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Energy efficiency updates in the home

Date posted:  9/30/16 02:15:00 PM Energy Efficiency at home is good for the budget

Everyone has heard the old adage, "time is money."  In the 21st century, it can be said that energy is money.

As such, the budgeting homeowner should apply the same reduce, reuse, recycle sentiment, typically used in the context of plastic and other non-biodegradable materials, to energy. In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, energy efficiency in the home can help you save money. Here are a few simple updates you should consider making to your home:

Sealing the cracks
The top way to conserve energy in the home is to reduce your consumption of it. This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to cut the air conditioner, and sweat out a scorcher. Nor does it mean you should make a human burrito of yourself with blankets to avoid freezing conditions. You should, however, make sure that every kilowatt of energy you consume is put to good use.

One of the best ways to do this is to ensure that your home is well insulated. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends a home energy audit, which is often a free service offered by your local utility providers. Energy auditors will use a number of techniques, including infrared cameras, a blower door test – which involves sucking the air out of the room to determine how airtight it is – surface thermometers, and other tools and techniques.

With this assessment, you can determine where your heating and cooling efforts are going to waste, and choose how to seal the cracks or fix the issues going forward.

New windows
People living in older homes or apartments might find that the air is noticeably cooler or warmer when standing next to a window, depending on the time of year. Particularly in the winter, many homeowners take measures to keep out the cold. For instance, Apartment Therapy contributor Sarah Coffey recommends rubber weather sealing that can be cut into strips, and stuck onto window frames to block any gaps. Other options include window insulation film or a good, heavy curtain.

However, at some point, these measures might start to feel like band-aids against an unstoppable loss of heating or cooling. In the long-run, you may be better off getting new windows, and more specifically, energy-efficient windows.

Smart thermostats and lighting
Technology is becoming more advanced all the time, and one of the perfect examples of this is the increasing number of home devices being connected to the Internet. Did you know, for instance, that an increasing number of thermostats allow you to preset indoor climate conditions? In other words, you have the heat set to a certain temperature during the day when no one is home, and schedule it to kick in maybe an hour before you leave work. Some of these smart thermostats even let you control them remotely using a smartphone application. So, if you went on vacation and left central air on high, no sweat. Just turn it off via your smartphone. You can even run the air conditioning occasionally to prevent humidity from warping wood furniture.

The same technology applies to lighting systems. Now, you not only have the option to install energy-saving bulbs, but you can take that a step further with wirelessly controlled, energy-saving bulbs. If you think you may have left a light on, simply open the app on your smartphone, check the lights and turn it off if need be.

Green appliances
Day-to-day, the DOE estimates that household appliances account for 13 percent of the average American's total energy consumption in the home. The biggest culprits include refrigeration, cooking appliances and laundry.

Granted, that 13 percent doesn't include heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), or water heaters, which according to Lifehacker contributor Melanie Pinola, are listed by the DOE as the most energy-hungry appliances in the home. A water heater alone represents 15 to 25 percent of the average home's energy spend, according to U.S. News and World Report. 

Thus, it only makes sense that a good way to save energy and money over time is to invest in high-efficiency appliances. Everything from washing machines, dishwashers, dryers, refrigerators, stoves and dehumidifiers can be purchased in energy efficient models. If you want to further cut back on electric costs, Pinola recommends running some of these appliances, such as the dishwasher and laundry units, at night. This is because utility companies tend to charge more during peak electricity hours.

Expenses related to energy consumption are something we all face in everyday life. That said, we shouldn't pay or use more than necessary, especially when this energy is going to waste. Make some of the adjustments listed above, and start saving today.