I was flattered when I was contacted by my town government offices last month, inviting me to come to a special awards ceremony where I would be honored for my work in making my home more energy efficient! Hooray- go me! And all of my awesome efforts!
Except… I really didn't do much of anything to earn their admiration. You see- last spring we needed to buy a new furnace for our house because the one we had was apparently on its last leg (why the home inspector didn't figure that out before we closed on our home is another matter). And part of the way we scored the best possible price on our new furnace was to apply to the New York State's Home Energy Audit program to see if we qualified for a rebate on our purchase price because the new furnace would be more energy efficient than our old one. As part of the program we had a full home energy assessment done on our house where we received all kinds of information on changes that we could make- both large and small that would reduce the amount of energy we use. And therefore- save us money. Win-Win!
Being energy efficient (using less energy) is smart because not only does it save money, it saves time, and because you are more comfortable, it also improves your quality of life. The other cool thing is that it puts less strain on your local power grid and less strain on other natural resources (like water), and it also reduces emissions which we all know can harm the environment.
We learned quite a few things, and we made some changes (mostly small ones), and yes, we received the 10% rebate on the price of the new furnace too. So allow me to share with you, my new-found knowledge- as an award-winning homeowner (!) on some Easy Ways to Save Money While Keeping Your Home Warm and Cozy This Winter!
1. Set Those Thermostats Low!
According to the US Department of Energy:
You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68°F while you're awake and setting it lower while you're asleep or away from home. By turning your thermostat back 10° to 15° for 8 hours, you can save 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill — a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long.
While that sounds great… we take it a bit further in our house. We set our daytime temperature to be 62 degrees throughout the house, and turn it down to 60 degrees at night. I know how crazy that sounds… but here's the deal. With digital programmable thermostats- it is so simple to walk into a room and turn the temperature up to 65 or 68 or whatever you find to be comfortable. It doesn't take too long to heat up the room, and I just think it's smarter to do that when you are using the room than to assume that you will use that room at the same time very single day. And since the thermostat is pre-programmed to return to the lower temperature at a set time- you don't have to worry about remembering to turn it back down.
2. Don't Heat Up A Whole Section of House When Just One Little Are Will Do!
In the morning, the one room I want to be warm and toasty is the kitchen- because that's where I am hanging out with the kids. And during the day while the kids are at school, 95% of the time, I am working at my desk at a small space tucked away in a corner.
So instead of heating up the entire room (or rooms since our thermostats each cover multiple rooms), I use small electric space heaters that heat up the area where I am siting quite nicely. We have a small countertop model in the kitchen and this larger floor model next to my desk.
3. You Got Firewood? Use It!
With so many hurricanes and wind storms over the past few years, the previous homeowner had many trees taken down and the wood split and stacked into firewood. And we were lucky in that she left it all behind for us to keep! So instead of cranking up the thermostats, we build a roaring fire in this wood burning stove. There is an electric fan installed one one side of the stove that blows the warm air into the room, and since heat rises- a fire here also warms the upper floors of our home.
4. Cover Up Those Air Conditioners and Attic Fans!
Several of the bedrooms have thru-the-wall air conditioners, and last year we had no coverings for them. The home energy auditor pointed out that these were acting just like “big holes in the wall” that were allowing the warm air to escape. He recommended purchasing foam board from the hardware store and building covers for them- which my husband did this year.
We also have an attic fan in the loft bedroom that is a source of heat loss, and he plans to build a cover for that area this weekend.
5. Do What You Can Do…. and Then Move On….
Of course there were plenty of other things we could do. Like cover this wall of windows with drapes to contain the heat in the room. (Noooooo… I love this view and I absolutely don't want to cover it up!). And we could remove some of the siding from the house and hire someone to blow foam insulation into our walls. And we could replace some of our older less-efficent windows throughout the house. But these projects would cost us thousands of dollars- and when we looked at the payback rate for these projects- it would take more than 10 years to realize enough savings to pay for the work to make the improvement. And since we are pretty much in full-on college savings mode for our kids, these are things that we don't plan to do.
Which is why… when it comes to energy savings, just like anything else…. you do what you can do, and then you just move on!
But first, here are a few resources from PG&E that you can use to help you figure out what you can do:
- Here are some cold weather and everyday savings tips.
- Plan your next project by focusing on a specific area of your house with this Money Saver Tool .
- Do your research and plan ahead when shopping for appliances. Check out this rebate catalog.
- Here's info on the refrigerator recycling rebate program.
- Here are some additional energy tips
- Got an electric car? Here's some deets on plug-in electric vehicles.
You Can Win!
PG&E is hosting the #PGEhome Instagram Photo Challenge Contest November 17-23 for a chance to win a $100 gift card to power your next energy efficiency project! So post a pic of one of your home efficiency projects!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.