DIY Home Energy Saving Tips for Under $20

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Colorado utility, Black Hills Energy,  is providing smart, cost-effective fixes – many costing less than $20 – for their customers to overcome five common sources of energy waste in cold weather months.

“Nearly half of all energy use during the colder weather months is dedicated to heating homes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Jill Linck, Energy Services Division for Black Hills Energy. “We’re no strangers to frigid temperatures in Colorado, so we want to arm our customers with simple ways to increase heating efficiency in their homes, as well as to check other, less obvious sources of energy waste, including appliance use.”

We thought that these tips would be of interest to everyone, not just residents of Colorado, so here they are:

  • Air leakage: Air leakage occurs when cold outside air enters and warm air escapes through cracks and openings, increasing the cost of keeping a home at a consistently comfortable temperature. Feel for leaks by floating your hand around the perimeters of doors and windows, electrical outlets, and even cable and telephone line entry points, then seal any problem spots using caulk and a $5 caulking gun. Adding weatherstripping to doors and windows is another low-cost way to keep the winter chill out and the warm air in.
  • Dirty air filters: Dirty furnace air filters can clog and cause higher resistance of air flow, particularly during high-usage months, resulting in more energy consumed. Diligent cleaning of air filters each month for about $20 with filter spray and oil, and replacing them about every three months keeps warm, clean air flowing in throughout a home.
  • Kitchen culprits: It’s hard to resist opening the oven door to check on baking cookies or a Thanksgiving turkey, but did you know the temperature inside an oven drops 25 degrees every time the door is opened while in use? This increases cook time and wastes energy. Instead, turn on the oven light for a peek inside. When using the stovetop, use the right-sized pot or pan for each burner – for example, a six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner wastes 40 percent of the burner’s energy.
  • Duct leaks from the furnace to the vent: HVAC ducts that leak conditioned air into unheated spaces can add hundreds of dollars a year to heating and cooling bills. Sealing seams with duct mastic means a furnace doesn’t have to work overtime to keep your family cozy. Duct mastic is available for under $15 per gallon, and can be applied with an inexpensive paint brush.
  • Thermostat control: Adjusting a thermostat down 5 degrees to 10 degrees while you’re asleep or while you’re out of the house can help you save on heating and cooling bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Utilize programmable thermostats for when you’re typically out of the house, too. In general, a good rule of thumb is to keep the thermostat set to 68 degrees.

If happen to live in Colorado, Black Hills is offering the following residential energy efficiency programs.  If you live in another state or country, check out your local utility’s website for programs that they may offer.

  • Online Energy Evaluation: Answer a few short questions at BHESaveMoney.com to receive the energy ranking for your home, suggestions to improve efficiency and a three-year savings estimate.
  • In-Person Home Energy Evaluation: Free home energy inspection from a professional evaluator, including insulation levels, air infiltration levels, equipment and operating conditions, and home habits that influence energy usage.
  • Electric Appliance Recycling Program: Turn in inefficient refrigerators and stand-alone freezers to receive a $50 rebate per unit – up to two each year. Also, in warmer months, receive a $30 rebate for turning in an inefficient window air conditioner.
  • Rebate Offers: Many high-efficiency, ENERGY Star-rated appliances qualify customers for rebates. From natural gas furnaces to water heaters to dishwashers and TVs, a complete list of qualifying appliances is available at BHESaveMoney.com.
  • Solar Panel Incentives: Black Hills offers production-based incentives based on the amount of solar electricity generated by photovoltaic (PV) solar panel systems.

In addition, Black Hills Energy’s Low Income Weatherization program works with the Colorado Energy Office and Neighbor Works of Pueblo to pay the full cost for installation of compact fluorescent lamps, high-efficiency refrigerators and, in warmer months, window/wall evaporative cooler installations.

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This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.