Most people realize it costs less in the long run to maintain an energy-efficient home.
But you don’t have to drain your bank account all at once to turn your home “green.” Making the right changes to your home can mean less energy use, which means you’ll save money over time.
First, assess your home and determine how to make it more energy efficient. Jackson-based Consumers Energy’s website,www.consumersenergy.com, includes the Home Energy Analyzer, which evaluates your energy bill and usage and gives you tips on how to save.
“We try to inform consumers the best we can and find them ways to save extra money in places that will ultimately benefit them and their home,” spokesman Terry DeDoes says.
Another resource is an in-home estimate. Dr. Energy Saver, a sister company of Ayers Basement Systems that operates out of Lansing, will inspect your home at no charge and help you determine how to make it more energy efficient.
The nationwide enterprise uses infrared guns to pinpoint heat leakage, blower doors to test airtightness, and dust and gas testers to create an in-depth analysis of the home and map a one- to five-year energy-efficiency plan for consumers.
“We utilize 10 different categories or areas of the home, and we actually put it on a report card for the customer, so they know whether (their home is) getting an ‘A’ or an ‘F,’ ” says George Clark, general manager of the Lansing branch.
Once you determine how you can save energy, follow through with some do-it-yourself projects and work toward your long-term goals.
Clark says a big misconception is that windows and insulation will save people the most money the quickest. Rather, these fixes are the most expensive and should be considered as part of a long-term plan.
Instead, start by buying compact fluorescent lamp lightbulbs. Each CFL lightbulb saves users almost $30 during the life of the bulb, according to Consumers Energy, which has teamed up with area retailers such as Sam’s Club, Home Depot and the two Jackson Meijer stores to offer the bulbs at a reduced cost.
Lower your heating cost by turning down the thermostat, DeDoes says. That can save people “1 to 3 percent for every degree it’s dialed down,” he says, and changing or cleaning furnace filters regularly helps a furnace breathe more efficiently.
“You may want to also check your registers and make sure you’re keeping drapes and that sort of stuff away from the registers, so that the heat is coming into the room,” DeDoes says. “Make sure your furniture and drapes aren’t blocking them.”
Other tips include opening curtains and drapes when the sun is out, and painting rooms with lighter colors to increase the light that bounces off the walls.
Plan for long term
What was once high-priced and limited, appliances marked with the Energy Star label, which meets strict efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, are now more affordable and available.
“Five years ago, (Energy Star appliances) might have been two or two-and-a-half times the price of a traditional (appliance), but today it’s 15 to 20 percent. And the payback is typically one to two years,” Clark says.
An Energy Star washer, for example, can save you more than $135 per year. An Energy Star refrigerator can save you between $100 to $200 per year. There are rebates available for many energy-efficient products. Through March 31, Consumers Energy is offering $10 to $50 rebates on certain washers, air conditioners, thermostats and more.
Aside from purchasing energy-efficient appliances, you’ll save a large sum by sealing and insulating your home by targeting its outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors and floors. A homeowner can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs by sealing and insulating, according to Energy Star.
“Ceiling duct work, insulating and sealing the rim joist around the house, and sealing the house penetrations are probably three of the top things one can do,” Clark says.
Aside from insulation and sealing overhauls, the larger, longer-life appliances need to be considered when evaluating the energy-efficiency future of a home.
“Water heaters, furnaces, HRPs, which are Heat Ventilation Regulators that control the fresh air supply coming in and pre-conditioning of the air, is another category of items people want to look at,” Clark says.
An Energy Star water heater can help save more than $100 per year. That’s a $1,000 savings for the expected life of the water heater, according to Energy Star. And an Energy Star furnace is 15 percent more efficient than a standard model. When large items such as these burn out, consider buying one with the Energy Star label.
As published in the Jackson Citizen Patriot