Low Cost and No Cost Energy Solutions
Many of you will be able to do these measures yourselves.
Some may choose to have them done by a professional.
Sealing Air Leaks is the single most important thing you can do to save energy!
Doors & Windows:
- If you have a window air conditioner, remove it for the winter. It is amazing how much air leaks around these units!
- Close all storm windows, if you have them. Caulk around the top and sides of the storm windows. Do Not caulk the bottoms of the storm windows. The small spaces under the storm windows need to be open, so water that gets in can drain out, and not rot the windowsill.
- Check the window gaskets if you have them. If they need replacing, do so. If you do not have window gaskets, consider installing them. Depending on the type of windows you have, they can do a lot to reduce air leaks.
- Consider installing the clear plastic film that you smooth out with a hair dryer on the inside of your windows if you don't mind the appearance. They are easily removed in the spring.
- Install or close the storm panels in your storm doors, if you have them. Store the screens in a safe place for the season.
- Check your door gaskets for damage. If they are damaged, replace them. They will save a lot of heat in a short amount of time. Do not simply install self adhesive foam gaskets to cover damaged door gaskets. They will do little to help. The proper gaskets for your doors are inexpensive, (from about $5 to $20 per door for standard metal or fiberglass doors). Good door gaskets can be had for less for other doors, but get the best you can find. A soft, pliable, and relatively larger gasket will work best. Do not forget the bottom door gasket.
- If you have an attic access door in the ceiling, install a closed cell foam gasket. Typically, the door rests on the trim, so install this gasket around the edge of the trim so the access door rests on the gasket. Install a piece of Styrofoam on the top of the door. The thicker the Styrofoam, the better. Carefully cut this to fit the space the door rests in. Glue it to the top of the access door with foam adhesive, or with ordinary carpenter's glue.
- If you have an ordinary door to a walk up attic space, install a gasket around the door. Follow the directions for the other doors mentioned above. Do not forget the bottom door gasket.
- If you have stairs that you pull down from the ceiling, you can make a "box" of Styrofoam to cover the stairs from above. Cut it very neatly with nice, square edges, and glue the pieces together with foam adhesive to make the "box". Carpenter's glue will not work well for this. Fit it carefully over the stairs. There is also a ready made rigid insulation cover you can buy from places like Home Depot and others for about $90 that you just place over the pull down stair opening. It works best if you also attach a foam gasket around the bottom edge of the cover so it will seal better to the attic floor. It is very easy to install.
- If you have a whole house attic fan, cover the fan. From the bottom, you could simply cover it with the clear plastic film that you smooth out with a hair dryer on the inside of windows if you don't mind the appearance. A more attractive, and more effective alternative, is to make a "box" out of 2" Styrofoam to cover the fan from above. Cut it very neatly with nice, square edges, and glue the pieces together with foam adhesive to make the "box". Carpenter's glue will not work well for this. Fit it carefully over the fan.
- Check any basement windows to be sure they are tightly closed. The newer ones with steel frames generally do a poor job keeping heat in. The older ones with wood frames also do a poor job keeping heat in. Steel rusts and wood rots in this application. If you like, you can invest in better quality vinyl double pane basement windows. They are much better in this position near the ground, as they will not rust or rot. Or, you could cover them with the the clear plastic film, or the Styrofoam mentioned above. If you use the Styrofoam, be sure to fit it tightly around the edge of the opening to be most effective. You will lose a little light, but this is not usually a big consideration in a basement anyway.
Other Sources of Air Leaks:
- Caulk all interior joints between trim and walls, ceilings, and floors. This includes baseboards, door trim, window trim, ceiling trim, chair rails, wainscoting, and any other joints where trim meets walls, ceilings, or floors. Try to do this as carefully and neatly as you can. If your trim is painted, I like to use DAP Alex Plus caulk. It is of good quality, and easy to work with, and you can clean up with water. I usually use white, but it comes in several colors. Use clear if you are not going to paint it, or, if you have stained or varnished trim. If you want to be able to remove it later, there is a type of caulk made that can easily be removed at a later time.
- Install switch plate and electrical receptacle sealers at all switches and receptacles. Sometimes people will say you only need to do it on the exterior walls. However, the wires to the interior walls generally come from an unheated space. That means you will often feel drafts around all of them. Seal them all.
- In your basement, seal the joint where the wood framing meets the foundation. Use a high quality urethane caulk or foam sealer like Great Stuff. Seal around any pipe or wire penetrations from the basement to the outside.
- Shut off any outside hose spigots. If you do not have frost proof spigots, locate the shut-off valve for the spigot in the basement, and turn the water off. Before cold weather, remove the hose. This is important so the spigot will not be damaged if water freezes in it. This will not save energy, but will save the trouble of having to fix a broken spigot.
- Check any bathroom, kitchen, and dryer exhaust vents on the outside, to be sure there is a working damper to prevent air from leaking into the house at these points. You can usually get these dampers at any hardware store.
- If you have a fireplace, check to be sure the damper closes tightly. NOTE: There should be 2" between any combustible materials and chimneys. You may cover these spaces with sheet metal plates only. NOTE: DO NOT fill these spaces with insulation! Use only an approved fire rated foam to insulate in these spaces. Check with your local fire marshall before you take any measures in these areas.While you are doing this, you should also check to see if the chimney needs to be cleaned.
- If you have a wood stove, check for tight fitting stovepipes and damper. NOTE: DO NOT seal around stove pipes with any caulk or foam sealer! Check with the maunufacturer's instructions for how to address the spaces around stoves, stovepipes, and insulated stovepipes! Check with your local fire marshall before you take any measures in these areas.
