As the first in a series of blogs during Energy Awareness Month, this post will look at do-it-yourself home energy retrofits for less than $300. In 1991, the federal government designated October as Energy Awareness Month. This annual event serves as a reminder to focus on how we, as individuals, can reduce energy use in our everyday lives.
Yearly energy bills for an average single family home total $2,200. Investing in some simple fixes can reduce your energy use by up to 30 percent. Heating and cooling accounts for nearly 50 percent of energy use in a typical home, so improving your heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) system by properly insulating and weatherproofing is the quickest route to energy savings. Nearly a third of annual heating and cooling spending per household, around $350, is wasted on air that leaks in or out of the house through unsealed gaps.
Properly insulating your attic
Adding insulation to your home is one of the best investments for reducing energy bills. It will not only reduce energy bills, but also make your house much more comfortable during the summer and winter! Many older homes and those in warmer climates, have no insulation in the attic, where it can have the most impact. As a general rule of thumb, a well insulated home has insulation covering the joists in the attic by a few inches.
Adding an adequate amount of loose-fill cellulose insulation to your home typically costs less than $300. Most of the big box home improvement stores offer free rental of an insulation blower when you purchase $200 or more of insulation. Blowing in the insulation yourself can be a messy project, but no special skills are required. But be sure to pick a cool day, it can get very warm in a well-insulated attic.
Foam and caulk gaps in the attic and basement
Foam in a can is an easy and cheap way to close up gaps such as those around plumbing pipes and vents. A 12-ounce can is usually less than $5. Caulk is the best sealer for smaller openings, like those around recessed lighting or electrical outlets. Latex caulk, a few dollars a tube, is easy to use and cleans up with quickly with water.
Seal up around windows and doors
Many older homes lose significant amounts of heated or cooled air as it leaks out around the edges of windows and doors. If you have old windows, adding weather stripping and caulking will significantly reduce drafts. Adhesive-backed rubber strips, less than a dollar per foot, will last 10 years or more. Weather stripping is a great addition to outside doors, and you can further minimize those winter drafts by adding a door sweep for less than $10.
Uninsulated or under-insulated ductwork can cause you to lose 10 to 30 percent of the energy used to heat and cool your home. Any visible holes and joints in ductwork should be sealed with mastic or foil tape.
By consuming less energy, we can reduce the amount of fossil fuels that are burned in order to power our homes and consequently help eliminate harmful emissions from power plants that pollute our water and air, and lead to negative health impacts.