The water that falls on the roof of your house (in the form of rain or snow) may end up in your basement if your gutters and downspouts are not kept clean and maintained. Their main function is to move rain water and snow melt away from the house. Help them do their job and they’ll keep your basement and house dry.
Cooking generates a lot of moisture. If you have a kitchen exhaust fan that exhausts to the outside, make sure you use it when you cook. High humidity levels will result in condensation on your walls and windows and can lead to mold and rot issues. Make sure that your kitchen exhaust does not exhaust into your attic.
Trees can provide shade from the sun in the summer to keep your house cool and a wind break in the winter to help keep your house warm. It is good to plant deciduous trees on the south and west side which shade the house when they have leaves and allow sunlight through in the winter when they have shed their leaves. Planting coniferous (evergreen) trees on the north side can provide a good wind break in the winter.
Icicles may look festive on your house during the holiday season, but they can mean that ice dams are forming on your roof. This is a sign that your attic insulation may be insufficient and/or warm house air is leaking up into your attic through your bypasses. Ice dams can cause roof damage and allow water to leak down into your walls.
After a simple installation, your utility will be able to cycle your central air conditioning off for fifteen to twenty minute periods during times of high demand (average 10 – 15 days each year). Since your furnace fan stays on circulating your already-cooled air, you won’t even notice when it’s activated. You can save as much as 15% on your utility bills throughout the summer.
Surface runoff and melting snow is a major source of moisture in basements. Making sure that the grading of the soil next to your house is sloped away will help keep your basement dry.
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) come in a range of sizes, colors and applications, including: indoor floodlight, outdoor lighting, bathroom globe, chandelier base and a-line (a covered bulb approximately the same size and shape as an incandescent). They also come in dimmable and 3-way: you cannot use a regular CFL in those switches. Check the box to make sure you are installing your new bulb in the optimum position and always buy ENERGY STAR-rated bulbs for maximum savings.
You can save energy by using a space heater to warm a localized area instead of turning up your entire heating system. Turn down your thermostat and make sure to use a safe electric room heater with the following safety features: a turn-over switch that cuts the power if it falls over, a protective grille and sealed heating elements to prevent electric shock. Do not leave space heaters unattended.
If you turn off all the lights in your office, do you see dozens of little red eyes staring back at you? That's phantom load - the constant power draw caused when we leave electronics plugged in, even when they are "off." Unplug or use power strips to stop the leaks, especially for computers and their accessories - external hard drives, printers, scanners, etc. Just turn the power strip off for instant savings.
If your cell phone charger is plugged in, it's using electricity regardless if your cell phone is plugged in or not. Unplug electronics or turn off power strips to stop phantom load, the constant drain of electricity that you aren't actually using - but you're paying for!
To get the most out of your dishwasher's energy use, make sure that you're always running full loads. Skip the heated drying cycle and air dry to save a little more.
The easiest way to save on hot water in your kitchen is to install high-efficiency faucets. These use the same principal as high-efficiency showerheads: they cycle air in with your hot water to maintain pressure, but reduce your water and energy bills. Look for faucet aerators with a flow rate of 1.5 gallons per minute for best savings.
The average lifespan of a refrigerator is 13 years. If your fridge is a teenager, it's time to think about upgrading to a more efficient model. Modern ENERGY STAR-rated fridges use four times less energy than some older models. For extra savings, don't move your old fridge into the basement - have your delivery crew take it away to be recycled.
Use fans in place of air conditioning during milder weather. It's not effective to use a ceiling fan when you are not present in the room. Purchase an Energy Star qualified model.
Open in the winter and close in the summer to coptimize or reduce solar gains during the daytime.
High humidity levels in your house can result in condensation on your windows and walls. This can cause health issues due to mold and structural issues from rot. Typically, normal human activities such as cooking, bathing, and respiration are sufficient to maintain suitable moisture levels in your house. Generally humidifiers are not necessary unless there is a need for maintaining higher indoor humidity levels for medical reasons or musical instruments
In finished attics, installing sufficient wall and slant insulation will not only keep heat from leaking in the winter, but also help maintain cooler temperatures during the summer months.
Hot air rises, and unless you have sufficiently sealed the bypasses to your attic, you could end up with ice dams and water damage. Make sure to seal around any penetrations between heated and non-heated space, including chimneys, plumbing, electrical boxes and recessed lights.
This is the #1 action that all Minnesota homeowners should take to reduce heating costs and save money - make sure your attic has sufficient insulation! Code is R-49 or 14 inches of settled insulation.
If you have access to knee wall spaces in finished attics, installing code insulation (14 inches settled or R-49) makes a difference in preventing ice dams and maintaining comfort through all seasons.
Attic ductwork delivers heating into your house from the furnace and cooling in the summer from your air conditioner. If they are not sealed tight and insulated, they also condition your attic. This is not only a waste of money but in the case of causing ice dams, can also damage your house.
Finished or unfinished attic, make sure you seal tightly around your attic hatch to prevent heat loss. Use self-adhesive foam weatherstripping for an easy fix.
Programmable thermostats are a great, smart way to regulate the temperature in your house without having to pay a lot of time or attention to your settings. If you go to work during the day, there is no point in wasting money and energy to maintain a pleasant temperature for nonexistent residents. Lower your thermostat 5 degrees for 8 hours while you are away from home or sleeping in the winter and save.