- If you have access to where pipes or wires exit the house into the attic or into an unheated basement, use foam sealer around any of these penetrations.
- If you have recessed lighting,DO NOT INSULATE AROUND THEM UNLESS THEY ARE RATED "IC" FOR INSULATION CONTACT! If they are not, you MUST KEEP ANY INSULATION AT LEAST 3" AWAY FROM THEM, WITH NO INSULATION ABOVE THEM, TO ALLOW HEAT FROM THEM TO ESCAPE! Check with your local fire marshall before you take any measures in these areas.
Heating and Plumbing:
- If you have a furnace, replace your filter every 1 to 3 months, depending on how dusty your home gets. Get a high quality filter. This will allow your furnace fan to work more easily. This may help your health as well, as it may cut down on the dust in your home.
- Seal the joints in the ductwork, especially if they pass through a space you don't have to heat. Don't use "duct tape". Despite the name, it is not designed for ductwork, and will not stick for long. Use a mastic designed for ductwork.
- Vacuum out the ducts under the registers. Close registers in rooms that don't need to be heated.
- Move furniture away from heat registers. They will block heat flow into the room.
- If you have hot water heat, insulate the heat pipes in areas where heat is not needed.
- If you live over a crawl space, close the vents in winter.
- Set the thermostat to 68 degrees or less. At night, or when you are gone during the day, set it back to 60 degrees or less.
- If you have a fireplace, be sure the damper closes tightly. Clean the chimney yearly or as needed.
- Use a masonry fireplace only on relatively warm days, and close the damper the next morning after use.
- Don't use ceiling fans to move hot air down from the ceiling; you will probably feel cooler instead of warmer. The only exception to this is if you have a high cathedral ceiling, and then only run the fan on the lowest speed in a counter-clockwise direction.
- Close drapes at night, and during the day on the north side of the house.
- If you have a separate water heater, turn the water temperature down to 110 - 120 degrees. If you understand how to do this, it is very simple to do. However, if you do not, let someone who knows how, do it.
- Insulate the hot water pipes from the heater to the fixtures they serve.
- Once a year, drain a five gallon pail amount of water out of the water heater. This will help to keep rust and scale from building up in the heater, making it work more efficiently.
- Install an insulation jacket around the water heater. Carefully tape the joints.
- Fix leaky faucets and toilets.
- Use low flow shower heads and faucet heads. Use heads that have 2 gallons per minute or less.
- Use an LCD monitor computer.
- Set the computer power management settings so that the computer will automatically hibernate, go into sleep mode, or shut off after a time of your choosing. When computers are in hibernation or sleep mode, they use only a very few watts, and can almost instantly start up by pressing a key or moving the mouse.
- Use a Laptop computer. They use less electricity than desktop models.
- Place the TV on a switched circuit, i.e., a surge protector with a switch, and turn it off when it is not being used. TV's run all the time, so they can save a few seconds when you turn them on. This will shut them down so they are not using electricity when they are not being used.
- If you are buying a new TV, consider an LCD unit, which uses less electricity.
- Do not leave batteries for cordless electronics on the chargers indefinitely.
Refrigerators - Freezers:
- Vacuum the coils on your refrigerator annually. This will allow it to work more easily, and live longer too.
- Check the gaskets to be sure they fit tightly. If a piece of paper slides between the gasket too easily, adjust the door so the gasket fits more tightly. If the gasket is damaged or deformed, replace it.
- If you have a automatic defrost refrigerator, and it has an economizer switch, set it to the economy setting.
- If you have a manual defrost model, do not allow the frost to build up to an inch or more before you defrost it.
- If you have a separate freezer with only a little food in it, consider putting the food in the refrigerator freezer. Then turn off the separate freezer.
- If you are buying a new refrigerator anyway, buy an ENERGY STAR model that uses less than $50 a year as stated on the yellow energy use label. Shop around and compare. Avoid side by side units. They use 1 1/2 to 2 times the energy that more efficient models use. Do not buy a bigger model than you need.
Cooking & Dishwashing:
- Use a microwave instead of the oven for small tasks.
- Try to group oven cooking tasks together. You won't have to heat up the oven all over again.
- Load dishes directly into the dishwasher instead of pre-rinsing them.
- Wash full loads in the dishwasher.
- Let the dishes air dry instead of using the drying cycle.
- Wash in warm water, then rinse in cold water. . . or better yet,
- Wash and rinse in cold water instead of warm or hot water.
- If you are buying a new clothes washer anyway, buy a front loader. They are much more energy efficient, and they use far less water too, saving even more energy.
- Be sure the dryer vent is not crimped, and runs in as straight a route as possible to the outside. Install metal ductwork instead of the flexible ducting.
- If you have an electric dryer, consider venting warm air into the home ONLY if the humidity level will not climb too high, 45 - 50% in the winter. Do NOT do this with a gas dryer! The by products of combustion at best will make you sick, at worst, could kill you!
- Dry the clothes on a clothes line instead of the dryer. This will save a substantial amount on your electric bill.
- Turn off lights when you leave the room.
- Use compact fluorescent light bulbs everywhere. They have come a long way, both in terms of initial cost, ($4-$10 now, or even less in multipacks) and light quality. Some are rated for use with dimmers. Some can also be used outside. For outside use, buy the bulbs rated for outside cold weather use.
- Use motion sensor lights outside. If possible, place them so that traffic passes across in front of them instead of straight at them. They will work better that way.
- Use solar powered outside lights. These come in a large variety now, and are quite dependable. The operating cost will be $0!
Copyright 2012 Ronald Sauve All Rights Reserved
This page was last modified on April 06, 2012
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