While I’m looking forward to chilly nights and winter’s wonder, I dread the increased energy bills that come with them. So I spoke with expert Jordan Goldman, an engineering principal at ZeroEnergy Design, a firm that specializes in high-performance homes and buildings. He helped me compile this list of easy moves you can make right away to improve your home’s energy efficiency, as well as larger investments you can make to take it to the next level now or in the future.
ZeroEnergy Design, original photo on Houzz
Volunteer for an Audit
Do it now: “It’s likely your local utility company offers energy audits. Get one,” Goldman says. Start by asking your gas and electric utility companies. Another good resource is the Residential Energy Services Network. The U.S. Department of Energy provides a helpful guide for how to get the most out of your energy audit.
Good investment: Implement all the audit recommendations that you can.
Nest, original photo on Houzz
Do it now: Wear warmer pajamas, add an extra blanket to your bed, and switch your duvet from cotton to something warmer like down, so you can turn your thermostat down a few extra degrees at night.
Good investment: “Install a programmable thermostat that will lower the temperature for you,” Goldman says.
Contemporary Exterior, original photo on Houzz
Seal It Tight
Do it now: Check your exterior storm windows. Make sure they are in place and closed.
Good investment: Goldman recommends weatherstripping older inefficient windows to decrease air leakage.
William Britten, original photo on Houzz
Do it now: Remove window air-conditioning units for the winter.
Good investment: “Consider replacing window units with high-efficiency mini-split systems with heating and cooling instead,” Goldman says.
Common Bond Design, original photo on Houzz
Make a Call
Do it now: If you use natural gas to heat your home, call your utility company to find out the best rate per therm you can lock in. This is usually something you lock in for 12 months. Do this before it gets any colder and the demand increases.
Good investment (of time): Shop around before committing. The public service commission in your state likely offers price charts from all the natural gas companies online. And pay attention to mailers. I save every offer I get in the mail from other gas companies. They usually offer tempting introductory locked-in rates that your existing company will be motivated to match. Have them handy when you call your natural gas company so that you can negotiate. Be sure to read and ask about the fine-print monthly fees associated with locking in your rate.
Improve Your Equipment’s Performance
Do it now: Now is the time to clean and replace your furnace filter. And for safety, make sure the area around your furnace is clear. To take this a step further, have your HVAC service provider perform a checkup on your system before the cold weather arrives. He or she will make sure your furnace is in good shape and running smoothly, as well as check on your ducts.
Good investment: “Upgrade your furnace to a new high-efficiency model,” Goldman says.
Steele Consulting Group, original photo on Houzz
Do it now: Wrap your existing electric water heater with a manufacturer-approved insulation jacket.
Good investment: Consider replacing your existing water heater with a heat pump water heater, Goldman advises.