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Airtight Shelter: Save Money on Your Energy Bill

Opening up a costly energy bill is one of the worst possible results from a trip the mailbox. No one wants a high bill - but families don't always put forth the effort to make sure the bill remains on the modest side. There are plenty of ways -- in the cooler months as well as in the warmer months -- to make sure your electric or gas bill does not reach astronomical heights. Most of them are easy and can be accomplished even in older homes. In fact, not one of these measures requires the skill of an engineer.

The first thing to do is to let your family know that you'd like to take control of the energy bill. Have a meeting with your spouse and kids and share information with them about the ways to cut energy costs. Wondering whether the kids will care about this issue? Explain that the money saved on the energy bill could be used for more fun family activities, such as vacations and outings.

Save Money by Tightening Windows and Doors

If you start your energy saving plan with a house that is less than airtight, none of the other steps you take to lower the family's energy bill will be worth much. Begin the process by sealing up leaky windows and doors.

Check for Air Leaks
While all the windows and doors are closed, hold a candle or a stick of incense to the cracks and watch for smoke movement. If the smoke moves, the door or window needs to be tighter; air from outside is moving in and air from inside is moving out.

Seal Windows
Do you live in an old house with old windows? If so, adding caulking and weather stripping around the windows can help. There are a few different options.

 

  • Plastic strips - These are the easiest to install but can lack longevity.
  • Rubber strips - These should last at least 10 years.
  • Bronze weather stripping - These last for decades but can be more complex to install.

 

Seal Doors
Air testing will tell you if it's time to replace the stripping around the doors as well. Again there are options.

 

  • Foam tape with adhesive backing – This is inexpensive and easy to install. You can re-staple the tape if it comes loose.
  • Felt strips with either adhesive or metal backs - These are also easy to install, but they aren't recommended for longevity.
  • Rubber, vinyl or silicone - These options are the best for longevity but can be a little trickier to install.

 

Whichever method you use, make sure to measure the spaces around the door and cut according to size. You can seal in any gaps with latex caulk to ensure that absolutely no air is moving around the door.

Seal Door Bottoms
If you can see light from outside coming in from beneath your door, it may be time to replace your door gasket. A taller gasket can keep air out, or you can install a weather resistant door sweep.

Other Tricks for Cooler Months

Your home's highest energy season will depend on your geographical location. If you live in South Carolina, for example, you may not need to run the heater for as long or for as a high temperature, compared to a family who lives in Maine. Nevertheless, it's useful to have a few tricks on hand to keep heating costs down.

 

  • Use a humidifier. If the air is humid, it will feel warmer.
  • Wear more clothes. It sounds silly, but putting on a pair of socks, even around the house, can make a difference when it comes to tampering with the thermostat.
  • If you have a fireplace, seal it when you're not using it. Fireplaces suck the air out of the house and push it through the chimney.
  • Check your water heater and make sure it's not set higher than 125 degrees.

 

Other Tricks for Warmer Months

In the warmer months of the year, our Maine family may not need as much air conditioning as our South Carolina family (many homes in Maine don't even have A/C systems!). But try these tips, wherever you happen to live, to save money on air conditioning.

 

  • Use ceiling fans. They are surprisingly low energy - many use less than a light bulb - and moving air always feels cooler.
  • During the hottest part of the day, keep shades drawn so the sunlight doesn't warm the house.
  • Keep lights and other electronics off.
  • Keep oven and stove cooking to a minimum in the warmer months.
  • Hang out in the downstairs of your home since heat rises.

 

You may not save on your energy bills overnight. But with a few household adjustments and a new way of thinking about staying comfortable, you'll be helping both your wallet and the environment in the long run.

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Garret Stembridge is part of the team at Extra Space Storage, a leading provider of self-storage facilities. Garret often writes about sustainable practices for homes and for businesses. Many Extra Space Storage locations, including several in Brooklyn, have been retrofitted to reduce energy consumption.