We’ve all the seen the “rate-suckers” from the recent spate of Progressive car insurance commercials—have you ever thought about the things that could be doing that to the energy efficiency of your home?
Here are three big energy suckers to watch out for this winter—and how to prevent them from leeching money out of your wallet via your utilities bill.
The Lights You Leave On
Ideally, yes, you would never leave a light on when you’re not at home to enjoy what you’ll eventually pay for. However, the world is not a wish-granting factory. There will be situations when lights, intentionally or otherwise, are left on. Sometimes they have to be—an older house’s porch light can’t be wired for motion and has to stay lit in order to deter burglars while you’re out, maybe even some lights on in the house to further the illusion. And no matter how vigilant and careful you are, there will be the times when you leave a light on at home on your way out to work or fall asleep with the closet light on.
Make sure energy-efficient bulbs are in all the lights in your home. Even if you didn’t like them years ago because of the light spectrum or buzzing, rejoice: there are models on the market for every taste and every fixture.
The Structural Integrity of Your Home
Aside from the usual signs of a major structural problem—flooding, a gaping leak in the ceiling, etc.—you need to check to make sure that there aren’t other, subtler gaps in your outside walls.
The caulking around window and doorframe seals is a big thing to check for; you could lose hundreds of dollars in energy costs each year as your money is literally sucked out the window. If you didn’t catch this as fall turned to winter, that’s okay—it’s never too late to strengthen your defense against the biggest winter energy sucker of all: winter itself.
Another problem that needs to be taken care of immediately when detected is a carpenter ant or termite colony. They don’t pay to enjoy the warmth of your home or the food your wood provides them—and they’re costing you as the warm air you pay so dearly for seeps out to their colonies, which forces your heater (and wallet) to work harder. If you do find evidence of carpenter ants, termites, or other burrowing insects colonizing your home, call an exterminator; whether you have termites in Long Island or carpenter ants in San Diego, this is not a problem you should try to DIY. Save it for the professionals to get your home solid and structurally sound once again as soon as possible.
The Insulation: Out of Sight, Out of Mind, and Out of Time
Especially if you’ve been in your home for over 8 years, look into replacing the insulation with something that will hold in even more heat for greater overall energy efficiency.
Determine the R-value in your neck of the woods (if you search something like “insulation r value for” and your town/state, the internet has many handy maps and charts to help you); this will determine the variety of insulation you buy. Then, measure the distance between your studs and head to a home improvement store to buy the insulation width and variety you need (it will be likely closer to either a 15” wide or 23” roll).
Once you’re home with the rolls, cut pieces to fit about an inch wider than the cavities between your studs—but don’t fold it to double it as that will mess with the R-value. You can either use some natural friction or a trusty staple gun to hold the insulation in place. The exception here is floor insulation, for which you will also need to pick up some wire insulation fasteners.
And be sure to wear protection in the form long sleeves, gloves, and eye protection. I helped a friend build her house last fall, and I can attest that if insulation foam makes contact with bare skin it can create a powerful, unenviable itching reaction.
With these fixes made, you can enjoy a winter with a lower power bill—energy suckers aren’t welcome here!
About the Authro: Lucy Markham is an avid blogger and researches with companies such as Suburban Exterminating. Lucy, as a recent homeowner, considers herself a bit of an expert on all things home improvement, gardening, and home decoration.