| Energy Efficient: Make Your Home Energy-Efficient... |
by Kathy Scott
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend an average of $1400 a year on energy bills, 45 percent of that comes from the heating and cooling of their home. Increasing the efficiency of your heating and cooling appliances can substantially reduce your annual costs up to 30 percent per year. Even more importantly, making your home energy-efficient helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improves the quality of our air.
More than a decade ago, the EPA launched the Energy Star program, voluntary labeling designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products. Today, more than a thousand companies and organizations have partnered with the federal government labeling energy-efficient appliances, office equipment, home electronics and more. Since that time, Americans have purchased more than one billion products with the Energy Star label.
If you're building a home or in the market for new appliances, make sure the product you purchase has the Energy Star logo on it. For those not currently in the market for new heating and cooling appliances, there are still many ways to improve your home's energy-efficiency.
First, have your heating and cooling equipment serviced annually and change your air filters monthly. A dirty filter can stall the circulating air flow, requiring more energy to cool or heat your home. Air escaping through doors and windows can make a room feel colder or warmer in the winter and summer months respectively and requires your system to work overtime as well. Weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows is an inexpensive way to keep air from leaking and disallows the outside air to filter in, which is a major cause of room variations, and a great way to reduce your energy bills. Insulating ceilings is another cost-effective solution, reducing heat loss and gains and providing a more even temperature distribution around the home.
The EPA and the Department of Energy also advises that homeowners consider replacing their thermostat with a programmable model that can store as many as four or more temperature settings daily, adjusting the temperature lower or higher while the home is empty.
Other products in your home can also drain energy, though none as much as your heating and cooling system - water heater (11%), washer and dryer (10%), lighting (7%), refrigerator (6%), dishwasher (2%), television/VCR/DVD (2%), computer and monitor (2%), and others include various household products such as stoves, ovens, microwaves and small appliances (15%). Use Energy Star backed products when purchasing or replacing these items. While taken individually, the change in your energy costs may be limited, the EPA claims that if "half of all American homes replace one standard television with an Energy Star model, the change would be equal to shutting down a power plant."
The home mortgage industry is now starting to take notice of energy-efficient homes as well. Since the cost of utilities can often be one of the homeowner's highest monthly costs, borrowers may qualify for higher loans if their home meets or exceeds the requirements of an energy-efficient home. To learn more about lowering your home energy costs, visit www.EnergyStar.org. The site offers unbiased information for hiring contractors, energy auditors and more, and provides useful quizzes for consumers to determine their energy needs and how to avoid repair nightmares.