Did you know the typical American family spends almost $2,000 a year on home energy bills? According to the U.S. Energy Department, a lot of that money is wasted through air leaks, old appliances and inefficient heating and cooling systems. Whether it’s a simple hack like plugging unused outlets or a bigger project like adding stone veneer, these do-it-yourself projects can help increase your home’s energy efficiency, which reduces your carbon footprint and saves you significant money in the long run.
Manufactured faux stone panels or faux brick siding can add an extra layer of insulation to your home’s exterior along with greatly improving visual curb appeal. Unlike natural stone, it’s easy for DIYers to install GenStone stone veneer themselves. This weekend project can upgrade your home’s look while providing an additional R-value: for example, our stacked stone has an R-value of 3.65 (comparable to eight inches of concrete).
Determine if your windows are leaking with this simple test: on a windy day, light a stick of incense and hold it by the closed window perimeters. If the smoke is disturbed by a draft, mark that window for some extra attention.
Inspect the window from the outside and replace any cracked or missing caulk with acrylic latex caulk. Then add new weather stripping on the inside: you can buy kits with everything you need for approximately $75 a window. That may seem pricey but it’s estimated you’ll save $20 every year on heating bills with each properly insulated window.
Many people weatherstrip exterior doors but forget about the bottom seal where plenty of air can escape. If you have a draft under an exterior door consider installing a sweep seal. These metal strips with attached vinyl prevent air transfer, take minutes to install and only cost $10-20.
Feeling crafty? You can also make your own door draft blocker with fabric that enhances your home design. Find instructions here.
This one’s a no-brainer that anyone can do in minutes. Incandescent bulbs use considerably more energy than compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. ENERGY STAR estimates CFL’s use 70-90% less energy and can save you $30-80 in energy bills over the bulb’s lifetime. Read this extensive tutorial on picking the right CFL’s for different areas of your home to keep your lighting welcoming and efficient.
Is your heater more than 10 years old? Does the tank feel warm to the touch? If the answers are yes you should add an insulating blanket to prevent heat loss. Shop for a pre-cut blanket for your heater model that has an R-value of at least eight. Don’t forget to add foam sleeves or insulating tape around hot water lines while you’re down there. Follow these step-by-step instructions from the Energy Department to reduce annual water heating costs by up to 9%.
Even a well-insulated attic wastes energy if your hatch is essentially a hole in the ceiling sucking up treated air. Back a thin hatch cover with rigid foam insulation, then use foam tape around the edges to create a seal. If you have pull-down stairs consider an “attic tent” which is an insulated fabric product that blocks treated air leakage.
The Department of Energy states you can reduce heating and cooling needs by 30% just by properly insulating your attic. Adding additional batting or replacing old batting with low R-values can be a messy project but well worth the energy savings. This Old House provides an excellent tutorial video for the project.
Don’t want to go it alone? Spray foam insulation is a newer option that provides excellent protection, but requires professional installation.
Each outlet in your home allows a little treated air to escape into the walls. For just 10 cents apiece you can put precut foam gaskets behind each outlet to stop leaks. Simply fit the gasket over the opening and replace the cover. For outlets along exterior walls (especially ones you don’t use often) consider adding a child-safety plug to completely block air exchange.
Devices like phone chargers and flat screen TVs can suck energy even when not in use. If it has a charger, AC power adaptor or indicator light, it’s still using power even when it’s off. Consider grouping these items together on power strips. That way you can turn off the strip before bed or when you’ll be out of town for a few days to save energy and money. Cutting power to your DVD-VCR, stereo tuner, CD player and video game console can save up to $55 a year!
Why spend money to keep your home comfortable when no one is in it? Installing a programmable thermostat allows you to automatically adjust temperatures to minimize the amount of heating and cooling you need. For example, you can set the thermostat to go down from 70 to 62 during working hours in winter months. Or if you’re headed out on vacation you can reprogram it to keep the house at a low but safe temperature while you’re gone. Many products now allow you to control them remotely from your smartphone as well.