Baby, its Cold Outside! Top 10 DIY Energy Efficiency Improvements

Muhlenberg Greene Architects committed to environmentally friendly measures in our building design years ago, and we continue to take strides towards efficiency.  Since we have taken these measures in our building designs, as well as our office and personal lives, we thought we could share some of the easiest measures to implement in your own home.

Since heating accounts for more than 30% of your home’s energy bill, we are addressing heating efficiency first.  With the below freezing temperatures in our area, many people are spending much more on their heating bill this month.  You may be considering a more efficient heating system, or replacement windows, but there are other things you can do first, and many you can tackle yourself.

These are our top 10 recommendations to improve the energy efficiency in your own home, and you can implement some of these today!

  1. Lower your heat:  It seems obvious, but turning down your thermostat, even one degree will save you 2% on your heating bill.  In addition, you can easily save as much as 20% with a programmable thermostat, which lets you lower the temperature at night and when no one is home.
  2. A tightly sealed home keeps the heated air inside.  Weather-stripping doors and caulking windows is an inexpensive way to quickly seal openings.  You may not feel like standing out on your ladder today, but another quick solution is to cover your windows in plastic for the heating season.  In older homes, storm doors and windows are almost as efficient as replacement windows, and you can retain more of the original character of your home.  Remember to switch your screens over to storm windows in the winter, to provide extra insulating value.
  3. If you have a forced air system, sealing and insulating your ducts can reduce heating costs by up to 20%.  Start in the basement, attic and crawl spaces, where ducts are more accessible, and where heating these unoccupied spaces would not be desirable.  Make sure that the connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet the floors, walls, and ceiling.  Make sure all air registers and floor vents are clear of furniture so that air can circulate freely.
  4. Having your system inspected and serviced each year in the spring will improve its efficiency and extend its life.  The longer you put off this service, the less efficient your system becomes.  In addition, check your air filter monthly, especially during heavy-use months.  A dirty filter will make your system work harder.
  5. Lower your hot water heater temperature to 120º F and install low flow faucets and shower heads.  If you have an older hot water heater, without built-in insulation, buy a jacket or blanket for the heater.
  6. Make sure your walls and attic are properly insulated.  In addition, electrical outlets on exterior walls will let in the cold air.  Remove your outlet and light switch covers, after turning off the electric, and install special insulation inserts underneath the covers.  Use special insulating plugs in outlets that are not being used.
  7. One of the easiest (and cheapest!) ways to gain and retain heat in your home is to keep your curtains open during the day, while it is sunny, and close them in the evening to reduce drafts.
  8. Using a ceiling fan in the winter can make your home feel more comfortable, simply by reversing the rotation of the fan to clockwise.  This will push the warm air down to your living space.
  9. If you have a fireplace, you may be losing heat through the chimney.  Make sure you damper is completely closed.
  10. Energy Audits:  Call your utility company to see if they offer free or discounted energy audits.  An audit could save 5-30% on your energy bills if you implement some of the recommended measures.  In addition, they may install some small energy-saving measures free-of-charge.

thermal imaging

After you begin taking these simple steps toward efficiency in your own home, we think the most logical step is enlisting a professional to do an energy audit.  Auditors use specialized equipment, such as infrared cameras, to determine areas you are losing heat.  They will do a room-by-room assessment for efficiency, as well as recommend safety measures you can take.  More on this in our post next week!

 What efficiency measures have you taken in your own home? Have you seen a pay-off?  Did you make these changes in order to be more environmentally conscious, or to save money, (or both)?






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  1. […] began our do-it-yourself series on energy efficient heating improvements, with our post on the Top 10 Energy Efficiency Improvements you can employ in your own home.  Today, we will continue discussing Energy Assessments, which […]

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