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Simple Ways To Be Proactive With Your Home's Energy Efficiency

Antique homes are a sight to behold.  There's a distinct area of my town with a number of early 1920's style homes that still stand tall today.  The wrap-around porches. Big, brawny interior.  Solid oak flooring with that piercing creak as you walk.  High ceilings.  Shudders covering the windows.  The list goes on.  

But what most antique homes – and many modern homes – lack is a fundamentally sound, energy efficient setup.  There's the thin window panes, or the less-than-desirable air circulation.  As the home ages, there may be small, subtle cracks in the duct work, or gaps in the attic for air that interfere with temperature control throughout the home.

green home

Remodeling your home to be as energy efficient as possible obviously aids the homeowner in a number of ways.  But determining which areas of the home need the most patchwork, regardless of whether you're trying to update a historic home or modern one, is key.  From adding more insulation to replacing windows on down to regularly changing out air filters around the house, here are ways to survey and tackle your home's energy efficiency the right way. 

Insulating The Attic 

The EPA did an extensive study on older homes during the 1975-85 period and determined that, on average, there was 20% duct leakage to the outside.  Imagine what the data would say for homes that tip the century mark in age? 

So, first and foremost, you must tackle the one area of the home where all airflow eventually directs:  the attic.  Whether you're trying to trap as much heat as possible during the cold winter or holding on to precious A/C circulation during the hot summer months, you must ensure the attic isn't compromising either.  As much as you try to put the blame on thinly-built window panes, a poorly-insulated attic is putting a significant dent in your home's temperature regulation.  

Instead, survey the state of your current insulation, and judge for yourself how an extra layer or two (or a complete overhaul) of insulation is in order.  

Survey All Other Vital Duct Work 

Walls, ceilings, window sills, doorways...they all play a role in determining if the energy efficiency scale is in the red or the black.  It can seem a bit labor-intensive at first, but every homeowner should make an attempt, once a year, to properly analyze the condition of all the duct work in the home.  Ensure the edges around the door are properly sealed (maybe think about getting an all-season bottom draft cover if you haven't already), check on the condition of the window sill and the thickness of the window panes themselves.  And if you have a chimney, analyzing the condition of the mortar and how many gaps or airways are compromised should be in order as well. 

And then there are the areas that might go overlooked, such as making sure you have enough insulation around hot water pipes and furnace ducts, or that insulation inside the walls is sufficient, or that the basement, finished or not, is properly insulated, too.  Every nook and cranny that starts to show signs of wear and tear or gaps in the corners should be analyzed.  

Keep Your Air Filters Up To Date

Right off the bat, your home's energy efficiency (and electric bills) will fare better with a newer A/C or water heater system.  Newer models are more Energy Star-friendly, power on and power down with less energy and are obviously an upgrade to your 20 or 30-year old units.  But, you can't just wipe your hands and call it a day just off that alone.

Just like insulation acts to regulate air flow in a room, an air filter for your A/C and every important air duct around the home is just as important.  The standard time period for changing out air filters is different with who you ask, but generally, every 45 to 60 days is a good rule of thumb, and it's recommended you change them even more frequently if you suffer from allergies.  However you come upon a schedule for swapping air filters, just make sure you do it.  In many cases, a homeowner could follow ever energy audit rule in the playbook and still have energy deficiencies appear via their bloated utility bills.  

Final Thoughts 

There are so many avenues to navigate when trying to sum up your home's energy efficiency rating.  The easiest judge of whether or not re-insulating vital parts of the home, swapping air filters out regularly, mulling over replacing windows with thicker, more Energy Star-friendly panes, and other patchwork jobs around the home will obviously come in the form of your energy bills.  In the end, doing all you can to improve and sustain lower energy costs benefits not just your home and your wallet, but is one giant step towards a greener initiative.  And that's something to be proud of month in and month out. 

Author Bio:  Freelance writer and frequent blogger on green remodeling projects and ideas and has been a consultant for Small Step Energy Solutions, which strives to provide proficient and helpful energy audits in the KC area.