Summer proof your home

May 19, 2008 8:08:37 AM PDT
Some experts warn your home energy costs could jump as much as 120 percent this year.With the start of summer just over a month away, now is the time to find ways to conserve energy in your home. Action 13's Green Team has some great ideas guaranteed to save you money.

Even if you turn out lights when you leave a room, keep your thermostat set to a reasonable temperature, and unplug appliances and phone chargers when you're not using them, there are at least six other things you can do to conserve electricity at home and keep more money in your pocket.

If you can change a light bulb, then you can start saving money. Swap traditional bulbs with compact florescent ones, or CFLs, and produce immediate energy savings.

"A 100 watt bulb of output uses about 25 watts of power, so you're saving about 75 percent energy," Zion Greenfield from Home Depot said.

CFL manufacturers have lowered their prices and make it easy for consumers to figure what those energy savings mean in dollars and cents. They print the estimated cost savings per year right on the package.

The biggest energy hog in Houston homes during the summer is the air conditioner. Keep more of that cool air inside by tightening up gaps in doors and windows -- inexpensive weather stripping can help.

Other holes around your house can be filled in with inexpensive foam. Adding rolls of insulation to your attic can be done in just minutes.

Also, protect your windows. The sun's sweltering rays can be blocked by blinds, dark curtains or window film. A product called "V-Kool" blocks more than half of sun's heat without darkening a room.

You should look for the ENERGY STAR rating, too. It's easier than ever to choose products that conserve energy because a growing number of them have ENERGY STAR ratings. They run across the board from something as simple as caulking to sliding glass doors.

Another tip is to get fan friendly. There are different types that serve different purposes. Attic fans push hot air outside. One of the newest types runs on solar power.

"They are the power source itself, which makes it really wonderful," Greenfield said.

In the rest of the house, ceiling fans can make a room feel six to seven degrees cooler.

Finally, install a programmable thermostat and regulate your home's temperature.

"It's going to keep your air conditioning and your air conditioning system at a certain level," Kyle Heime of Standard Renewable Energy said, saving money and conserving energy in the process. Another thing that can help insulate your home is a radiant barrier. It goes in the attic and works by reflecting the heat. For the most part, it needs to be installed by a professional.

For Houston resident Lisa Baumbach, the electricity bill always brings a major expense.

"It's $495. It's never been below $200," she said.

In the summer, it often soars to twice that amount. Built in the 1960s, Baumbach's home wastes electricity and leaves her searching for ways to conserve.

"The small things that we've done haven't made that big of a difference, but I'm sure it's helped some," she said.

For ideas on big improvements she can make, Baumbach looked for help from Standard Renewable Energy. Among other things, the company offers home energy audits.

Besides replacing windows with ENERGY STAR rated double pane windows, you can use a thermal gun to find places where heat seeps into your home.

Heime also recommends Baumbach eventually replace her appliances. They were made before 1990 and do little to conserve energy.

The company also sets up a device called a blower door, which tests how much air a home leaks outside, or how much money a home owner is sending out the front door.

The thermal gun also turned up problems near the attic -- heat was leaking from there into the rest of home. A barrier known as an attic tent can solve that problem and block the heat.

If she follows the plan, Heime expects Baumbach's energy consumption could be cut almost in half.


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