A Beginners Guide to an Energy-Efficient Home

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Money can get tight during the winter months. With holiday meals, gift giving, and travel, who can afford the excess energy bills that creep up at the most inopportune times?

No one really can, so it would be best to set up your home to be energy-efficient before the winter really gets in full swing. Here are a few tips to get started:

What's Inside?

General Energy-saving Tips

Upgrade your heating unit to something a tad more eco-friendly. For example, both absorption and hydronic heaters work in much different ways than traditional HVAC units.

For example, the absorption heater. which works on natural gas, has pumps pick up the Earth’s heat using a water-ammonia solution and transferring it into your home for warming purposes. It can transfer cool air to the inside throughout the summer as well.

Conversely, hydronic heating uses radiation, conduction, and convection to do the same job. Water is pumped into your home through pipes, heated to its boiling point, and released into rooms as water vapor, warming the area.

You can also update your appliances to the latest energy-efficient models. There are microwaves, ovens, washers, dryers, dishwashers, and refrigerators that are made especially with saving energy in mind. You can easily see if an appliance is energy-efficient by checking for the Energy Star label.

Change up your lightbulbs. You may not realize just how energy incandescent bulbs take to work until you switch over to CFL and LED bulbs. The latter are also stronger and last longer, so they save you money in more ways than one.

Energy-saving Tips in Colder Areas

Upgrade your windows if you haven’t done so in a while. Molding gets older along with window panes and if it is cracked, hot air will escape and cold air will get inside. If you live in a colder climate like Alberta, it’s actually probably best to have windows installed that are made especially to trap heat and keep it inside your home.

Speaking of windows, in the afternoon, open the curtains wide on any south-facing windows and let the sun to heat your home naturally. Also, be sure to cover any drafty windows with clear plastic sheets and seal all cracks and crevices with weatherstripping during the wintertime. For good measure, close all blinds, shades, and curtains at night to reduce the chill indoors.

Also, stuff insulation around any cutouts you may have on outside walls for pipes or wiring. Don’t forget gaps around recessed lights in insulated ceilings, chimneys, and spaces in cabinets and closets that may be unfinished. If you have a fireplace, you should caulk all the way around the hearth.

And, if you have a furnace or heat pump, change your filter at least once a month. Remember, whenever you are home, set your thermostat as low as you can without being uncomfortable.

If you are not home or sleeping, you should turn your thermostat down for that amount of time, saving up to fifteen percent annually on your heating bills. A programmable thermostat can help you do this daily so you won’t forget. Additionally, turn your water heater down to 120 degrees to save even more.

Renewable Energy Alternatives

Installing solar panels is probably the best way that almost any homeowner can use a renewable energy source. They are placed on the roof and reflect the sun and use its energy to power the house’s electrical system.

These panels, referred to as photovoltaic, or PV panels, can be a bit costly to install, but there are ways around this. You can either eat the cost knowing how much money you will save over time, or you can try a Power Purchase Arrangement.

This is a deal where a third party pays for your panels and their installation, but they will then charge you for the power generated by the system that you use. While it may sound complicated, the set-up still costs less than getting electricity from your local utility company.

Another option to consider, if you own huge tracts of land, is a wind turbine. Turbines use wind gusts to power homes in a cost-effective manner.

If you have enough space, a wind turbine can be even more dependable than solar panels and can provide for all your electricity-producing needs. You just need sustained winds of at least ten miles per hour to generate significant amounts of power. You can easily expose your turbine to higher wind speeds by increasing its height.

The Best Time to Use Appliances

Did you know that you can actually save money on electricity simply by using your appliances at different times of day? It is actually true, and you can save as much as half of the money you may be spending.

Simply run your dishwasher, washer, and dryer between seven at night and noon the next day, rather than at the peak period of between noon and seven.

If less people are using power when you are, you will automatically get a discount. Just remember, not every utility company has the same off-peak and on-peak hours, so check with your provider before changing your schedule.

Also, if you use your washer and dishwasher simultaneously, you will save money because your water heater only has to work once for both loads.

Extra Money-saving Tips

There are numerous other ways for you to save money each day. Do you want to conserve water?

  • Scrub your dirty dishes with the sink off and rinse them all at once.
  • Leave the faucet off while brushing your teeth, too.
  • Take quick showers instead of filling an entire bathtub.

Also, try buying a reusable rag rather disposable napkins and paper towels. Even though you have to wash them, it will still cost significantly less than buying any type of paper products.

In conclusion, each of the above tips will certainly help you salvage energy and stay comfortable all winter. However, incorporating these habits into your everyday life all year will save you so much more money in the long run, regardless of energy prices.

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