This involves buying gifts for those that you love & those you don’t, this is either the most wonderful time of the year, or if you have bad insulation in your rented apartment, the most feared. So this year, I decided to take action instead of cowering in candlelight over a dusty Charles Dickens novel. I decided to educate myself of some simple tips to be green, save money, and gift the gift of knowledge in lieu of spending a few bucks.
1. Know the Facts – The average family spends $1,400 a year on energy bills, with nearly half of that spent on heating and cooling. Energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment, sized and installed correctly, with properly sealed ducts, can save homeowners as much as 20 percent on their annual energy costs.
2. Keep it Clean – A dirty air filter can increase your energy costs and lead to early equipment failure. Clean or change the air filter in your heating and cooling system monthly. Some filters only need to be changed every 3 months. Also, have your equipment checked seasonally to make sure it’s operating efficiently and safely – check-ups can identify problems early. Dirt and neglect are the #1 causes of system failure.
3. Bundle Up Your Home – Hidden gaps and cracks in a home can add up to as much airflow as an open window. The more heat that escapes, the more cold air enters, causing your system to work harder and use more energy. Home Sealing can improve your home “envelope” – the outer walls, ceiling, windows and floors — and can save up to 10 percent in energy costs. Start by sealing air leaks and adding insulation—pay special attention to your attic and basement, where the biggest gaps and cracks are often found. If replacing windows, choose ENERGY STAR qualified ones.
4.Tighten Your Ducts – If you have a forced air furnace or heat pump, then a duct system is responsible for circulating warm air throughout your home. Leaky ducts can reduce your system’s overall efficiency by 20 percent. Sealing your ducts can save up to $140 annually on energy bills and help you consistently heat every room.
5. Don’t Oversize – If you’re replacing old equipment, make sure your new equipment is properly sized for your home — bigger isn’t always better. An oversized system will cost more to buy and operate and will cycle on and off too frequently, reducing your comfort and leading to early system failures and repair costs. Correct size and proper airflow will ensure that your equipment works efficiently, saves you money, and helps protect our environment.
6. Put Your Home to the Test – Doing a home improvement project this fall or winter? ENERGY STAR has online tools to evaluate your home’s energy performance and offer solutions to increase comfort and energy efficiency. Visit http://www.energystar.gov/homeimprovement. Have your utility bills handy for savings calculations.
7. Consult a Professional – Find an experienced, licensed contractor before embarking on any heating and cooling overhaul. Visit http://www.natex.org/ to find a contractor whose technicians are certified by NATE (North American Technician Excellence), the leading industry-supported testing and certification program. Your contractor should properly size your equipment, test airflow, and perform a quality installation.
So if you are interested in more funky, fun fact, feel free to join the Greener milwaukee community online. Until then, stay warm and be green.
(Photo: JDCow, St. Francis, Wisconsin)