Five Home Improvement Projects That Increase Energy Efficiency

Five easy to do home improvement projects that will help make your home more energy efficient.

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If you have a little time on your hands this weekend, why not take on a project that improves your home's energy efficiency? These projects will also improve the comfort level in your home and may even increase its resale value. You might have to spend a little money, but the energy savings continue long after the project pays for itself.

Shade Your Windows


When the sun shines directly on a window it heats the glass and causes a rise in the temperature inside your home. You can cut your air conditioning costs and increase energy efficiency by shading the windows on the east, west, and south sides of your home. The best solution is to shade the windows from the outside by planting trees or installing awnings. Exterior shading lets you leave the windows uncovered from the inside so that you can take advantage of natural light. When exterior shade isn't an option, install blinds or heavy drapes to block radiant heat.

Seal Leaky Ductwork


Leaky ducts allow heated and cooled air to escape and let in outside air from your attic or crawl space. The result is that your system has to work harder to heat and cool your home. Begin by repairing loose joints with sheet-metal screws. Next, search for leaks by feeling along the ductwork while the system is running. Seal the leaks with latex-based mastic or aluminum tape. Cloth duct tape isn't a good choice for sealing ducts because it hardens and cracks and quickly loses its adhesion.

Insulate Your Pipes


Insulating your hot water pipes cuts down on the length of time you have to run water before it reaches the faucets. Use inexpensive foam insulation sleeves, available at any home improvement or hardware store, and secure them in place with duct tape. If you have an old hot water heater, wrap it in a layer of insulation known as a water heater blanket. Newer models generally don't need extra insulation.

Install a Ceiling Fan


Ceiling fans use a lot less energy than air conditioners, and the fan may be all you need when temperatures are mild. When temperatures soar, run the fan counterclockwise to supplement the air conditioning. You may find that the air circulation from a good ceiling fan will keep you comfortable with the thermostat set as high as 82 degrees. Ceiling fans make you feel cooler by circulating the air, but they don't actually lower the temperature in the room, so turn them off when you leave the room. Ceiling fans with the Energy Star label use 20% less energy than standard ceiling fans. Running an Energy Star fan costs no more than running a 100-Watt light bulb.

Install a Programmable Thermostat


Replacing manual thermostats with programmable units is a quick and easy way to improve the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling systems. Energy Star recently quit certifying programmable thermostats because the average household had higher energy bills after they installed them. The reason is that they weren't using them correctly. By programming temperature changes for at least 8 hours at a time and avoiding the use of the hold or override feature, you can save up to $180 on your energy bill each year. That's more than the cost of the average programmable thermostat. If you want to go high-tech, try the Nest thermostat which we love.
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