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Five must-haves for the energy-efficient home

By Mary Ripley on  July 13, 2017

The most important feature of an energy-efficient home may be a resident with good energy conservation habits: such as turning off lights in an empty a room, etc. But if you’re really serious about bringing down your household energy usage, take note of the following essentials. (If the cost savings from these investments isn’t enough incentive, remember that you can claim the cost of the first three improvements on this list for federal tax credits as part of the America Taxpayer Relief Act.)

Efficient heating and cooling equipment

If your HVAC system is 10 years old or older or isn’t working properly, consider an energy-efficient replacement. No matter how you maintain climate control – furnace, boiler, geothermal heat pump, central air conditioner – an energy-efficient version is available. Just look for the Energy Star rating.

By the way, a home’s central air conditioner usually operates using the blower motor from the furnace. If you replace your air conditioner unit with a more energy-efficient version and attach it to your old furnace, you will diminish the new system’s effectiveness. (Any energy-efficient HVAC component can be claimed for a tax credit!)

Energy Efficient Windows

If your home has older windows, as much as 25 percent of your heat and cooled air could be escaping through them. You can reduce air leakage by weather stripping movable parts of your windows and doors and caulking the gaps and cracks in stationary parts. But, if you want to have a real impact on your energy bill, replace those drafty windows and energy-efficient ones. The investment will pay for itself and then some. And don’t forget the tax credit!

Proper Insulation

Energy experts call the barrier between the inside of your home and outdoors the “thermal envelope.” Walls, doors and windows are all part of that envelope, but the most critical components may be the home’s insulation and the caulk and weather stripping used to seal up gaps and cracks.

Your home should be completely blanketed – exterior walls, floors and ceiling/attic – with the right type of insulation. No matter what variety you use (batt, blown-in, sprayed/injected or rigid) be sure it is properly installed to achieve its full energy-saving potential. Yes, insulation installation is eligible for the tax-credit!

Programmable thermostat

A programmable thermostat allows you to set your HVAC system to work only when you need it without having to constantly adjust the thermostat. By taking the time to program it, you can set it to lower the heat or air conditioning after you leave and turn it back up just before you arrive home. This can save as much 30 percent on your energy bill.

Often, these gadgets are like little boxes of unclaimed cash hanging on the wall. It is estimated that about half of the households with programmable thermostats do not use them properly – or at all. If that sounds like you, or you aren’t sure how to operate your programmable thermostat, consult your thermostat owner’s manual (or, chances are you can find instructions online). If your thermostat isn’t programmable, consider exchanging it for one that is.

Energy Star lighting and appliances

The Energy Star program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency labels products as Energy Star rated when they are proven by a third-party certifier to be highly energy efficient and, as a result, less expensive to operate.
Look for the Energy Star rating on products including light fixtures, ventilation fans, and major appliances including refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers.

Sources:
www.energystar.gov (U.S. EPA)
www.nrel.gov (National renewable energy laboratory of Department of Energy)

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