Q - Here’s a generic question for you that might be of interest many of your readers: How can I save money around my home (especially with the recent NIPSCO rate increases)?
Tom – South Bend
A - Great question. So here’s my list…
* Service your heating system every year. It’s the best money you’ll spend. The cost for a typical service call to clean the unit and change filters in both the furnace and humidifier on average is between $85-$100, depending on where you live.
* Install a programmable thermostat. This is a must. There are many different brands on the market that range in price from $50-$125. You can program it to lower the temperature while you’re at work or sleeping and save up to 30-percent in a well insulated home. What’s more, outdated thermostats are the weakest link in conserving energy.
According to the government’s Energy Information Administration, only about 11% of U.S. homes are equipped with modern programmable thermostats. Honeywell®, a leader in control technology, estimates that homeowners can receive one to three months of free heating and cooling by installing a programmable thermostat. What are you waiting for?
* Add weather stripping around windows and doors. This is certainly a project that any homeowner can do. This also has a real impact on drafts and conserving energy. Door thresholds, window caulking, and plastic window film can go a long way in saving your money this winter. If you live in a drafty home, you could save up to 20% with an investment of as little as $25. I’m a huge fan of the removable window caulks called Peel-n-Seal and Wind-Jammer that can be pulled away cleanly and easily in the spring.
* If you are replacing your front door consider a fiberglass unit. These not only look great but have a higher insulating performance than traditional wood or steel doors.
* Utilize or install ceiling fans in your home. Remember learning that heat rises in physics class? Well, running the fans slowly and in reverse will keep that warm air circulating and keep you more comfortable. The time your furnace runs will reduce, and so will your monthly energy bill.
* Check the arrangement of your furniture. (Really!) Many times people put couches and chairs over vents and in front of baseboard radiators; this action decreases the efficiency of the units and causes your heating system to run longer
* Consider installing a tankless-water heater. I am the unofficial drumbeater for these things. This technology has been around for almost 70 years. Now units are less expensive and can save you hundreds of dollars each year. How? They create hot water on demand so there’s no stored water needing to be continuously heated. (Think about when you’re away or asleep.) Cost? A small unit that will produce about 3.3 gallons of hot water continuously is around $500-$700, a standard 50 gallon tank heater cost around $300.00. But you’ll recoup the cost increase in just three years, and then the savings keeps coming.
What’s more, standard water heaters tend to reduce in efficiency as time goes on. A seven-year-old tank heater runs at about 60% efficiency. While a tank-less heater of the same age runs at about 70-75% the limitations? Multiple fixtures can’t run at the same time, making it difficult to run your washing machine and take a shower simultaneously. But the savings are really worth it. Trust me. For more information, check out www.controlledenergy.com
* Consider using compact florescent light bulbs or CFL’s. These bulbs give off the same amount of light but use a third of the energy and many will last up to 5 years. Electric companies across the country say that by replacing the five most used regular light bulbs in your home with CFL’s you can save up to $60.00 a year on your electric bill.
* Install thermo-pane windows in your home. You’ll increase your home’s energy efficiency up to 70%. Multi-pane windows can have R-values of as high as 9.1. The higher the R-value, the more resistant the glass is to losing heat. Conversely, your typical single pane glass has an R-value of 1.9.
* Make sure your ceilings and attic are properly insulated. Heat rises, and if there isn’t enough insulation in the space above, your money is going out the roof. Literally. Most ceilings and attic spaces should have at least an R-30 rating, although some areas of the country recommend an R-40-50 rating. 10.
* Let the sun be your guide. Why not? It’s free energy. During the day, open up those drapes and blinds and let that sun heat your home. At night draw the curtains to keep the heat inside.
BONUS TIP:A small label can save you big money. Look for the energy star label on your appliances, easily found on washing machines, computers and stereo equipment. This label means the department of energy and the EPA have deemed these products as energy efficient. Hope you use these tips and products to help you keep more heat in your home and, ultimately, more money in your bank.