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It’s tough to stick to a tight household budget when your monthly energy bills always seem to be higher than they should be. Sure, there are things you can do to use less energy. You can turn off lights whenever you leave a room or close your curtains and blinds to prevent heat loss through the windows. However, there’s only so much you can do if your home just isn’t energy efficient.
Luckily, there are budget-conscious renovations and home improvements that you can use to improve the efficiency and sustainability of your home. Just like it’s possible to stay frugal while giving your home a much-needed makeover, it’s also possible to boost the energy efficiency of a home without breaking the bank. Best of all, these minor improvements will result in major savings on your future energy bills. They most likely will very quickly pay for themselves!
1. Replace your siding: If you find that your energy bills are especially high during the peak winter or summer months, then thermal bridging could be part of your energy efficiency problem. Thermal bridging happens when heat escapes or enters your home through the uninsulated studs. When heat is getting in or out so easily, it means that your heater or air conditioner can’t operate efficiently. Luckily, there’s a way to keep thermal bridging from happening. By replacing your siding with high quality insulated vinyl, you can reduce heat transfer, allowing your heater or air conditioner to maintain a consistent temperature without working so hard. The cost of high-quality siding is less than you think, making this improvement an affordable and highly effective one.
2. Re-caulk your windows: One of the most popular suggestions for improving the energy efficiency of a home is to replace the windows. After all, if your windows are leaking heat, then they could be causing more trouble than the studs. The problem is that replacing windows is a costly proposition. If you are hoping to improve your home on a shoestring budget, new windows are probably out of the question. Luckily, even if you can’t replace your windows, you can still re-caulk them to create a firmer and more reliable seal. Re-sealing your windows isn’t quite a substitute for buying thicker, more energy efficient replacements. However, a new seal can still reduce heat transfer, make your home feel less drafty, and save you money on your monthly energy bills.
3. Trade out your light bulbs: How many lights do you have in your home? How many of them are using energy efficient bulbs? By now it is known that incandescent light bulbs use a lot more electricity than the alternatives, in addition to burning out relatively often. In the past people recommended using flourescent light bulbs to save money, but there are health concerns with that, making many people skeptical about bringing them into their homes.
Fortunately modern LED bulbs are hugely efficient, providing 25,000 hours of usable life and cutting energy usage by 80% or more. Lighting your home probably doesn’t cost as much as heating or cooling it. Still, replacing the bulbs in your home with more efficient LED alternatives will cut back on your energy usage. You can also get years of good performance out of every LED bulb, which means you will be saving money on replacement bulbs as well. Another difference between LED and flourescent light bulbs is that flourescent light bulbs give off a bluish white light, while incandescent bulbs give off a more yellowish, natural light. You can choose when buying LED light bulbs if you want more yellowish or more white lights.
4. Replace your thermostat: If your home’s thermostat isn’t programmable, then you are leaving money on the table. With a programmable thermostat, you can set the temperature in your home to fluctuate throughout the day. During hours when no one’s around, you can program the system to give your heater or air conditioner a break. In the summer, you might also program the air conditioner to shut off at night, when the sun goes down and the temperature gets more bearable. Most programmable thermostats are extremely affordable—to the point where they will pay for themselves in the space of a year or less. Not many home improvements can offer that kind of rapid ROI, so take advantage of the one that does.
5. Stop drafts: My parents would always joke about us heating the outside whenever the front door would be left open for too long while the heater was running. If you have drafts in your home, you are doing the same thing, cooling down your home making the heater work harder. Three common places to be drafty is doors, electrical outlets and switches, and windows. In addition to caulking the window, having thick insulated curtains can keep out the chill. Draft stoppers and or door snakes can prevent drafts under the doors. Outlets can also be insulated, either yourself (if you have experience working with electrical things) or via a professional.
The list of things you can do to make your home more energy efficient is lengthy, with many of the top recommendations standing out as sizable investments. For instance, installing solar panels, buying state-of-the-art appliances, or installing low-flow toilets are all big energy-saving improvements.Unfortunately, they will all cost you a sizable chunk of change as well.
The five improvements suggested above, however, offer improved energy efficiency at modest, affordable rates—so you can pay off your investment and start saving money faster.
What do you do to keep your home energy efficient? Have you noticed a difference in your utilities bills since making those changes?
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