Yesterday was the first day of summer, and homeowners in many regions are already feeling the scorching summer temperatures and are cranking up their air conditioning units.
Summer is a great time for an energy audit. Leaky windows, inefficient lighting, poor insulation and inefficient cooling keep your energy bills sky-high. If you haven’t performed (or hired someone to perform) a summer energy audit, you can do it yourself, or in many cases public utility companies offer free or low-cost audits.
Incandescent light bulbs emit heat and use more electricity than efficient lighting—in fact, 90 percent of the energy used by a standard light bulb is given off as heat. Although that heat is minimal, it could cause you to crank the AC down a few degrees, which could lead to an energy-spending spree. Energy-efficient lighting options include light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), which don’t emit nearly as much heat. These choices (especially LEDs) can be more expensive, but they last longer than traditional bulb. Their longer lives and reduced energy use can make up the cost difference.
Poorly insulated pipes and walls also contribute to energy loss. In 2005 a study estimated that 65 percent of the homes in the United States had poor insulation. When installing insulation, opt for one with a high R-value. You can determine R-value by multiplying the insulation’s by the number of inches installed.
Check your insulation when you perform your summer energy audit. Photo by thingermejig/Courtesy Flickr
Find air leaks near older windows, electrical outlets, baseboards, fireplaces, pipes, mail slots, foundation and doors. By minimizing drafts, you could reduce energy savings 5 to 30 percent annually. Single-pane and other inefficient windows usually result in lots of energy loss; changing out old windows for double-pane, energy-efficient ones can save money and energy.
Inefficient air conditioning units can also result in energy loss if not maintained well. Clean filters once a month or every other month, depending on use. Typically, cleaner equipment runs more efficiently. Replace filters as needed, especially if you use it frequently.
With all the money you can save by simply tightening up your home and doing a little maintenance, you can enjoy summer even more.