When temperatures fall, wallets leak! The leaky drip is your energy dollars flying right out the window or door or roof. If you think you can't do anything to lower your electric, gas, oil and water bills, take a look at these five easy energy saving tips:
Tip #1 - Clean Boilers: When heating system boilers are not kept clean, mineral and combustion deposits build up. The built-up deposits reduce the ability of a natural gas or oil flame to heat your water. The result? It takes much more energy and money for you to get hot water. To make sure you get all the energy you pay for, have the boiler professionally cleaned at least once a year. Shortened run time, also means lower electric bills as the system won't need to run as long to heat your house.
Tip #2 - Drafty Ducts: If you have a forced air system, examine all the ducts for air leaks at the seams. Leaks in unheated areas, like the attic, basement or crawlspace are especially wasteful. If you find a drafty seam in the duct, fix it by wrapping the seam with high quality duct tape to lower heating bills. The wide metal duct tape is best; it's a little more expensive than cloth or plastic tape, but it won't dry out and fall off any ducts during the heating season.
Tip #3 - Trickling Toilets: Toilets are one of the most used and least understood home appliances. They basically have only two moving parts: the flush valve, which lets water out of the tank and down the drain; and the fill valve, which lets the toilet fill up after the flush cycle is complete. Small leaks in these valves can cost thousands of gallons of water per year. Here's how to tell if your valves are leaking:
- Flush Valves: Open the top of the tank and pour a small amount of food coloring in the water. Close the tank. After an hour, check the toilet bowl. If you see any colored water in the bowl, the flush valve is leaking and should be replaced.
- Fill Valves: Open the top of the toilet tank and find the hollow plastic pipe which sticks up from the bottom of the toilet tank. The water level should be about one inch below the top of the pipe. If the water level is even with the top, the fill valve may be leaking or improperly adjusted and should be repaired or replaced. Next, flush the toilet and watch the top of the valve. If any water squirts up, you may have a leaky seal which also means you need a new fill valve.
The good news is flush valves and fill valves are easy to replace and cost less than $10 each. They are available at most hardware stores and home centers. Fluidmaster makes good replacement valves with clear instructions that teach you how to replace the toilet valves. Replacing leaky fill and flush valves is a quick and easy way to lower water bills.
Tip #4 - Worn Out Windows: Did you know that every 15 minutes all the heated air in your home can wind up outside? Known as "air changes per hour", a drafty home can have four or more air changes every 60 minutes. That's why tight windows are essential for saving energy. If you have older windows without storm windows, get storm windows or consider vinyl replacement windows.
Thanks to new technology, installing replacement windows is not the huge construction project it used to be. However, be careful with window contractors. Every year a number of folks wind up paying far too much for poor or average quality windows. Do some research for quality windows, think before you buy, and don't feel pressured by salesmen who won't leave before you sign on the dotted line.
Tip #5 - Add Insulation: Your home loses about 80% of its heat through the attic, about 15% through the walls, and the remaining 5% through the floor. Adding extra insulation to the attic or walls is always a good home improvement and an energy saver. The cost of adding extra insulation is usually low and pay backs are quick. When insulating, be sure to wear a long sleeve shirt, gloves, and pants, and buy a dust mask to protect yourself against inhaling the fiberglass insulation particles.
The return on investment for all these energy saving tips will depend in part on the cost of energy in your local area. For example, if your home is powered solely by expensive electric heat, even a small improvement can go a long way to lower electric bills.