Make your home more energy efficient

In December and January, The Simple Dollar is posting a daily series focusing on specific activities you can do right now to set the stage for a great 2011. Out with the old, in with the new.

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    A few simple changes can add up big in your utilities bills (and your carbon footprint). This August file photo shows GE's Nucleus Home Energy Manager, software that provides consumers with real-time information about their energy use on their laptop or smart phone. GE's goal is to increase American home efficiency by 70 percent, which could ultimately save homeowners hundreds of dollars per year on energy bills.
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11. Make your home more energy efficient.

Almost everyone who has a roof over their head has an energy bill that they have to face. Electricity. Heating oil. Natural gas. It’s a personal finance reality for all of us.

Thankfully, we all have ways in which we can easily reduce those energy bills without installing a windmill or using a bicycle-powered generator. Here are eight easy tactics you can do today to reduce your home’s energy use.

(Yes, I know long-time readers have seen many of these before. I’m mentioning them again because (a) they flat-out work and (b) I see tons and tons of homes where people haven’t done these things yet.)

Use more daylighting. Rather than walking into a room and immediately turning on the lights, consider just opening up the blinds or the curtains. Quite often, daylight provides all the lighting you need in a room without wasting energy (particularly if you then walk out of a room and leave the lights on).

Install a programmable thermostat. Why do this? A programmable thermostat can be set to automatically adjust the temperature in your home without you ever needing to remember it. In the winter, the temperature at night can drop. During the summer, the temperature can rise when you’re at work. Steps like these keep your furnace or air conditioning unit from running constantly, saving on your energy bill.

Alter your typical home temperature. Hand in hand with a programmable thermostat is a little bit of adjustment of the typical temperature in your home. Lowering the temperature even a degree can make for significant energy savings over the cold winter months. Similarly, raising the temperature even a single degree can help quite a lot during the hot summer. We tend to adjust our home temperature right up to the edge of being uncomfortable.

Utilize space heating. Another great tactic in the winter months is to simply use a space heater in whatever room you’re in. This allows you to keep the temperature of your home much lower than you otherwise would keep it, which results in significant energy savings over the long haul.

Air seal your home. In both cold and warm seasons, uncontrolled air flow in and out of your home is an expense you don’t need in your life. Spend the time to do a full energy audit and air sealing of your home and you’ll save in every season for as long as you live in your home.

Turn down your hot water heater. We keep ours adjusted so that our showers, on their hottest setting, is right where I like it. My wife likes it just a little bit lower than that. Why have it hotter? If we have a need for hotter water, we can easily boil some tap water for that use. Turning down the water heater is just pure energy savings, and it’s as easy as can be – there’s usually just a little dial to turn on the front of the unit.

Adjust your ceiling fans. A small seasonal adjustment to your ceiling fan can make a tremendous difference when it comes to your energy bill. Having the air blowing the right way for the season directly impacts the speed with which you need to run the fan as well as the necessary heat level in the room.

Dress appropriately. Don’t strip down when you’re at home in the winter and don’t overdress in the summer. If you’re warmly-dressed in the winter (sweatpants and a long-sleeved tee shirt or sweatshirt) or coolly dressed in the summer (tee shirt and shorts), you can allow your home temperature even more variation when it’s just you at home (and you can obviously adjust it a bit when you have guests).

Simply put, much of your energy bill is in your hands. Making better decisions regarding that energy can save you tremendously each month on your energy bill.

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