-inch-wide hole in the wall? Sealing gaps around doors and windows is one of the easiest, cheapest and most effective ways to warm up your older home. Place weather stripping around loose doors and windows, and caulk obvious holes around window sashes. You can also seal windows for the winter using a plastic sheeting kit from your local-home center or hardware store. Even drapes and blinds can help retain heat in the colder months. If you still notice a draft beneath your door after you’ve installed weather stripping, a rolled up towel or “door snake” can further block drafts.

No. 3: Insulate

Older homes tend to be insulation challenged. They did not always receive the benefit of this energy-regulating material or the vapor barriers that often accompany its installation. If your home is insulation free — or just lacks adequate insulation — you can retrofit it by hiring trained installers to inject a nonflammable foam resin into existing walls. This means there’s no need to remove either exterior or interior walls and, according to the manufacturers, the installation can take less than a day for a whole house. The foam is filled with tiny air bubbles that increase its heating and cooling properties.

Before insulating an older home, however, be aware of the fact that you need to maintain some airflow. Old homes were designed to “breathe,” and if you seal them up too tightly, you might experience issues with moisture buildup. Talk with your energy auditor to make sure that you’ll continue to have adequate airflow once your home has been retrofitted with insulation.

No. 4: Install a programmable thermostat

A thermostat that acts like the brain of your heating system might seem like something compatible with only newer high-tech homes, but replacing an old thermostat with a newer model is a relatively straightforward affair that can be done by most DIYers in homes of any age. You can buy a programmable thermostat that can create different heating schedules for every day of the week, or one that has a set schedule for weekdays and another for weekends. By operating your home’s heating system through a “smart” thermostat, you can make sure the house stays warm and toasty when occupied and saves you money on heating fuel when vacant. For maximum efficiency, thermostats of all kinds should be installed away from heating and cooling vents, open windows and direct sun, and should be set to remain at steady temperatures for long periods of time rather than spike up and down throughout the day.

Warmboard-Warmboard-R-Panel-rev

Source: warmboard.com

No. 5: Install radiant floor heating

Unlike electric baseboard units or forced hot-air systems that constantly spike the temperature and then kick on again when the house cools down, radiant floor heating provides a quiet, constant warm glow throughout your house. You can retrofit radiant floor heating beneath the floors, in effect warming the actual structure of your home. Not only is this a very energy-efficient way to heat your home; it’s also very pleasant. Imagine never again having to step on a frigid floor on a cold winter’s morning.

These days, most radiant floor systems are being installed in new homes and would be difficult to add to an older home. That’s not the case, however, with a newer product called Warmboard. Warmboard-R is a subfloor panel designed specifically for remodels. These radiant panels transfer heat quickly from the water in the system’s tubing to the inside of your home. The radiant panels actually increase the rigidity of existing subfloor panels in old homes as well as provide a flatter and smoother subfloor surface for finished flooring. The thick aluminum coating on the Warmboard-R panels can also save you money because the panels transfer heat to your home more quickly than other radiant options while requiring less hot water to reach the desired temperature in your home.

By Michael Franco | Zillow Blog

Source: http://www.zillow.com/blog/2013-11-11/5-ways-to-warm-up-an-older-house/