Ways to Save Energy, Cut Your Bills

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Last week, we met with representatives from Green Mountain Energy, who asked to tour the net-zero energy home we built in Round Rock a few years back. Their company is the electrical provider for the home. They’re interested in helping their customers find ways to live more sustainably and reduce their energy costs at home, so they asked lots of questions about what motivated the homeowners to invest in energy-efficient features, in the geothermal heating/cooling system, and in solar photovoltaics. (Read about the Round Rock home.) We talked about the green building pyramid. We also talked about ways owners of older homes can reduce their energy bills and make their homes last longer. That’s what inspired this blog post – a short list of ways you can make your older home more energy-efficient and cut your bills.

Simple things you can do today

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  • Plug electronics into a power strip, then turn the strip off when not in use.
  • Set your computer to sleep or hibernate mode instead of using a screen saver so it uses less electricity during periods of inactivity.
  • Unplug battery chargers when the batteries are fully charged or the chargers aren’t in use. Many chargers draw power continuously, even when the device isn’t plugged into the charger/

Plug the leaks

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  • Check the web site at a big-box home retailer for tips on plugging leaks in your house. For example:
  • Leak-proof your electrical outlets with foam outlet insulator.
  • Caulk your windows inside and outside to stop leaks.
  • Add or replace old weather stripping around exterior doors. Add a metal door sweeps at the bottom, and rubber weather stripping around the top and sides.
  • Is there leakage around your attic pull-down stairs? Add weather stripping. Get a kit to add insulation on top of the attic door.

Lighting

  • Replace your five most-used light fixtures and/or bulbs with LED fixtures or bulbs. Check the labels: LED bulbs are more expensive, but they’re super-efficient and long-lasting, and many come with a warranty.
  • Replace old recessed can lights with the new LED fixtures.
  • Select light-colored or opaque lamp shades. Place lamps in corners so they reflect light from two walls.
  • Wash the windows to let in more light.

Cooling and heating

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  • Change your AC’s air filter on a regular basis to keep the system running at peak performance.
  • Give your AC system an annual tune-up.
  • Check your HVAC ducts for leaks and seal them.
  • Install a programmable thermostat.
  • Install attic insulation and seal any attic leaks.
  • In winter, set your thermostat to 68-70 degrees during the day, and 65-68 degrees at night.
  • In summer, set your thermostat at 78 degrees.
  • Install more ceiling fans. It cools you through a wind-chill effect against your skin. Be sure to turn the fan off when you leave the room. If you’re not there to feel the air movement, you’re just wasting energy running the fan.
  • Open interior doors so cooled air flows freely throughout your home.
  • Run vent fans in bath and kitchen to exhaust warm, damp air outside.
  • Don’t block air vents with drapes and furniture.

Appliances

  • Replace old appliances with newer, more efficient models, especially refrigerators, cooking appliances, laundry, and water heater.  Select replacements with the highest performance rating you can afford.
  • Set the timer on your dishwasher and run it during hours when electricity rates are lowest.
  • Run washer and dryer loads during off-peak hours, too.
  • Dust or vacuum the coils on your refrigerator on a regular basis.
  • Clean the dryer lint filter before every load to keep your dryer running efficiently.
  • Cook outside more during the hot summer months to avoid heating up the kitchen.
  • Pull the plug on that second refrigerator or freezer in the hot garage or utility room.

 Windows

  • Install drapes or blinds on unshaded windows.
  • Install solar window screens.
  • Plant trees to shade windows.
  • Install exterior awnings to shade the windows.
  • If it makes sense to replace your windows, choose high-performance windows designed for our hot humid climate.

 Roof

  • When it’s time to replace your roof, choose a reflective “cool roof.” This can keep your house cooler than traditional materials during peak summer months.

Check out local rebates and incentives

Austin Energy PowerSaver Program offers rebates and incentives to help offset the cost of making energy-efficiency improvements to your home.

Pedernales Electric Cooperative offers rebate incentives for installing energy-efficient systems.

Texas Gas Service offers rebates on residential heating and gas water heaters.