Before you shell out for new windows, find out if simple reconditioning can help increase your comfort and cut down on heat loss. For the best air sealing, you will want to pull off the interior trim and use foam sealant between the framing and the jamb. Adding storm windows is an important reconditioning strategy with a shorter payback than new windows. You can also use temporary plastic wrap in the winter to reduce heat loss.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) have come a long way! Today’s CFLs offer excellent light output, a range of color choices and a variety of shapes and sizes to fit almost every fixture. Lighting accounts for up to 20% of your home’s energy use, so replacing old incandescent bulbs with new efficient CFLs can make a big difference. CFLs use 75% less energy and last seven to ten times longer than their incandescent counterparts. You can save up to $40 per bulb over their lifetime.
Leaving the damper open in your fireplace is just the same as leaving a window open; hot air just leaks out of your house, along with money you could be saving on your energy bill. Air lost through the fireplace can account for 19% of your heating bill, so remember to close the damper!
If you wanted light in a room, you wouldn't block a window with a bookshelf. If you want heat in a room you shouldn’t block the registers or radiators with dressers, bookshelves or other pieces of furniture. Keep your registers and radiators clear to stay comfortable during the heating season.
90% of the energy your washing machine uses is for heating the water, so if you use cold water to wash your clothes, it can make a huge difference. You will not only save money, but also make your clothes last longer and prevent color bleeding.
If your furnace is old enough to vote, it's time to get a replacement. The average lifespan of a forced-air furnace is 18 years, after which the efficiency goes down and your bills go up. When you look for a replacement, look for an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) of 92 or higher. Some rebates and tax credits require a unit with an AFUE of at least 95.
Keep your water heater set to 120 degrees for highest efficiency. Any higher than 120 degrees and your water heater will leak energy and money all day and all night. Safety is also an issue – it takes more than five minutes of exposure for 120 degree water to produce 2nd and 3rd degree burns on adult skin, but only 30 seconds at 130 degrees.
If your gas-powered appliances aren't operating at maximum efficiency or venting properly, this can cause dangerous carbon monoxide to backdraft into your basement and house. Get your gas boiler or forced-air furnace tuned once a year in the fall to make sure everything is functioning correctly.
The expansion tank on your hot water boiler allows water in the system to expand when it is heated and prevents the system from becoming over pressurized. If the expansion tank does not have enough air to allow for proper expansion, it will need to be recharged.
If your boiler is old enough to vote, it’s time to think about retiring it. ENERGY STAR recommends installing boilers with an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) of 85% or higher. The good news? With tax credits, stimulus money and utility rebates, it's more affordable than ever to upgrade.
Basements are prone to have high moisture levels and can contribute to mold problems. Dehumidifiers are a good way to maintain low humidity levels in the Summer and Fall. Dehumidifers should not be run when the room temperature is under 65°F since they do not work well at lower temperatures.
Replace old incandescents with bathroom globe compact fluorescent light bulbs for a soft, flattering light and a lower electricity bill.
Replace your faucet aerators with high-efficiency aerators to reduce your hot water bills - they cycle air in with the water to maintain pressure but reduce your hot water use. Look for aerators that have a rated flow rate of 1.5 gallons per minute or less.
To cut down on escalating costs of phantom load, make sure to unplug electronics in your bathroom when you are done with them. This includes water pics, electric toothbrushes, hair dryers and hot curlers.
Compact flourescent light bulbs (CFLs) come in a range of shapes, sizes and colors appropriate for nearly all household applications. They use 75% less electricity than incandescents and last 7-10 times longer.
Install a showerhead with a 1.5 gallon per minute flow rate to reduce your water and energy bills. High efficiency showerheads cycle air in with the water, so you'll maintain good pressure - you can still get the shampoo out of your hair! - and cut down on water waste.
While replacing your windows comes with a long payback period, there are benefits. Newer windows can cut down on air leaks, provide higher thermal resistance and have better curb appeal. The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) provides labels for all windows with information about the U-factor (thermal trasmittance), solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) and air leakage. In Minnesota, the most important consideration is U-factor: aim for at least a U-factor of .40, but lower is better. Look for double-paned, low-e coated windows with a gas spacer (often argon).
CFLs use a quarter of the energy of an incandescent bulb and last 7 to 10 times longer. CFLs come in a range of colors, shapes and sizes for all applications.
You can use a window air conditioner in place of whole house air conditioning to cool only one room. This is particularly smart at night when you don't necessarily need to cool your entire house! Make sure you purchase a properly sized Energy Star-qualified model and seal around the window to reduce air leakage.
Baths and showers are a major souce of moisture in your house. High house moisture levels can lead to mold and rot issues. To avoid any issues, make sure to turn on your bath exhaust fan whenever you bathe and leave it on for a half an hour afterwards. Make sure that your bathroom exhaust does not exhaust into your attic.
The average American household has 30-40 electronic devices plugged in at all times. These electronics left plugged in can cost you even when they're not on - and your entertainment center can be a big culprit. Make sure to use powerstrips with your television, DVD/VCR, speakers and any video game consoles to cut down on electricity waste.
If you don't have sufficient insulation in your walls, adding more can be one of the smartest improvements to make in your home. Insulating walls will make your home much more comfortable and you can expect energy savings to pay for the investment in 5 to 10 years.
Notice air leaks at your outside doors? While these leaks don't add up to a major amount of your home's air leakage, they are definitely a comfort issue. Low-cost measures like weather-stripping and door sweeps are effective DIY projects and a great way to reduce drafts and improve comfort.
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