Author Bio: Sustainable PF writes with his wife, Mrs. SPF out of Ontario, Canada, at Sustainable Personal Financewhere they discuss and explore the fine balance between their personal financial goals and their lifestyle and beliefs regarding sustainable living.
Regardless if you live in a cold or warm climate there are many ways you can save money and energy in your home. Here in Canada we usually think about saving precious heat from our furnaces, however, in the summer many of us want to cool our homes as well. The benefits can be remarkable. Not only will you see your monthly bills reduced you will know full well that you are truly helping the environment by not only burning less fuel but by reducing the amount of energy extracted from the earth and the subsequent waste that result from such activities. The following are some tips, tricks, and tools you can employ to lower your energy use.
1 – Create a Monthly Hearty Meal
Monthly cooking appears to be a growing trend, however, think back to when you were young and you likely remember your parents or grandmother cooking far too much food and freezing it for later use. During the colder months you can cook large batches of pasta sauce, chili, stew and soup. Eat some immediately, save some for meals later in the week, and freeze the rest for later. In the warmer months when the barbeque is fired up you can add some extra hamburger (or in Miss T’s case veggie burgers) onto the grill and you can have them for lunch during the week. If you’re using the energy (and spending money to do so) to make the food, why make just enough for one meal when you can stock up? Re-heating food uses less energy than does the initial cooking of food so you’ll save money saving on energy use. You also end up with a freezer full of easy to re-heat meals.
2 – Re-seal Your Windows & Doors
Sealants, like most things, don’t last forever. While a sealant, such as caulking, may appear to be in good condition, after 5-7 years it is usually wearing thing and becoming porous. This means valuable warm or cool air is escaping. We don’t need to pay to heat and cool the outdoors! It is a wise practice to strip the sealant from your windows and doors a few times every decade or so and add new caulking. Yes you’ll pay a couple of dollars on more sealant but this pales in comparison to how much furnace warmed, or air condition cooled air you lose annually with old sealant.
3 – Replace Your Old Furnace
Unfortunately, much like sealant, your furnace won’t last forever either. This is a pricey item to replace. If you own a home this replacement falls under the “home maintenance” entry in your household budget. If you follow the oft repeated rule “save 1% of the value of your homes value for repairs”, this should help offset the cost of furnace replacement every 15-20 years. When you do have to replace your heat source, look into the high efficiency models. They burn less oil/gas/propane/wood which means you pay less for fuels.
4 – Enjoy Warm or Cool Drinks
A warm drink on a cold day and likewise a cool drink on a hot day will help regulate your body temperature. The result is that you won’t need to crank your heating or cooling sources as high (or low). A tip for making warm drinks is to only boil as much water as you require to make the drink. The less water in the kettle means less time heating it up. For cool drinks try to keep some large pop bottles (or better yet glass bottles) of liquids in your fridge. Your drink will be cold, you won’t need to make ice, you’ll keep the bottle out of a landfill and best yet: large bottles of cool liquid help regulate your fridge’s temperature, keeping it cool without it turning on.
5 – Program Your Thermostat
By setting your thermostat to a program based on your schedule you will save money by not needlessly burning energy when you aren’t in your home. When you are home program your thermostat to keep the home at a comfortable temperature. When you know you won’t be home, such as during work hours, or that you don’t need as much heating/cooling, such as at night while you sleep, program the thermostat in a way where your heating/cooling won’t kick in as much. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, get one! You never have to worry about leaving the heat on when you are away.
6 – Take Advantage of Nature
During the winter open your blinds and curtains. Let the sun beam through your windows to help warm your home. Conversely, during the summer, close those curtains up during the day to block the sun from warming your house too much. A pretty simple tactic, but it works. In the summer you can also open your windows at night to take advantage of the cooler night air.
7 – Plug Up Those Outlets and Switches
This is another relatively cheap thing to do. Akin to air loss through the seams on your doors and windows, those little boxes that encapsulate electrical switches and outlets can also be a cause of a lot of air loss as they are not air tight. You can buy fitted Styrofoam inserts that fit behind the switch/outlet plates to stop the air from escaping (or entering) and these inserts do not cost much money.
8 – Cool or Heat the Room You Occupy
A home has many rooms, rooms that are rarely all being used. When appropriate try to heat the primary rooms you and your family use (den, living room, kitchen) with a gas or wood fireplace (if you have them). When in use the kitchen stove helps to heat your kitchen. You can keep your thermostat at a lower setting for the heating of other rooms (spare rooms, basement) that do not get used as much by practising this. During the summer use overhead or floor fans to get a cool breeze and to keep air circulating around you.
9 – More on Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans are great. During the summer, after you open your windows at night, switch the fan to reverse mode and it will assist in sucking that cool night air into your house. During the winter keep those ceiling fans on! They will push the warm air, which rises naturally, back toward the people who crave warmth closer to the floor.
10 – Insulation Will Pay for Itself
Insulation isn’t cheap but it sure is effective keeping warmth in your home during the winter and hot air out of your house in the summer. Without insulation your house leaks warm air into the great outdoors during winter as warm air seeks ways to get to cooler air (e.g. heat rises in your home trying to get to the cool attic). During summer the hot air outside will try to penetrate your (likely) cooler home. Insulation pays for itself in heating/cooling energy loss within 7-9 years while lasting 15+ years depending on the product you use. A worthy investment.
By practising some of the tips mentioned and exploring making your home more energy efficient you are guaranteed to save money while knowing you are using less energy and leaving a smaller carbon footprint on this place we call home.