Slash Your Energy Costs

Everyone wants to feel comfortable in their own home. After all, it’s not too much to ask to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. But if the reality of skyrocketing energy costs has you reeling, here’s a little helpful advice.

First, think about adjusting your “comfort zone.” The typical household keeps the thermostat set at 72 degrees in the summertime. Yet for every degree you raise the temperature, it saves you about 3 percent on the cooling portion of your energy bill. Setting your thermostat to 78 degrees, for example, will save you 18 percent. For a family spending $150 a month on cooling bills, that’s a monthly savings of $27 in just that area alone.

Likewise, keeping your winter thermostat between 68 and 72 degrees won’t save you quite as much as cutting back on air conditioning in the summer, but it may save you from seeing a huge boost in your monthly heating bill.

Aside from compromising on your “comfort zone,” there are other effective, yet inexpensive measures you can take to minimize your energy costs.

One simple and inexpensive way to conserve energy is to make sure your windows are adequately caulked and “draft” ways, such as your attic, are properly insulated. You’d be amazed at how much energy your home loses through those areas. Operating your washing machine and dishwasher add up too. Running a dishwasher every day costs you about $11 per month, and doing 20 loads of laundry per month costs between $10 and $16, depending on whether you use gas or electric appliances.

Using your gas oven or range just an hour per day costs about $3 per month. And leaving your computer and color monitor on 10 hours a day costs about $5 a month. Running your 27 inch TV four hours a day will cost about $2 a month.

Watching the energy efficiency of your kitchen appliances also makes sense.  It takes twice as much energy to operate a pre-1992 frost-free refrigerator than a post-1992 model.  In fact, anyone who knows about “SEERs” (seasonal energy-efficiency ratios) knows you can save money buying cheap appliances, but you pay much more when operating them.Your Roof. Climb up and look for damage. Flat roofs frequently show soft spots, or areas where there may be ponding - signs of potential leaks. Pitched roofs should be inspected for roof tiles and seams. If you see a crack or problem, fix it immediately.

Your Mechanical System. Mechanical systems include your heating and air conditioning systems. Heating systems should be checked for deadly cracks and leaks, and air conditioning systems should have filters changed and checked for their efficiency. These small inspections will save you money, and quite possibly your life.

Exterior Paint And Fascia. Wood exterior needs frequent inspection and maintenance. Small lapses can be costly. Inspect the exterior of your home for signs of wear, and stay on top of any required maintenance.

Safety Systems. Check your smoke detectors and replace the batteries every six months. After all, the time you need them most is not the time you want to learn they failed because of something so simple as a battery. Also, make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector in or near every bedroom. It could save your life if there is a gas or heater leak.

Working with your energy companies can help too.  Many electric companies offer a fixed monthly plan, so you can even out the highs and lows throughout seasons.  You also can sign-up for a “time of use” program, which varies your electric rate based on what time of day you use power.

Here’s a quick review of Eight Simple Steps you can take to save a bundle on your energy bills.

1.   Raise your thermostat setting in the summer to 78 degrees; lower it to 68 in the winter.

2.   In hot weather, close curtains that face east or west to keep the sun from raising the indoor temperature.  On cold but sunny days, throw those drapes open.

3.   Make sure your fireplace flue is closed, the windows are adequately caulked, and the weather stripping around doors is in good condition.

4.   Turn off your furnace pilot light during non-heating season.

5.   Don’t scrimp on the SEER rating of your appliances.  Make sure you buy energy-efficient appliances with high SEER ratings.

6.   Set your water heater thermostat to 120 degrees, or 140 if you have a dishwasher.

7.   Replace incandescent lights with energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.

8.   If you have a pool, shorten the operating time of the filter and auto-cleaner, lower the heat and keep the pool covered when not in use.

In many areas, you can contact your local electric, gas and/or oil companies to get a “home audit” where they’ll evaluate your home’s energy efficiency and give specific recommendations on how to minimize your energy costs.

Give us a call to discuss this or other Real Estate matters at 773.395.9999 any time.

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