The concept of saving money by making energy efficient improvements to your home or business is nothing new, but what is new is the magnitude of money you can save, now that energy prices have spiraled upwards. Combine this increased capacity for energy savings with an increase in tax credits and grants provided by federal and state governments that can be applied to many energy saving home improvements and you have the perfect storm to motivate almost anyone to make energy efficient improvements.
WHERE DO YOU START?
Any plan for saving energy should always start with the simplest and most basic improvements. This is necessary to ensure your money is spent in the most productive way since the whole point is to save money and not to throw it away by spending more money than necessary for any energy saving home improvement.
For example, if you have it in mind to add solar panels to make power for your home, but have done little or nothing to first reduce your homes electrical needs, you will require a much larger solar power system and will spends an excessive amount of money to compensate for not having taken care of the little things first.
START WITH LOW COST METHODS TO STOP WASTING ENERGY
Duh, but hey, this first step is often missed, and is generally the least expensive and most rewarding step as compared to obtaining the highest ROI (Return on Investment) or how much you spend versus how much you save and how quickly you recover your costs.
Before I list any energy saving ideas, let's put things into perspective and create a clear motivation as to why the small steps are so important and can be so rewarding.
Let's say you were sizing a solar power system and wanted to know how large the system should be for your home. You need to take many things into account, but for this example, let's say we just wanted to look at your lighting needs.
Taking a quick walk through the home reveals there are 60 light bulbs in your home. In most cases only a portion of the lights are being used at any time, but to get the best example of your energy needs, we'll calculate that one-third or twenty bulbs would be used in all your rooms on a typical afternoon, for a total power requirement of 1600 watts.
Since the average solar panel has an output level of 170 watts, you would need nine panels to provide 100% coverage for your lighting. At a cost of about $450 per solar panel, your total cost would be $4050 — not including installation.
Now, if you first reduce your power needs by updating your lights from incandescent bulbs to CFL's (compact fluorescent lights), you will reduce the power needs of these twenty bulbs to one-third their previous level at a cost of $3 per bulb or a total of $60 dollars. Now that your lighting load has been reduced from 1600 watts to only 500 watts, you can now get by with three solar panels at $450 each for a total cost of $1350 plus installation.
As you can see, by spending $60 on simple CFL's, you will have saved over $2700 on your solar power system… and that's just one item, so let's take a bold and fresh look at why we should be motivated and thankful to experience the benefits of saving energy by not wasting energy.
As you read the list of energy saving ideas below, look past any initial expense or labor involved and see only that the benefits will always exceed the initial cost and effort. When looking at these improvements in that light, the expenses and tasks can become enjoyable, plus you can always remind yourself that in the process of saving energy, you are being very green by helping to improve the planets environment.
Also, if you wanted even more information on the rewards of making energy saving improvements, search for my book, The Rewards of Making Energy Efficient Choices or ISBN # 9781440124341 and you'll obtain an even clearer idea of how to best go about saving energy in the most practical way.
- Replace all incandescent bulbs with CFL's or LED's
- Replace conventional dryer vent with a dryer vent seal
- Replace bathroom exhaust wall switches with 30 to 60 minute timer switches
- Clean the coils in your refrigerators and freezers twice a year
- Install water saving shower heads
- Don't run your clothes dryer on very cold nights or on extremely hot and humid afternoons
- Replace computer power strips with Energy Saving Smart Power Strips
- Replace weather stripping on older doors and windows
- Caulk any cracks around windows, doors, siding, etc.
- Wrap your water heater and/or boiler with an insulation blanket
- Install programmable thermostats with winter settings no greater than 68 degrees and summer settings no less than 74 degrees
- Insulate hot water and heating pipes in your basement or any unconditioned space
- Replace filters twice annually in your forced air heating and air conditioning systems
- Turn off televisions when not being viewed
- Seal off unused windows and wall cavities in basements and attics
- In hotter climates, install curtains or shades on southern and western facing windows and close them during the afternoon until the sun sets
- In cooler climates, be sure to open southern and western facing shades or curtains during the day to allow the suns free energy in. Close them once the sun sets.
Most of these improvements cost less than $100 each to perform and yet they can provide significant savings throughout the year. Some of the suggestions cost absolutely nothing and simply require a change in habit. Overall, you can significantly reduce your energy use, significantly reduce your carbon footprint and enjoy a greener home and lifestyle by making these low cost energy saving changes.
If you don't know where to get your products or aren't sure exactly what to look for, simply search online for the ‘best energy saving products' and start there, but do start. Don't put it off a moment longer and just make it so. As I already demonstrated, you'll be happy you did.
After you have taken care of all the minor energy saving improvements, you can opt to move onto more aggressive and more expensive items such as increasing your homes level of insulation, replacing doors and windows, upgrading your heating and cooling system and more. Since these items can take much longer to recover their costs, it would be best to have an experienced weatherization inspection to determine your best options.