It might sound like a ludicrous dream, but you don’t have to be actively frightened of your power bill. There are people–real people, not just celebrities and corporate executives–who just sort of… pay their bill. Then they get on with their day. Maybe they get a Jamba Juice. The day they paid their power bill. The hubris!
It’s going to get even weirder: that person could be you! That’s right, you could be the one driving home in that glorious California sunshine, slamming back a tasty banana-strawberry and thinking about how you pulled one over on the powers that be. The secret isn’t even selling your TV or getting a third job or something crazy like that. Instead, you’re going become a guru of home power efficiency. The master of your domain. You’d be surprised how much money a couple simple and easy-to-implement power-saving steps can save you. Smoothie money and then some. Consider this (non-exhaustive) list your first step towards power mastery–your efficiency bootcamp. Just remember us when you’re slurping down that fiber-boosted, delicious fruity treat.
Tune Up (or Upgrade) Your Heating and Cooling Systems
We’re starting with this one because it’s probably the single biggest way you can save money on power. About half the energy you use in your home goes towards heating and cooling. That means if your system is old, inefficient, or even just improperly sized for your home, you’ll end up using a lot more energy on it than you need to. Upgrading to an Energy Star-efficient HVAC, or even just having a professional perform routine maintenance on your existing heating and cooling systems, can save a lot of power and money quickly and for a long time.
Test and Seal Your Air Ducts
According to the California Energy Commission, almost every single home in California has leaky ducts. When ducts leak, warm or cool air produced by your HVAC system escapes through these leaks and consequently can’t be used to heat or cool your home. To compensate for this loss, your HVAC system has to work harder and produce more warm or cool air. That means it’s on longer, working harder, using more power, and costing you more money.
Most ducts in California leak up to 30 percent of the air that passes through. If you have a professional perform a pressure test on your duct system, you can find out if your ducts aren’t as efficient as they could be and take steps toward solving the problem. Making your ducts 30 percent more efficient will have a serious positive effect on your power bill, and it’ll improve the lifespan of your HVAC unit, too.
Insulate Your Attic
After testing and sealing your air ducts, the next best way you can prevent inefficient leaking is by adding to your attic’s insulation. Most attics, especially in California, don’t have as much insulation as they should. There are a number of reasons for this, but they’re mostly just short-sighted, cost-saving reasons. Like we all learned in middle school science class, heat rises. That includes warm air in your house, both naturally occurring and produced by your HVAC. If you don’t have enough insulation in your attic, that warm air can leak out. Again, this will force your HVAC to work harder and end up driving up your power bill.
We know what you’re thinking: this is California! I don’t usually want that much hot air in my house. Insulation isn’t only good for keeping warm air in, however; it also helps contain and circulate cool air produced by your air conditioning. Installing additional insulation and patching gaps in your current insulation will save you money on power all year long and make your home more comfortable. Energy.gov has a helpful guide on DIY methods for improving your home’s insulation if you want more info.
Find and Fix Drafts
There’s a pattern here: leaking air. The more air you lose, the harder your HVAC has to work to get your home to the temperature where you want it. Even small drafts around windows, doors, or even power and utility outlets can add up to a lot of wasted power and money.
Look for any worn-down or old weather stripping along your doors and windows and replace that first. Inadequate weather stripping is probably the number-one source of drafts. If your windows or doors are old themselves, consider replacing them or at least making doubly sure they’re keeping the elements out effectively. If any of your outlets are damaged, chipped, or old, replace them with new ones. Check for gaps around utility outlets and wall- or ceiling-mounted appliances such as fans and lights. You could even look for cracks in your walls, floor, or between corners, especially in the basement or attic. The more sealed-up your home, the more effectively your HVAC will be able to heat and cool it.
Insulate Your Pipes
Insulating your hot water pipes is an easy way to help out your water heater and reduce how much time and energy it takes to get hot water. The insulation will help keep pipes warm longer, which will in turn help water get hot and stay hot longer. Not only will this save power, it’ll also help your shower warm up faster. That’s a pretty cool win-win.
You shouldn’t have to insulate your entire hot water pipe line–that sounds difficult. Instead, insulate the first five feet or so. You can do this yourself with this helpful guide from energy.gov, or hire a professional to help you. Insulating your pipes is a simple, non-invasive way to increase water efficiency.
Use Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs)
Not all light bulbs are created equal. Some light bulbs consume a lot more energy than others. CFLs are Energy Star-approved light bulbs that consume 70 to 90 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, last 15 times longer, and even produce 70 percent less heat, so they’re easier to handle and help keep your home cool. Every CFL you install will save you approximately $80 over its lifetime, so it literally pays to install as many as you can.
Energy.gov and Energy Star are pretty darn serious about CFLs, so much so that they’ve put together a really helpful set of online resources for you. You can use this CFL guide to learn more about what CFLs are all about and which ones you should choose for each of your needs. When you’re done with that, you can also download a cost-saving guide to feel really good about your power efficiency prowess.
If you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way to saving some major smoothie change. In fact, you can measure how much you’ll save yourself. Start implementing these tips today, and compare your next power bill to your last one. We’re guessing you’ll start to rack up savings immediately! And the best part? We’re not even done! There are so many overlooked ways to save on power costs that we’ll be putting together an “Efficiency Boot Camp Part 2.” Stay tuned!
In the meantime, there are a lot of other great online resources you can consult for energy-saving tips, including this excellent efficiency checklist from the California Energy Commission. And remember, as always: if you’re looking for a professional to upgrade or fix up your plumbing, heating, cooling, or electrical, you can’t do better than Mike Diamond. We’re the best in the business, and we smell the best to boot!