5 Uncommon Home Improvements to Save Energy
1. Insulate Hot Water Tank Lines
Unless you have an on demand water heater, then you are basically keeping 40 to 80 gallons of water hot and sitting ready for your use. Much of the time this water isn't being used (think about all night long while you are sleeping, or all day while you are at work). Your hot water tank is insulated, and does it's best to hold onto the heat that you have spent money to create. Even the best tank is going to lose heat throughout this stagnant time though.
One often overlooked area where this heat loss occurs is though the water lines that come in (cold) and go out (hot) of the tank. Insulating these areas can keep more of that heat you've spend your money to create, in the tank where it belongs.
The best part is it's very inexpensive and easy for this DIY project. The foam insulation can be purchased for less than $10, and you can cut it to length and install in less than five minutes.
2. Attic Stairs Insulation Cover
For houses with an open attic, it's often very helpful to turn this space into additional storage. Nail down some plywood and install a pull-down set of stairs, and all of that clutter is gone. See you in December holiday decorations.
The downside is that all of our ceilings are insulated (or should be) to keep the heat in our living area and out of our attic. When you cut the hole in your ceiling for the stairs, this installation causes an area approximately 2' x 4' with no insulation. Now all the heat you have spent money to create in your living area is freely flowing up into you attic.
You can purchase pre-made kits that will add an R-20 (insulation factor) or more to this area, and easily pay for themselves overtime. These kits can be purchased for around $100, and you can do the DIY installation in less than an hour!
3. Insulate Foundation Holes
When is the last time you took a really good look around your foundation from the inside? The best time to do this is during daylight with the lights off in your basement. Take a really good look around the exposed part of your foundation (the part of your foundation that is above ground). If you can see daylight, then you are definitely losing heat.
Also, take a look at any pipe or wire that is coming through your foundation. Has it been sealed up, or are you losing heat?
Often, you never even think about or notice these small gaps and holes, especially in older homes. The good news is this is an easy fix. You can get a can of insulating foam for around $10, and it'll take less than an hour to go around and fill the gaps. The best part is that this expanding foam is actually fun to use.
4. Use Cold Water
Depending on where you live, water can be relatively inexpensive to use in your house. When you use the hot water, however, this is a different story. This is water that you have spent money to heat up, and that doesn't come cheap.
Many times we use hot water out of habit, but we don't really need it. Are you just rinsing off a plate to leave in the sink? Did you really need to do this with hot water? Or are you using the vegetable sprayer to clean out the sink after you did the dishes? Do you really need hot water to accomplish this mission?
Use the cold water to do this and save.
In between the times when you are using hot water, the line from your tank all the way to the faucet cools quickly. Then hours later, when you turn on the hot water at the faucet, all the water in the lines needs to run down the drain before fresh hot water from your tank comes out of the faucet. So to get hot, gallons of water are going to be wasted.
So think before you turn on the hot water faucet. First, do you really need hot water at all, or could you do what you need to do with cold water? Second, if you do need hot water, do you really need to waste the gallons of cooled water before it starts running hot? If you do need hot water, have a plan for all the cooled water that is going to run out first.
If you need hot water to wash your hands at the kitchen sink, maybe you could plan to rinse off some dishes with the cooled water first. Then when it runs hot you can wash your hands. Or just fill up a pitcher with the cooled water before it runs hot. Then you can use the pitcher to water plants or fill up your coffee machine. This way if you do need to get to the hot water, at least you aren't wasting gallons of cooled water in the process.
5. Supplement With the Sun
In the winter, you are spending lot of money to create heat. If you have your shades and blinds covering your windows, then you are basically blocking free heat from the sun. It's there for the taking, you just have let it in.
If the sun is shining at a window in your home, make sure you open the curtains or blinds and let it flow in. This strategy works best if you are home, because the lighting conditions are going to change throughout the day. Depending on the quality of your windows, the shades might be acting as an insulator, keeping out the cold. So you want to be smart about when you open them.
If the sun is shining and flowing through the window, open up anything that would be blocking it. The best way to think about this is when your pets want to lay in the sunny patch on the floor. They are doing this because it's warming them and it feels good. This is the free heat at work. If it starts raining or the sun moves and it's not directly flowing through the window anymore, then it's time to close the shades again. Now that you aren't benefiting from the free heat, it's best to close it up and get the insulating factor back.
If you are often home during the day (retired or work-from-home) and pay attention, you can quickly get into a routine of opening and closing the shades and shave dollars off your energy bill.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.