On December 16, 2014, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported the average U.S. household was expected to spend about $550 less on gasoline in 2015 compared with 2014 — which was especially good news to hear with just a few days left in the Christmas shpping season. EIA then revised the good news on January 13, 2015, saying that, since gasoline prices had continued falling (prices averaging $3.36/gal in 2014 and expected to decrease to $2.33/gal in 2015), the estimated savings had increased to $750 —about $62 per month.
Seven hundred and fifty smackers! For most families, that’s a nice end-of-year bonus. So, what do you DO with that savings? For starters, you could save it. Or you could use it to pay down debt. Still, others are spending their projected gas savings on little splurges, like dinner and movie with the family.
However, we’re here to suggest that you should invest that $750 to increase your home’s energy efficiency and save even MORE money this coming year.
But…isn’t energy efficiency expensive? It can be initially, but over time, you do save money.
Oh yeah? Well, how much energy efficiency can $750 buy? Surprisingly, quite a lot! Here are 5 ways you can make energy efficiency upgrades to your home from your gasoline savings.
1) Add more insulation to your attic.
The US Department of Energy (DOE) recommends that all US homes should have 8 inches of insulation (R-30) in their attic. In order to keep home building prices lower, most homes have only 3-4 inches (about an R-13) in their attics. You can save 20% on your home’s heating and cooling costs by adding more insulation to you home.
How much do you need? Find your attic’s dimensions and then measure the thickness of the insulation in your attic. Next, go to Owings Corning Insulation Calculators and enter the information. Many other popular home centers also have similar calculators. Always remember to get just a little bit extra to fill those unexpected pockets.
2) Get your HVAC system inspected.
Having your heating and cooling system inspected at least once a year can help solve small problems and prevent them from becoming big problems in the future — like in the middle of a chilly February morning. Inspectors look out for problems with obstructions, excessive dirt, moisture, and mold in your HVAC system. Removing any of these factors could improve the efficiency of your HVAC system, increase its lifespan, and potentially help identify causes of health problems. The inspector can also make recommendations about air sealing your ductwork and improve its energy efficiency by 20%.
3) Buy a new high efficiency water heater.
The average home water heater keeps 40-50 gallons of water hot and ready for use most of the day, even though no one is home or awake to use it. At a rough estimate, that’s about 18 hours out of the day. So it’s little wonder that water heating accounts for 18% of a home’s energy usage. If your old water heater is over 8 years old, consider replacing it with a new EnergyStar qualified high efficiency water heater.
4) Air seal your home.
While plugging the three or four known drafts around your front and back doors might not be wasting much energy, it’s the 50 or more that you don’t know about – and they are costing you plenty. These are places you don’t even suspect: your attic, attached garage, around your home’s foundation, and places where wiring enters your home. Drafty air leaks cause up to 40% of your heating and cooling load, but sealing them costs surprisingly very little and can be done in a weekend.
5) Install a smart thermostat.
While programmable thermostats have been shown to save about 10% off heating and cooling cost per year, smart thermostats allow you even more flexible control and convenience. Yes, “smart” thermostats are programmable thermostats, but it’s their communication ability is what makes them smarter.
These thermostats gather home energy use data and can pass that information (and control capabilities) over a local network or the internet so you can better understand your heating and cooling energy usage. Plus, many smart thermostats also act as “smart hubs” for smart homes. That means you can integrate programmable energy-saving LED lighting as well as other security enhancing devices that you can all control remotely from your smart phone.
Each one of these energy efficient home improvements reduces your energy usage and saves you money over time. Not only will you save money, they will help make you home more feel comfortable right away and bring you even more convenience. They’ll also be a lasting investment, adding more long-term value to your home as well.