Obtain an "energy audit" or "home energy performance rating," and use the information to upgrade the most cost-effective energy problems in your home. Many utility companies, heating and air-conditioning firms, and consultants offer such services. Home energy ratings can often be used to get mortgage-backed loans to make improvements. Here is our top ten list of the best and easiest "Green" improvements you can make to your home. Many of you can do yourself if you are handy, or we can recommend a good subcontractor to you.
- Fix all leaking faucets. Any constant dripping is wasting lots of water up to 3,000 gallons per year!
- Check your toilet tank. Put a drop of food coloring into your toilet bowl and if it disappears right away or you see it trickling into the bowl, then your tank is leaking. Fixing toilet leaks can save 200 gallons of water a day.
- Insulate your water heater. If it was built before 2004, you can save as much as 10% on your annual water-heating bill by wrapping the tank in an insulating fireproof blanket. Water heaters older than 1998 are candidates for replacement due to inefficiency and age. Consider a solar water heater replacement too.
- Insulate hot water pipes. You can cut water heating costs by insulating exposed hot water pipes in your home. Less water is wasted "waiting" for hot as well.
- Insulate your attic. An Alliance to Save Energy study showed that about 2/3 of Americans attics may be under insulated. Installing proper R-38 levels of attic insulation may save up to $500 per year in severe climates, less where it is mild. (rebates available)
- Weather-strip your doors. Putting weather-stripping around your home's entry doors will save $30 a year in heating and air conditioning energy, and reduces annoying drafts while preventing insects from entering you home (triple win). Maybe the best answer is to replace your exterior doors.
- Install set-back digital thermostat on your heating system or heat pump. Every degree of set "back" for heating may save up to 8% on central heating energy usage. These devices can also "turn off" mechanical systems when you are not home. (Be sure to select the appropriate model; professional installation may be recommended.)
- Get your furnace or heat-pump serviced professionally and the air-filters should be changed frequently for best circulation. You may also wish to close registers in unused rooms.
- Install ceiling fans in your most frequently occupied rooms, such as family rooms and bedrooms. These fans can make 65 degrees seem like 70 degrees, in Winter by evening out room temperature layers.
- Exterior door thresholds can let in cold are if they are worn or otherwise leaking. Get down on your hands and knees and look for daylight or hold the back of your hand close to it and feel for cold air.
Note: The replacement of windows and doors is a bigger job and more expensive, but the energy savings will be noticeable. Rebates and tax credits are also available to help offset the costs.