Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Your Home: leaking cash from every crack or saving you money?

So we’ve dealt with the details of your home, its appliances and how you use them but what about the substance, the very fabric of your home; are you pouring money out of your roof, windows, doors and ducts?
Here’s some tips about what to look out for and how to test for heat leaking from your home:
So much of it is just about insulation and stopping the gaps.

It doesn’t matter how you use your air conditioner or how much heat you use in winter, if  that expensively cooled or heated air is leaking out into the stars you might as well throw your money down the drain. Remember the cost of heating and cooling your home is about 54% of your utility bill.

Your attic, exterior and basement walls, ceilings, floors, and crawl spaces all should be insulated but check with a qualified insulation specialist or builder before insulating unheated spaces as, if not done correctly, this could cause condensation problems.  Roof spaces can also be cooled with automatic cooling systems like Solar Star Roof Ventilation.

 Finding air leaks is not so difficult; on a windy day feeling around the doors and windows on your external walls you will soon feel the cold air getting in. Another easy way is to light an incense stick and hold it to frames to see if the smoke blows inwards instead of rising straight up. Even places where electrical or plumbing fixtures enter the house can need insulating. Fireplaces should also be closed off, if not in use, with chimney balloons and closed dampers.
Apart from around fires, any leaks can be caulked and taped and larger spaces filled with expanding foam.
And while we’re talking air conditioners:

Maintenance of your heating and air conditioning systems will help them run more efficiently so check those filters at the recommended times.

Every day tips
Even when we have cocooned ourselves in a cosy, well-insulated, well ventilated but not draughty, home, we can still be aware of small adjustments that will help keep our homes at an even temperature all year round.

During winter, keep the windows and blinds on your sun-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows. During summer, keep the window coverings closed during the day to block the sun’s heat.

The roof is like an oven in summer

So what can you do about it?Are you lucky enough to have some space outside where you can plant a tree?
The ambient temperature under trees can be as much as 6 degrees cooler than in the sun.

 If you plant tall, deciduous trees on the sides of the house that catch the sun they will make a great contribution to cooling the roofs and walls and therefore help cool the interior of the house. They will then drop their leaves in winter allowing the winter sun to warm what was previously shaded.

Carefully placed trees and shrubs can also be effective wind breaks if you suffer from cold winter or hot summer winds and with the shade they cast in summer, trees and shrubs can save 25% of a typical household bills.

Another option for that too hot roof is to install solar panels to make your own energy but that’s another discussion altogether.

There are many ways to save energy in our homes and remember this not only saves us cash but will help to cut down on the release of gases like CO2 which are helping to cause climate change. So doing your bit for the household budget can be the same as doing your bit for the planet and all completely without pain.

More simple steps to saving energy

An energy-efficient home will keep your family comfortable while saving you money. Whether you take simple steps or make larger investments to make your home more efficient, you’ll see lower energy bills. Over time, these savings may even cover the cost of more extensive home improvements and if you’re thinking of selling, all of these improvements will make your home more attractive to buyers.
Meanwhile, these are some of the easiest ways to save money on your energy bills:
Lights help us see but can we see what they cost?
There is a wide selection of light fittings available, all of which seem to require different light bulbs but the most important consideration for anyone trying to save money is how much energy they use and how long they last. Though electric light is absolutely necessary, Solatube Daylighting Systems help you use natural light where possible  thereby cutting down on unecessary lighting costs.
But be canny when choosing light fittings and make sure there is an energy saving bulb to fit it. The most popular light bulbs available are halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Though slightly more costly than traditional bulbs  the savings are huge; lighting our homes can take up 6% of our energy bills but LEDs, for instance, use 20% less energy and last 25 times longer.
Then there are your household appliances; have you thought of how much energy they use? If you are at the stage of buying new, then obviously you would buy the most energy efficient white goods available as they account for around 13% of your energy costs!
Dishwashers may save your hands but they don’t save money.
Have you still got the manual? Then check the manufacturers recommended water temperature, some models allow you to set it lower at say, 120°F.
If you’re thinking low energy use, how you use you dishwasher is also important: You can scrape the large pieces of food off the plates without rinsing (also saving water) and wait until you have a full load before starting the machine. If you then turn it off before the dry cycle and open the door for the dishes to air-dry, over a few months you will certainly notice the difference.
It’s worth considering air drying your clothes as well, as tumble dryers are real energy guzzlers.
How cold is cold enough?
Keeping food cool is an energy intense business (unless you live in the arctic circle of course). Freezers should be kept at 0°F for  long term storage whereas the small freezer compartment at the top of a refrigerator should be 5°F while 37-50°F is fine for the fresh food sections of the fridge.
Did you know that uncovered food makes your fridge work harder? It’s true. And make sure that door is closed tight; check the seals are still good and remind the next child that stands with the fridge door open,  that it might be an idea for them to hand back some of their pocket money to pay for the extra electricity used!
A little maintenance also goes a long way towards saving cash so regularly defrost freezers and refrigerators if they don’t defrost automatically.
Last but not least
If you turn off kitchen, bath, and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after you have finished cooking or bathing that will save unnecessary costs. And when you’re in the kitchen use a kettle or covered pan to heat food as it’s quicker and uses less fuel.
So remember: everything you use in the house can be turned from an energy guzzling monster into something amenable and inexpensive by keeping up basic maintenance and turning things off when not in use.