The Energy Efficient Home

By: Adam Coyle

Whether you are buying a new house or looking to save money on your current energy bills, it makes sense to assess your home's energy consumption. Energy efficiency not only helps you save money on your utility bills, it also helps the environment.

A well insulated house stays cooler in the summer as well as keeping its heat in winter. Insulation ratings are measured in 'R-values", which measures how well it resists the transfer of heat. The higher the R-value the better insulated your house will be. R-40 is recommended for attic insulation. Insulated basements, though often overlooked, can improve the comfort of your home - in these areas R-12 or greater is recommended. Also, seal all cracks and other air leaks. If you add up the total size of the hidden leaks in your home, it can be the equivalent of leaving a window open!

Single paned windows aren't very efficient at stopping heat transfer, which means that you may be paying for heat that is going right through your windows. Double and single paned windows are more efficient, as are coated windows. Can't afford new windows? Many home improvement and hardware stores offer do-it-your-self window seal kits that allow you to attach a second seal using a hair dryer. Also, make use of your curtains! Keeping them drawn on summer days while you are at work will keep the heat out.

Lighting accounts for five to ten per cent of your total energy use. This is an easy area to reduce your costs. The most obvious (but often overlooked) way to cut costs is to always turn off the light when you leave a room. Make use of the natural lighting available and choose lighter colors for your interiors. Use task lighting instead of general ceiling lights - by focusing your lights on the task at hand you can cut the energy output. Keep your lights clean - cut through dust and cut your costs. Most indoor light bulbs are incandescent, which are particularly inefficient. More than 90 per cent of the energy used by these bulbs is wasted on heat, not light (ever try to change a light bulb that's been on for a while?). By choosing compact fluorescent bulbs you can cut your lighting energy by up to two thirds. These bulbs also last up to eight times longer than regular light bulbs.

Appliances and home electronics use a lot of energy. A general rule is to keep them unplugged and turned off when not in use. Choose more energy efficient models when replacing older models.

Turn off your computer when you aren't using it. Not only do older computers use a lot of energy, the screen saver function can draw more energy than when the computer is in use. If you are planning to come back to the computer shortly, turn off the monitor.

Another area to consider is your water consumption. You can save money on your water heating costs by washing your clothes in cold or warm water instead of hot, using low flow showerheads, and only running the dishwasher or washing machine with a full load. Insulate your electric water heater and wrap the exposed hot water pipes to stop the loss of heat.

By taking a few steps to consider your home's energy consumption you can save money and become a greener family. by making a few small improvements you are well on your way to improving the comfort and resale value of your property.

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