Money-Saving Energy Tips From "This Old House" Pro

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When working on doors, add weather-stripping to the top, sides, and bottom threshold. You can seal the space under the door with a strip or even a removable "draft snake."

Heat-loss through windows accounts for 10 to 25 percent of your home heating bill. Silva suggests investing in quality storm windows. "You'll pay a little to save a lot. They are very, very efficient," he said. "Instead of spending [U.S.] $800 or $1,000 for a new window, spend a couple hundred [dollars] or less and get a good-quality storm window. You'll save a lot of money." Don't forget storm windows for your basement windows, either.

Drafts can add up to higher energy use—and a chilly winter. "When you get cold air blowing across your feet, you're cold," Silva said.

In spring or fall caulk the outside of your home. Check under and over windows, beside windows and doors, and areas where siding meets trim. Gaps are areas where air will enter and cause cooling drafts. "An average house might take three tubes of caulk," Silva said. "You can save an enormous amount of money" after caulking cracks. Silva cautions homeowners to use latex rather than silicone-based caulk, which cannot be painted. And for gaps too large for caulking, use spray-foam products.


Silva notes that your furnace and water heater burn a lot of energy to heat water. His advice: Don't let hot water cool off in uninsulated pipes. Cover them with tube-shaped insulation. Similarly, make sure that heating and cooling ductwork in your basement, crawl space, and attic is insulated and that the joints are taped.

In cold climates vents for appliances like clothes driers and stoves should have louvers that allow vents to be closed. "Lots of times, these are stuck open," Silva said. "When that happens, cold air rushes in when they are not in use."

Another tip: Insulate. Priority one is the roof, where rising heat tries to escape your home. If you already have insulation, consider increasing the amount in your attic. "It's basically adding another blanket on your bed," Silva said. "But be sure you don't separate insulation layers with a vapor barrier. Also, it's very, very important that the more you insulate your attic, the more you must ventilate. The attic is a space that you don't want to heat. Ideally, you'd want the underside of the roof to be as cool as the outside."

Blow-in or spray-in insulation is available for uninsulated walls. About one-third of the air leaking in and out of your home passes through the ceiling, walls, and floors.

Upgrade Appliances

Today's appliances are much more efficient than their predecessors, so consider upgrading. "Your stove, for example, is insulated around the perimeter to keep heat inside," Silva notes. "A cheap stove has less insulation, so it doesn't work as well. Newer air conditioning units use less energy to generate cold air."

Appliance energy use adds up: The average refrigerator is responsible for nearly 10 percent of the average home's total energy use.

Examine off-hour energy costs. "Lots of towns have what they call after-hour use," Silva noted, "where your energy costs are more efficient after peak hours." If available, these hours can be a good time to do laundry or run the dishwasher.

Explore getting a tankless water-heating unit. "The water heater in the basement is making hot water, and keeping it at that warm temperature all day while you're at work," Silva said. "You're paying for [the water] to stay warm while you're sleeping."

On-demand tankless units cost more than conventional water heaters, but you can recoup the savings by heating water only when you need it.

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