Home Energy Projects So Simple Even I Did Them

HouseOwning a home is no easy task. Sure, you build equity, make it your own, and have some really memorable parties, but the investment of time and money can drain you both physically and mentally. If you couple that with raising a family and working full time, the last thing on your mind will be reducing your home’s energy consumption. Until now…

With over ten years of owning multiple homes, I’ve realized that most projects are easier than I originally thought. Projects that I paid someone to do ten years ago now shame me and make me think, “I should have chosen a different vocation!” You just need a “can do” attitude.

Below are five projects that I’ve done at home with surprising ease.

I – Installed a Programmable Thermostat:

There is a decent chance that if you have recently bought an older home, the original thermostat is still stuck to the wall. These older models are extremely inefficient; they do not give off accurate readings, and they do not have the option to heat or cool your home at temperatures and times that are optimal for you. Programmable thermostats allow you to coordinate temperatures to coincide with when you’ll be home and when you’ll be at work. Needlessly running your air conditioning for nine hours when no one is home is a gigantic waste of energy and money. All it takes is a screwdriver, new batteries, and about 30 minutes.

II – Upgraded Light Fixtures, Bulbs, and Ceiling Fans:

The phasing out of incandescent bulbs is in full-swing with CFL, LED, and halogen bulbs jumping in as replacements. Of the electricity needed for incandescent bulbs, about 10% is used to actually generate light, with the other 90% wasted as heat. CFLs are inexpensive, last about eight times longer, and use about one quarter of the wattage of incandescent bulbs. These are best used in areas where the lights will be left on for longer periods of time, since frequently switching CFLs on and off will shorten their lifespan. LED lights have a wide array of color temperatures, do not require a full warm-up time like CFLs do, and have dramatically come down in price in recent years.

III – Installed a New Toilet:

Older toilets are not nearly as efficient as newer models, and they end up using much more water per flush than needed. New models use approximately one and a half gallons per flush compared to upwards of seven gallons for older models. Using wider flapper valves, trapways, gravity, and air pressure, these toilets allow less water to flow more efficiently and leave a tidier bowl. I’ve installed the Champion 4 from American Standard in four houses. It’s powerful enough to flush a bucket of golf balls, comes with its own installation tools and a wax ring, and takes no more than an hour or so to install.

IV – Insulated Money-Wasting Gaps:

While there are certified energy auditors around any given town, there are many tactics the average homeowner can use to keep high utility costs at bay. They include insulating the outer walls and attic, weather stripping entry doors, and putting plastic on older windows that are prone to drafts. What I can truly vouch for is Great Stuff. This stuff is great. Its rapidly expanding foam seals cracks in foundations and any other air-leaking gaps, and bonds to virtually any material in your house. Practice caution during use and wear gloves, as this product is extremely sticky and bonds to skin instantly. And while you’re at it, have your utility bills audited. Overcharges from utility companies can cost you extra money, especially if you’re not paying attention or using automatic account withdrawals.

V – Installed an Efficient Showerhead:

Some showerheads tend to be high volume, single option devices that either blast you with hot water, or flow so slowly that they leave you with suds flowing from every part of you. Try installing a low-flow showerhead. They will cost you more upfront, but they will save you money in the long run. Using approximately two and a half gallons of water per minute instead of the usual five, they help conserve the world’s most precious commodity.

Give these home improvements a try! You might not be the next Bob Vila, but you’ll be surprised by what you can do and how it’ll benefit your home and family. Know your limits, however. Just because something can be made more energy efficient, doesn’t mean the average homeowner has all the tools in his arsenal to do it alone.

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