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Easy Ways to Go Green and Save Money

Energy Efficient Upgrades for your Home

With the rising cost of energy, homeowners and renters are feeling the heat. You may have noticed your utility bills creeping up, and the environmental concerns that arise from excess energy consumption are hard to ignore. If you are looking to lower your monthly energy bills and reduce your carbon footprint, consider the following simple and often inexpensive ways to increase your home’s energy efficiency.

Conduct a home energy audit

The first step toward achieving a more energy efficient home is to conduct a home energy audit, which determines the amount of energy your home consumes and the areas that need improvements. Once problem areas are discovered and corrected, you will save a considerable amount of money over time. You can conduct a home audit yourself or have your REALTOR® recommend a professional to perform a more thorough audit. Use the information below to determine which method works best for you.

Walk through your home and look for common causes of energy inefficiency: air leaks, poor insulation, out-dated heating and cooling units and incandescent light bulbs. Keep a check list of areas you have inspected in each room, as well as any problems you have found. Later, use the checklist to prioritize energy efficient upgrades that fit your budget. For a detailed description of how you can conduct your own home energy audit, click here.

You can also identify opportunities to save on your energy bill by taking an online Home Energy Analysis, which helps identify how you use energy in your home and how your energy use compares to others in your area. In addition, Energy Savings Calculators can help you approximate savings for introducing energy efficient improvements and appliances into your home.

Hire a Professional
Professional audits are quite thorough and involve reviewing past utility bills and conducting an analysis of every room in your home. U.S. Department of Energy offers advice to consumers on preparing for a professional energy audit and selecting professional energy auditing services.

Upgrade and go green

After auditing your home’s energy efficiency, it is time to make the suggested improvements. Even without a formal energy audit, you can improve your home’s efficiency and save money by taking these simple steps.

Lighting & Appliances
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. Fluorescent light bulbs use 66 percent less energy.
  • Clean light bulbs when you dust. Dust can cut light output by 25 percent.
  • Plug electronics and lamps into power strips and turn off the strip when not in use. Many household electronics continue to use energy when plugged in, even if they are turned off.
  • Use the microwave instead of the oven. Microwaves use 40 percent less energy and will not heat the kitchen.
  • When cooking, use smaller pots and pans with lids. Less energy is needed to heat smaller pots and pans, and lids help cook food faster by containing the heat.
  • Replace old appliances, which require more energy to operate than newer models. Consider investing in appliances approved by Energy Star.
  • Wash full loads of dishes and laundry. It costs the same amount to wash a few dishes or clothes as it does an entire load.
  • Clean the lint filter in your dryer. This is not only a safety precaution; it can also reduce the amount of energy your dryer uses in its cycle.
  • Use cold water when doing your laundry, unless it is a very dirty load. Heating water requires extra energy.
  • Use your dishwasher’s air-dry feature, if available. Most households run the dishwasher multiple times a week, and air-drying saves pennies that add up to notable savings.

Heating & Cooling
  • Use a programmable thermostat. This allows you to enjoy ideal temperatures when you get home without running up your electric bill while you are out.
  • Use ceiling fans along with your air conditioning unit. This lets you to set the A/C a few degrees higher while still maintaining a comfortable temperature.
  • Keep drapes and curtains closed during the day. Sunlight coming through windows heats your house and makes your air conditioner work harder.
  • Check your air conditioner’s filter monthly. Dirty filters block normal airflow and decrease your unit’s efficiency.
  • Plant trees and shrubs around your house. They provide shade and protect your home from wind and weather that can affect the temperature inside.
  • Lower the temperature on your water heater from 140 degrees to 120 degrees. This slight change can make a huge difference. If your dishwasher doesn’t have a booster heater, however, leave it at 140 degrees so that your dishes will be thoroughly cleaned.
  • Insulate your water heater with a water heater jacket. You can find water heater insulation kits at your hardware store for about $20, and they pay for themselves in just a few months. Newer water heaters (those under seven years old) do not need a tank wrap, but they can benefit from pipe insulation, which can be purchased separately.
  • Install low flow shower heads and faucets around your home. This will allow you to conserve water and reduce water heating costs by as much as 50 percent.

Sealing & Insulation
  • Seal windows and doors with caulk or weather stripping. Check for leaks in your recessed lighting, chimney, electrical outlets, ducts and ceiling fixtures.
  • Add insulation to your attic, basement, floors and walls as needed. Insulation in homes more than 10 years old can wear out by picking up moisture or being pressed down by storage items in the attic.
  • The amount of insulation needed in a house depends on climate and location. To learn the suggested amount of insulation for your home, click here.

Join Austin Energy’s Power Saver Program

Austin Energy’s Power Saver Program coordinates the “cycling” of your air conditioner with other units enrolled in the program during peak demand times (4 to 8 PM). Cycling units helps keep rates low by stabilizing the demand for energy. This delays the need to build additional expensive power plants that would increase energy rates.

Participants in the program receive a free programmable thermostat along with installation and warranty, rebates and loans for energy efficient appliances and cash incentives for recycling old refrigerators. To learn more about the Power Saver Program, click here.

As you can see, there is no need to sweat over the rising cost of energy. There are plenty of practical solutions to help your home “go green.” Ask your REALTOR® for more information on how you can make your home more energy efficient.

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