More $$ Savings in Your Home

In our previous post we brought from InterNACHI, our Home Inspector association, some great ideas for being more energy-efficient while saving money in our homes. Here round out the ten ideas:

  1. Use appliances and electronics responsibly. Appliances and electronics account for about 20% of household energy bills in a typical U.S. home. The following are tips that will reduce the required energy of electronics and appliances:
    • Refrigerators and freezers should not be located near the stove, dishwasher or heat vents, or exposed to direct sunlight. Exposure to warm areas will force them to use more energy to remain cool.
    • Computers should be shut off when not in use. If unattended computers must be left on, their monitors should be shut off. According to some studies, computers account for approximately 3% of all energy consumption in the United States.
    • Use efficient ENERGY STAR-rated appliances and electronics. These devices, approved by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Program, include TVs, home theater systems, DVD players, CD players, receivers, speakers, and more. According to the EPA, if just 10% of homes used energy-efficient appliances, it would reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of 1.7 million acres of trees.
    • Chargers, such as those used for laptops and cell phones, consume energy when they are plugged in. When they are not connected to electronics, chargers should be unplugged.
    • Laptop computers consume considerably less electricity than desktop computers.
  2. Install daylighting as an alternative to electrical lighting. Daylighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate the home’s interior. It can be achieved using the following approaches:
    • skylights. It’s important that they be double-pane or they may not be cost-effective. Flashing skylights correctly is key to avoiding leaks;
    • light shelves. Light shelves are passive devices designed to bounce light deep into a building. They may be interior or exterior. Light shelves can introduce light into a space up to 2½ times the distance from the floor to the top of the window, and advanced light shelves may introduce four times that amount;
    • clerestory windows. Clerestory windows are short, wide windows set high on the wall. Protected from the summer sun by the roof overhang, they allow winter sun to shine through for natural lighting and warmth; and
    • light tubes. Light tubes use a special lens designed to amplify low-level light and reduce light intensity from the midday sun. Sunlight is channeled through a tube coated with a highly reflective material, and then enters the living space through a diffuser designed to distribute light evenly.
  3. Insulate windows and doors. About one-third of the home’s total heat loss usually occurs through windows and doors. The following are ways to reduce energy lost through windows and doors:
    • Seal all window edges and cracks with rope caulk. This is the cheapest and simplest option.
    • Windows can be weatherstripped with a special lining that is inserted between the window and the frame. For doors, apply weatherstripping around the whole perimeter to ensure a tight seal when they’re closed. Install quality door sweeps on the bottom of the doors, if they aren’t already in place.
    • Install storm windows at windows with only single panes. A removable glass frame can be installed over an existing window.
    • If existing windows have rotted or damaged wood, cracked glass, missing putty, poorly fitting sashes, or locks that don’t work, they should be repaired or replaced.
  4. Cook smart. An enormous amount of energy is wasted while cooking. The following recommendations and statistics illustrate less wasteful ways of cooking:
    • Convection ovens are more efficient that conventional ovens. They use fans to force hot air to circulate more evenly, thereby allowing food to be cooked at a lower temperature. Convection ovens use approximately 20% less electricity than conventional ovens.
    • Microwave ovens consume approximately 80% less energy than conventional ovens.
    • Pans should be placed on the matching size heating element or flame.
    • Using lids on pots and pans will heat food more quickly than cooking in uncovered pots and pans.
    • Pressure cookers reduce cooking time dramatically.
    • When using conventional ovens, food should be placed on the top rack. The top rack is hotter and will cook food faster.
  5. Change the way you do laundry.
    • Wait until you have a full load of clothes, as the medium setting saves less than half of the water and energy used for a full load.
    • Avoid using high-temperature settings when clothes are not very soiled. Water that is 140° F uses far more energy than 103° F for the warm-water setting, but 140° F isn’t that much more effective for getting clothes clean.
    • Clean the lint trap every time before you use the dryer. Not only is excess lint a fire hazard, but it will prolong the amount of time required for your clothes to dry.
    • If possible, air-dry your clothes on lines and racks.
    • Spin-dry or wring clothes out before putting them into a dryer.

Homeowners who take the initiative to make these changes usually discover that the energy savings are more than worth the effort. We, as InterNACHI home inspectors, can make this process much easier because we can perform a more comprehensive assessment of energy-savings potential than the average homeowner can. We hope you have gotten some good and worthwhile ideas from this series. This information was provided by InterNACHI, our professional home inspectors association.