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Maximizing Home Energy Efficiency

If you’re an average American, you spend $1,900 per year on energy bills, with most of that money going toward heating and cooling systems, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. But you could save at least 20% on annual energy spending, the agency says, by taking some of the following steps:

Seal off your home from air leaks. First, locate where air is leaking into and out of the home. Most drafts and air leaks are located in attics and basements. Then seal those leaks with insulation, caulk and other materials. If you have unfinished areas of your home, such as your basement, be sure to add a layer of insulation to any finish work you decide to do. Insulation can be installed behind drywall, for instance, or can be “blown in” in foam form behind existing walls. If you have older metal windows, consider replacing them with windows that prevent heat loss.

Maintain home heating systems equipment. Dirty or poorly-maintained heating systems waste energy. Be sure to get a home heating system check-up at least annually and replace air filters on a quarterly basis

Use programmable thermostats. By using programmable thermostats, homeowners can turn heat down during the workday or at night, and also while traveling. Programmable thermostats can prevent energy waste, and may even save the typical household up to $150 per year.

Look for Energy Star products and read appliance labels. Energy Star-labeled products are designed to perform with more efficiency, use less power, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. Energy Star-validated products are built using energy-efficient standards, allowing partner businesses that make appliances or building products and consumers who buy them to contribute to lowering energy waste in the U.S. Energy Star has placed its seal of approval on items ranging from building materials to office products, home entertainment devices, lighting and electrical devices, and common household appliances. To find Energy Star recommended products in your market, click here:http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=store.store_locator.

Conduct a home “energy audit.” If you need help determining which areas of your home are the most costly or inefficient in terms of energy usage, the US Department of Energy offers a home energy “calculator” (http://hes.lbl.gov/) which can help you pinpoint trouble spots. The EPA’s Energy Star program offers an online “energy yardstick” test that helps you analyze your energy usage using your past 12 months’ energy bills at this site:http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=home_energy_yardstick.showStep2.

Switch to energy-efficient products. Many energy vendors offer incentives for your use of efficient or renewable energy sources or technologies. That means by installing new energy-efficient heaters, boilers, furnaces, windows, insulation, or other products that you can receive two benefits—one at the time of purchase, the other when utility bills go down. For a list of organizations and incentives organized by state, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy here: http://www.dsireusa.org/.

It’s easier than ever to conserve energy if you seal leaks in your home, choose your appliances carefully and take advantage of basic technologies – like timed thermostats – to make the best use of your energy dollars. It pays to be a smart consumer, and an environmental advocate.