Making your home healthier doesn’t have to hurt your bank balance. In fact, a healthy home can actually be far more energy-efficient than an unhealthy one. But you have to be careful – some energy-efficiency tips can inadvertently make your home less healthy!
According to Joe Medosch, Healthy Building Scientist at Hayward Score, “Most people know to turn off lights and to adjust the thermostat to improve energy efficiency, but find themselves stumped at what to do next.”
His advice? “Start with the easy and inexpensive fixes like swapping light bulbs, caulking or weather stripping leaky areas, or installing occupancy sensors or timmers and make a longer-term plan to replace equipment and fix more serious issues.”
Here are a few of Joe’s favorite DIY ideas for where to look in your home for ways to reduce your energy bill and improve the health of your home in the process:
- Find and seal the easy to reach air leaks. The weather-stripping around your doors can cause significant air leakage, and provide a path for outdoor contaminants and pests. Deteriorated weatherstripping at one door can equal an opening the size of a soft-baseball (4in). Windows are the leakiest installation in your home and also have weather-striping around the windows that causes problems. An interior garage door with poor weather-stripping can allow carbon monoxide and other chemicals into your home. Here’s a simple how-to video on how to find and remove common air leaks.
- Swap your bulbs. Lower wattage LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs can use 75% less energy than standard bulbs. Most LED bulbs can pay for themselves in about 12-14 months. CFL (compact fluorescent) bulbs can save slightly more, but they do contain mercury. The next improvement in reducing kilowatts is to install dimmer switches and motion sensors to reduce usage. Remember to check if your LED or CFL bulbs work with dimmers.
- Hunt for energy drains. Small appliances can use major amounts of energy when not being used. This is referred to as “phantom loads” – devices that are constantly using energy, like that old VCR or DVD player. That old second refrigerator (however nostalgic) in the garage could be major energy hog, especially if its 15 years or older. A Kill-A-Watt Electric Usage Monitor (about $20) can give you details on energy use and show you how much extra you’re spending.
- Check out the insulation. Ensure that insulation thickness meets current recommendations and is present in all the places it is supposed to be, including the attic and the basement. The attic hatch is commonly not insulated or air sealed. Adding weatherstriping around the hatch can reduce the air leakage from the attic, which is typically open to the outdoor temperatures from the attic ventilation. (Consult a professional for this.) Installing an insulating cover on the water heater and insulation on the hot water pipes will also provide an improvement on the second-largest energy-using device in your house.
- Have a professional evaluate your heating and cooling equipment. Furnaces and air conditioners should be professionally maintained with clean filters and ducts. Units more than 15 years old should be replaced with more energy efficient sealed combustion models.
- If you choose to have a professional energy audit done, here are a few tips to make sure you get accurate results that you can use:
- Find a professional who is BPI certified, licensed, insured, and can provide verifiable references.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure there aren’t any complaints outstanding.
- Prepare for your appointment by having 12-months of energy usage records available for the auditor as well as a list of specific areas of your home that are of concern.
- Whether you’ve hired a professional or done it yourself, your home energy audit will produce a list of opportunities for energy use improvement. Start with the easy and inexpensive fixes like swapping light bulbs, caulking or weather stripping leaky areas, or installing dimmer switches and make a longer-term plan to replace equipment and fix more serious issues. Any changes, small or large, will make a difference to your carbon footprint, your energy bill and your health.
Hayward Score can help you discover what may be going on in your home in minutes! Simply answer a quick set of questions about your home developed by our healthy home experts, then get a personalized list of action items designed to help you address issues in your home. Start transforming your home today! Get your Hayward Score now.
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