As the days get shorter, it’s time to look indoors — for ways to save energy. The U.S. Department of Energy has declared October as Energy Action Month in hopes of spurring more people to conserve.
Saving energy also means saving money. But where to start?
According to the DOE, heating and cooling account for about 56 percent of energy use in a typical U.S. home. That also represents the largest energy expense for most homeowners.
Beefing up insulation and stopping air leakage (called “air sealing”) can save an estimated $200 a year, according to a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Here are some more tips:
• Why insulate? Insulation helps control the heat flow in and out of the home. This saves on both heating and cooling costs because the house stays a more even temperature. The bigger the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures, the more energy is needed for maintaining a constant comfortable temperature inside the home. Adding insulation reduces that energy demand.
• How much insulation? And where? Insulation is not just for attics, but walls, too. Information about specific areas to insulate in a home (and how much is needed) is available at www.energy.gov and www.owenscorning.com.
• Be complete. For optimum efficiency, insulate and seal from the roof down to the foundation. Air can leak through face plates on switches and outlets as well as around doors, windows, pipes and under sinks. A typical home has enough air leaks that, if added all together, would equal the size of a bathroom window kept open at all times.
• Consider an energy audit. This process can pinpoint air leaks and where insulation can be improved. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) offers a Home Performance Program that includes an expert inspection and recommendations. Learn more at www.smud.org.
• Remember rebates, tax credits – and deadlines. For example, homeowners can receive a tax credit – 10 percent of the cost, up to $500 – for qualifying insulation products under the 2013 Federal Tax Credit for Consumer Energy Efficiency. But those products must be installed by Dec. 31. Find other rebate and tax credit information from your utility provider or at www.energy.gov.
– Debbie Arrington