Home ownership is part of the American dream, but it can also be an expensive venture. Along with the costs of upkeep and property taxes, small defects in the structure of your home can make your monthly bills skyrocket. If your utility bills are through the roof, consider making these home repairs to reduce your costs.
1. Upgrade Your Windows
The condition of your windows accounts for 10 to 25% of your heating and cooling costs (source: Energy.gov). Multi-pane windows and windows with low-e coatings can prevent heat transfer, making it easier for you to regulate your home’s interior temperature. Replacing single-pane windows with these high performance alternatives can drastically reduce your energy costs.
If you aren’t ready (or able) to replace your windows, you can follow these simple steps to avoid paying for energy that’s going right out the window:
- Re-caulk: Peeling or cracked seals around your windows make it harder to regulate the interior temperature of your home. Pay attention to areas in your home where you feel a draft as this may indicate a break in the seal of a window. Strip away the old caulk with a putty knife before re-caulking to ensure that the new seal is tight.
- Weatherize: In the winter, cover your windows with clear plastic to add another layer of protection against cold drafts and air leaks. Close your curtains at night to help insulate your home against nighttime temperature lows. In the summer, put reflective film on each window to reduce solar heat transfer, especially on the south and west sides of your home. Switch to white curtains, blinds, or shades to reflect sunlight away from your home.
- Use Shade to Your Advantage: Direct sunlight raises the internal temperature of your home. Leave the curtains open during the day to naturally heat your home in the winter. In the summer, keep the curtains closed on south- and west-facing windows during the day. Since it is usually 3 to 6˚ cooler in the shade, consider adding awnings over those windows or planting trees to shade them.
2. Improve Your Insulation
Heating and cooling accounts for 50 to 70% of the average homeowner’s utility costs (source: NRHA). However, you can cut these costs significantly by ensuring that your home is properly insulated.
Evaluate your current insulation. There should be at least an inch of insulation on each wall, but you may need more coverage in vulnerable areas like your attic and basement. If you live in a cold climate, you may need significantly more insulation (up to six inches). Check for any gaps or leaks that let air in or out of your home. These leaks can make your climate control costs spike, especially during extreme weather conditions. Repairing air gaps and adding a layer of new insulation can reduce your utility bills almost immediately.
3. Upgrade Your Water Tank
Hot water heaters usually last for about 10 to 15 years. If your heater is showing signs of age, look for a replacement that will reduce your power and water bills.
The most common kinds of hot water heaters are conventional storage heaters and on-demand, or “tankless,” heaters. The main difference between the two is how they produce hot water. Storage heaters heat and keep hot water in a reservoir until you turn on the tap, while tankless heaters warm up the water in the pipes.
If your water heater has raised your energy costs, consider switching to a tankless water heater. The Edmonton company Comfort Home Systems recommends considering these factors when choosing a new hot water heater:
- Size: The size of your home is one of the most important factors to identify which water heater will work best for you. It can help you determine both the capacity and type of tank you will need. Large capacity storage tanks are impractical for smaller homes as they expend high levels of energy to heat water that may not be used. Conversely, buying a water heater that is too small may lead to a series of cold showers when your family of five is getting ready for the day.
- Cost: High-quality water heaters can be expensive. However, buying the right hot water heater will save you money in the long run as quality heaters have longer lives and use less energy to heat the same amount of water as their counterparts.
4. Switch to Energy Star Rated Appliances
Buying a new appliances may seem like a big expense. However, energy efficient models quickly pay for themselves in savings on your electricity bill. Look for the Energy Star logo while you’re shopping for your new fridge, dishwasher, or dryer. These appliances are the most efficient on the market.
Even if you don’t need to replace any appliances yet, Energy Star can help you start saving today. Use the Portfolio Manager to regulate the water and energy use of your home or get involved in your local homeowner program to contribute to the spread of energy efficient technology in your area and stay up to speed on advancements in technology.
5. Upgrade Your Water Fixtures
Most of the average American’s water bill goes toward water that they don’t actually use. In fact, it’s estimated that if every household in the US installed water-conserving fixtures, it would save over 18 billion dollars a year and conserve 3 trillion gallons of water.
According to the American Water Works Association, upgrading the following fixtures is an easy way to cut these costs in your home:
- Switch to Low-Flow: Low-flow faucets and showerheads are a cheap way to cut down on water costs. Each piece of hardware costs less than $40 and uses half the water of their regular-flow counterparts.
- Install New Toilets: Installing ultra-low-flow toilets (which use about 1.5 gallons per flush) could cut your family’s water use by 20%.
- Repair Leaks: An estimated 5% of your indoor water use can be attributed to leaks. Even small leaks waste huge amounts of water. A leak that produces just two tablespoons of water each minute adds up to 5,460 gallons of water each year.
While your utility costs are unlikely to disappear, they don’t have to run your finances into the ground either. No matter what condition your home is in, these repairs can help you cut your utility bills and put money back in your wallet.