We're officially done summer for another year, which means the colder months of winter are just around the corner. If you're thinking about getting your home remodeled in any way to improve energy efficiency or the aesthetic of your home, the beginning of fall is a perfect time as the weather is more agreeable for housing projects. Additionally, you can take preventative measures to ensure your home is ready for winter and save money in the process.
How Energy Costs Affect Your Family's Budget
There's no question that families in this country could benefit from lower energy bills. According to Energy.gov, the average household spends at least $2,200 a year its utility bills. As a whole, 22.5% of the United States' energy is used by households for heating, cooling, and other energy uses. Higher energy use not only affects a household's budget; it can affect the planet as a whole. Multiple studies in peer reviewed journals conclude that the great majority of scientists agree about man's negative impact on climate change.
If you have noticed that your energy costs went up this summer, there could be a number of reasons why this may be the case. First and foremost, you may want to look at whether or not there are leaks in your home. According to several EPA studies, infiltration can account for up to 40% of all heating and cooling loads. Infiltration – as opposed to exfiltration, which deals with indoor air escaping – occurs when outside air goes into a building or a home. One of the main causes for infiltration is wind, which can crack seals and damage siding panels. Leaks can also occur around your windows and doors.
What Can Households Do to Identify and Fix Air Leaks and Other Heating/Cooling Issues?
Check your windows and doors to see if they need weather-stripping. The National Wildlife Federation recommends lighting a candle and moving it around the perimeters of your windows and doors to see if the light flickers or goes out completely. If it does, it probably means you need to put new weather-stripping in.
Consider Air Sealing Your Attic. This is especially important if you're thinking about adding insulation to your attic. Signs of air leaks in your attic include drafty rooms, higher energy costs, and dust. While this can be a DIY project, if you haven't had experience air sealing before, you might want to enlist the help of a contractor.
Check Your Siding for Cracks, Damaged Panels, or General Wear and Tear: Vinyl siding is highly durable, but it can be damaged just like any other part of your home. You may want to also eventually replace the siding for aesthetic purposes. This could be an opportune time to look into insulated vinyl siding. According to VinylSiding.org, 25% of exterior walls are wall studs, which are not usually insulated. Insulated siding can help to improve coverage, creating better efficiency in your heating and cooling.
Replace any Older Windows: Did you know that replacing your old windows with energy efficient, EnergyStar-endorsed windows can reduce your overall household energy bill by 12%? There are a number of factors that will determine the exact percentage of energy reduction, including the type of window, the frame, and the glass used. Therefore, it might be a good idea to speak with a contractor beforehand to find the right energy efficient windows for your needs.
While there are certainly behavioral matters you can address, like keeping the lights off when they're not needed or programming the thermostat at a higher temperature to reduce energy use, these may be hard to adjust to, especially if you're busy with work, family commitments. By implementing structural solutions like the ones described above, you can improve your carbon footprint without even thinking about it. That is until you get your energy bill and see a number that is much friendlier to your household budget.