Five Energy and Money Saving Tips for Homeowners

Saving energy around the house makes sense, and it can also help save a significant amount of money now and in the future. Here are a handful of ideas that are especially helpful but are often overlooked by those homeowners trying to minimize their energy consumption:

Sustainable Landscaping

A more sustainable landscape not only saves labor – which is another precious form of energy – but it can also do wonders to help reduce the carbon footprint of a home. Choosing the right types of trees with the help of a local nursery, for example, can provide shade in summer to lower air conditioning expenses. Likewise, opening up tree canopies that block sunlight – with advice from a qualified arborist – may provide additional solar heat to keep a home warmer in winter. Rainwater-capturing cisterns that are tied into lawn and garden irrigation systems enable the homeowner to save many gallons of water, while designing an overall lower maintenance sustainable landscape reduces year-round upkeep. Lawn mowers, believe it or not, are one of the biggest polluters in the USA. Minimize lawn chores by redesigning the yard with the help of an experienced landscape architect and it cuts down on both weekend work and carbon emissions.

Site Orientation

One of the most common mistakes or oversights that homeowners make when choosing a home or paying to have one built is that they don’t pay close enough attention to site orientation. How a structure is situated on the property will influence energy costs for the entire lifetime of the building. Get it right and it is possible to make significant strides toward carbon footprint reduction, but poor site planning can be virtually impossible to overcome. Even when buying a condo in a multi-unit building it is possible to improve one’s control of energy usage by selecting a unit that gets maximum solar exposure during the coldest months and the most protection from harsh sunlight in summer. In most places across North America that means choosing site orientation with predominantly southern exposure.

Insulation and R-Value

The ability to insulate is measured in R-Value, and building materials are rated based on this scale. So increase R-Value to reduce energy loss. To help maximize R-Value most green builders these days practice a design style known as Optimum Value Engineering (OVE). Up to 20 percent more lumber is saved by using OVE instead of traditional carpentry framing practices, while extra insulation is added over a greater area of the home’s shell. Insulation values can also be raised by adding insulation where it has deteriorated, by insulating basement and attic walls and windows that leak air, and by making sure that the existing insulation was correctly installed. If insulation was put in with the wrong side facing out, for instance, it won’t do its job. Wrap hot water pipes with appropriate insulation to save on water heating bills. Also put a water heater blanket over that appliance’s tank or invest in a high-tech “on demand” or “flash heat” system that only heats water as needed. Caulking is fantastic insulation, too, don’t forget. Applying a fresh bead of caulk around doors and windows is an easy do-it-yourself project that costs very little money, too. So inspect old caulk once a year and then repair it over the weekend to save on utility bills the entire rest of the year.

Appliance Settings

Just by checking the settings on household appliances most homeowners can immediately start to save significant amounts of energy. Putting the dishwasher on the energy-saving setting, for example, or washing clothes in cold water can make a big difference. Everyone should also have a programmable thermostat. These are inexpensive and intelligently monitor the heating and air conditioning system. Raising and lowering thermostats consumes lots of energy, but picking sensible temperature settings and then programming them into this kind of gadget ensures lower energy output and maximum returns.

Routine Maintenance

Going green does not have to be complicated. Just doing regular homeowner maintenance can shrink the carbon footprint of a home. Change air filters in the HVAC system, for instance, to get optimum performance while expending less energy. Keep leaves and other debris off the outdoor central air conditioning unit and remove lint from clothes dryer vents and those systems will work much better – which means they will be more energy-efficient. Repair any dripping faucets or constantly running toilet bowl tanks to save water. Old refrigerators are notorious for draining electricity, so update the fridge if needed.

Conserving energy in these ways is relatively simple and easy to do. It is also personally and financially rewarding to take conscious, deliberate steps to reduce a home’s carbon footprint. At the same time, these kinds of energy conservation efforts contribute measurable benefits to the community at large because, after all, Mother Earth is a shared planet with limited, interdependent resources.

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