With colder temperatures on the way, many homeowners are gearing up for an increase to their energy bills. But by focusing on energy efficiency now, you can help keep your home warm and toasty this fall and winter, without wreaking havoc on your wallet.
A good place to start is with a free, professional home energy assessment. Mass Save®, a collaborative of Massachusetts energy efficiency service providers and utility companies, offers no-cost home energy assessments to MA homeowners. These assessments are aimed at helping homeowners discover ways to save energy and reduce their energy costs. Rhode Island Energy offers RI homeowners a similar no-cost assessment. An energy specialist will come to your home, complete an evaluation, and then provide the customer with a home energy report detailing recommended energy efficiency improvements.
Getting an energy audit for your home can help shed light on which energy efficiency improvements and upgrades could save you money in the long run. Some of the cost-saving measures that might be suggested include:
- Replace Windows. Energy.gov reports that 30% of a home's heating energy is lost through your windows. If you haven’t replaced your windows in 10 years or more, it might be a good time to invest in an upgrade. The latest models have features designed specifically for energy efficiency. And, if you can’t afford the replace your windows right now, installing storm windows could be a good, less-expensive alternative. You could also consider insulation such as weather strips and caulking around your current windows, as well as your doors. Taping clear plastic film on the inside of the window frames can also help to reduce drafts.
- Service Your Heating System Regularly. Having your heating equipment routinely checked and cleaned by a professional can help to ensure that everything operates efficiently. Natural gas systems should be serviced every two to three years, while oil units should be checked annually since they tend to have more dirt buildup over the course of a year. It’s also important to remember to replace filters on a regular basis - typically every three months. And if you use a wood-burning or pellet stove as your heating source, check to be sure it is working properly in advance of cold weather. It’s a good idea to clean the inside of the stove and clear out the flue vent regularly.
- Seal Up Ducts. You can prevent heat leakage in the ductwork of your home by using a paint-on sealant or foil-backed tape. If you have a fireplace, a good rule of thumb is to keep the damper closed unless a fire is burning. An open damper is like burning money – it allows warm air to go right up the chimney and outside instead of heating your home. Make sure the seal on the flue damper is as tight as possible. Use a heat-air exchange system and tempered doors to capture more warmth. If you have a fireplace that is not usable, seal the chimney flue.
- Replace Your Heating System When Needed. If you have an aging or failing heating system, consider replacing it with a new, energy-efficient model. When shopping for a new system, be sure to review its annual fuel utilization (AFUE) rating. Purchasing a system with a favorable AFUE rating will not only help you save money on energy costs, but it could qualify you for rebates as well. Installing a heat pump system has also become a popular energy-efficient alternative. Once a heat pump is installed, it uses electricity to transfer heat and make it warmer or cooler. In warmer months, a heat pump will move hot air from inside your house to the outside. In cold months, it sucks out heat from the cold air outside using a refrigerant to warm your house.
- Pay Attention to Your Water Heater. You can easily save energy by reducing the temperature of your water heater from “hot” setting (140°F) to the “warm” setting (120°F). If your water heater is an older model, you could also improve efficiency by adding insulation around it, and the pipes connected to it.
- Install a Programmable Thermostat. No one likes paying to heat a house when they’re not home, but it’s equally unpleasant to come home to a freezing house. With a programmable thermostat however, you can have the best of both words. You can program the temperature lower while you’re out of the house, eliminating wasteful heat and saving you money. And you can schedule a temperature increase prior to your arrival back home, so your house is nice and comfortable when you walk through the door. Some thermostats can even be adjusted remotely through an app on your cell phone.
Once you’ve determined which energy improvements are a good fit for your home and budget, you may wonder the best way to pay for them. Luckily, there are many options available to help homeowners finance home improvements and renovations. An energy-efficiency loan is one option. Many banks, such as BankFive, offer no-interest financing on eligible energy efficient upgrades for qualified borrowers through partnerships with programs such as the Mass Save® HEAT Loan program and Rhode Island Energy 0% Financing Program.
By taking energy-efficient steps now to ward off the cold that’s on the way, you can help lower your heating bill all while staying warmer in your home this winter. Contact us today to learn more about Energy Efficiency Loans offered through BankFive, or view rates online.