One of the best, and perhaps easiest ways to lower your air conditioning and heating bills is to ensure proper insulation.
Insulation works by creating a protective layer between the climate controlled areas inside your home and the outdoors. It saves money while keeping you comfortable. Insulation methods depend on your house construction and the climate you live in. To ensure energy efficiency, insulation must be addressed from the roof to the foundation preferably at the time of construction.
Even if your home is old there is no need to freeze in winter or fry in summer – so long as you have adequate insulation you can stay comfortable the year around. Proper insulation can slice your energy bills in half.
How much you actually save will depend on where you live, the type of heating and cooling system you use and the type of insulation you add.
That’s great advice. But what if you’re on a tight budget and want some quick Do It Yourself tips that are inexpensive and can give you substantial savings? That’s what this post is all about.
First, the d’uh tips: after all, small changes, big results! A quick checklist that will take you less than half an hour to act on:
- Close the doors and windows when your heater or air conditioning is on. In fact, you should air seal your home to really cut down on cooling and heating costs.
- To save up to 10 per cent a year on your energy bills, turn your thermostat back from its normal setting by 7-10 degrees for about eight hours a day.
- Adjust your water heater temperature. If it is set too high, it is money down the drain. Adjusting it and setting it to just 10ºF less can save you cash. In fact, invest in a programmer so that the hot water and heating come on only when you need it.
- Using curtains? Draw them shut at night so that the heat does not escape through the windows. Check your doors to ensure there is no draft.
Did you know that a chunk of your annual energy bill is shared by air that leaks from cracks in various places you wouldn’t even have dreamed of? Where are these places?
- Recessed lighting looks pleasing. But their vents, which usually open into the attic, allow air to escape. Now, if you have several of these, you’re letting a lot of heated and cooled air go waste. Check for these and seal the space around the housing.
- Your flues and chimneys – while building codes mandate that wood framing and metal flues must be at least an inch apart, this can mean gaps that allow air. Sealing these saves on energy bills.
- If you have pull down attic stairs to access your attic, the barely visible gap around it can waste a lot of air. Seal the space between the stair frame and rough opening using caulk or install foam weather stripping around the hatch opening. Alternately you can invest $150 in a pre-insulated hatch cover kit.
- Check the gaps around the plumbing pipes and vents and plug them with low expansion polyurethane foam.
- Use caulk for the smaller gaps that can let in air, such as around electrical boxes.
- What about your basement? The foundation all above the outside soil level can allow air in. Seal it with caulk for small gaps.
- Next, the doors and windows. Weather stripping on the windows and doors can prevent air leaks as these are the sneaky entryways for the maximum air drafts. See cracks in the window sashes? Get rope caulk and work it into the gaps to seal them. Check and replace the weatherstripping around the frames. If yours have worn off, you have three options that you can get from your local hardware store:
- Adhesive backed foam tape
- V shaped weather stripping
- Rubber or vinyl gaskets
I recommend the rubber or vinyl gaskets as they have more staying power than the peel and stick variety. If you are using the peel and stick, make sure the surface is clean and dry. The old stripping must be removed completely before fixing the new one. Whichever type of stripping you choose, read the instructions and measure twice before you cut the material.
- Caulk for gaps that are ¼ inch or less
- Spray foam for wider gaps
- High temperature caulk around hot vent pipes in the furnace and water heater
- Foam for wider holes around wires pipes and ducts from the basement to the outside.
- When you work in the attic, choose a cool day and don’t forget to wear protective gear.
And there you have it – easy ways to fix your insulation to lower your heating and cooling bills.