Wisconsin since 1998
Winter's coming. It's already heating season. So how do you save money on heating costs? You've got to own your heat. Simple as that. You've paid for all that warm air already, so it doesn't make much sense to waste it now.
A simple enough premise - it's the application that gets complicated. We (and most building science experts) strongly recommend air sealing and insulation as high priority measures to make your home use less energy, make you more comfortable, and make the planet happy.
One of the biggest energy guzzlers in your home (besides, most likely, your thermal envelope, which lets expensive conditioned air escape through air leaks and poorly insulated walls) is the refrigerator. Upgrading it, believe it or not, can save you a bundle of money in the long run, as long as you don't simply put your old fridge down in the basement and plug it back in. Now, before you balk at the high upfront cost of replacing your fridge, let us explain why we (admittedly, energy-efficiency/penny-pinching geeks) think it's a good idea:
On cold winter days, a ray of sun streaming into your house can be most welcome - a free source of heat. But what about in the summer, when those rays of sun and other, less-evident solar heat, seep into our already too-hot houses and become a costly nuisance? Well, what happens is that you lose money. But using landscaping (namely by planting trees) to shade your home can be a great way to lower energy costs.
At EnergyCircle we're repeatedly extolling the virtues of LED lighting. Eons more efficient than anything else on the market, it looks good, and is what everyone will be doing. There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding what's available right now, and rightly so. LEDs are on the cutting edge of lighting technology, and they're being improved every day. Just this week Philips announced that their Master LED Bulb, a good looking fixture available right now in parts
We're always on the lookout for clever, easy ways to make your home more comfortable, less drafty and more energy efficient. A chimney balloon is one of these.
Here's the scoop: a lot of homes have chimneys that are rarely used. Maybe you have a fire in the fireplace once in a while, but typically it's reserved for special occasions. The rest of the time the chimney, which is designed to effectively remove smoke and unsafe gases from your house, keeps removing air from your house, but it's not the unhealthy air that a fire creates -- it's the warm air inside your home that you're paying to heat with your home's central heating system.
Although now particularly well known for its harboring of vampire energy sources, the kitchen does in fact have some standby power sources lurking inconspicuously.
What got me going on making changes to my house was last year's oil prices. I had this terrible sense of insecurity when prices shot up, and I was dependent upon oil for heat. For me, homeland security is a big pile of wood in the back. I looked into the most likely culprits for heat loss, and had a professional energy audit done. Some of what I undertook to do after the audit was small. We learned that we had pretty useless fiberglass insulation in our roof and knee-walls. I hired my kids to pull it all out and stuff it in bags, and we had cellulose blown in. Most importantly, we found a place to have the used fiberglass recycled. They came and picked up the bags, for someone else to use, and I get a tax credit. The other fairly small thing I'm doing now is putting 2" foam sheets in my basement. But other stuff was huge. I had a masonry heater put in. (A masonry heater is a hyper-efficient wood-burning heat storage unit. It is by far the cleanest way to burn wood, because it burns so long - all day - and so hot. Even a small one is not only large, but also heavy. My basement had to be reinforced in order for the heater - and its enormous chimney - to be installed). I love it, but it's going to take a long time for that to pay for itself. And then, I decided to move to solar hot water. Here's the glitch: The first step is to convert from oil to electricity, which will eventually be provided by the solar panels. I got as far as buying the huge electric water heater, but ran out of cash before I could install the solar panels. Now I have a huge electric water heater, and oil prices are down. It's killing me.