Homeowners in tune with today’s demands to save energy and water will be rewarded for their conservation efforts with cold hard cash in the form of lower utility bills. Take a look what you can do to green up your home and fatten up your wallet.
Energy Star. The U. S. Department of Energy has developed a set of criteria for the manufacture of energy-saving products around the home. Look for the blue Energy Star logo designation on items such as replacement windows, home appliances, heating, and air conditioning units.
Thermal wrap. If you are building a home, a thermal wrap is fairly standard today. Installed on the outside of the plywood or wallboard attached to the frame, it provides both an energy shield plus a moisture barrier for interior walls. The outer masonry or siding then goes over the wrap. The result is an energy-saving envelope surrounding your home.
Insulation. It may seem old school compared to more recent energy-saving devices, but having plenty of insulation is fundamental to energy conservation, particularly in the attic, since heat transference is greatest there. Consult your local home improvement store for the proper amount of “R” factor for your region and climate, the measurement of protection from heat loss from the home in winter or heat penetrating the home in summer.
Radiant barrier. A radiant barrier is roof decking that prevents the attic from becoming scorching hot in summer. Extreme attic heat can penetrate the insulation into the living areas, making the air conditioner work over time. In winter months a radiant barrier can also slow the transference of heat from the living areas up through the attic. New houses can be built with a radiant barrier material. Pre-existing homes can be retrofitted.
Windows. For about 30 years, homes have been built with improved windows with double-pane glass. If your windows are old, single-pane glass, you should seriously consider replacing them. Look for replacements that have the Energy Star rating from the U. S. Department of Energy and “low-e” glass which limits the amount of heat brought into the home by sunlight. Also, check the caulk around your windows a couple of times per year, scraping out and replacing caulk that is cracking and separating.
Heating and air conditioning. Heating and air conditioning units have seen vast improvements in efficiency. The cost of operation is significantly lower now than units manufactured just ten years ago.
Solar power. Purchasing a solar power system may cost more than $30,000, but homeowners can usually reap a series of rebates from their utility company, city and county incentive programs and federal government tax credits. Combined, these can return a substantial amount of the investment on top of the monthly energy usage savings from the utility company.
Light bulbs. Save further on electricity by replacing old incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs or, even better, LED bulbs. Both types have a higher initial cost, but more than pay for themselves in lower utility bills and replacement costs.
Water usage. Purchasing Energy Star-rated appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers and clothes washers can mean savings through water conservation on top of controlling electricity usage. Save even more water (and money) by installing low-flush toilets, low-flow faucets, and by planting drought-resistant or xeriscaping plants in your landscape to use the least amount of water possible. Consider installing a rain barrel to capture runoff from your roof. Rainwater collection can be used for plant watering and other non-potable water applications.