Many people get excited about savings accounts that earn 5 percent interest, but there's a way to invest that earns three times as much. By making 10 energy-efficiency measures in a typical home, the yield is nearly $600 in annual bill savings - or a 16 percent overall return on investment, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. See the math here: http://hes.lbl.gov/hes/profitable.html
An "energy audit" is a good first step toward realizing those money savings and making your place more energy efficient. Put simply, an energy audit determines how much energy your home uses and figures out ways to slash that. An audit can show how to save electricity, such as by switching to less-energy-hungry light bulbs and appliances. An audit can determine the efficiency of your heating system or A/C. You may notice, for the first time, costly gaps around windows and doors, thanks to an audit. Audits can show ways to trim costs for heating water. (Example: Turn down the temperature of the water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.)
You can do a simple energy audit yourself. The easiest route is the "Home Energy Saver," a web-based do-it-yourself energy audit tool offered by the federal government: hes.lbl.gov/
Another way is by walking through your home and diligently looking for issues, starting with obvious air leaks. See whether air can flow through weatherstripping around doors, fireplace dampers, attic hatches, baseboards, electrical outlets and window frames. If you see daylight through cracks around a window frame, seal it with caulk. For more ideas and issues to look for, go to tinyurl.com/cjplk
Better yet, schedule a professional energy audit (inquire at your utility company, which may offer it for free or at a discount). A professional auditor uses various techniques and equipment such as blower doors, which measure the extent of leaks.
For more info:
* Check out this Home Energy Checklist for Action, which spells out steps to take today, this week, this month and this year: www.aceee.org/consumerguide/checklist.htm
* If your utility company doesn't offer professional energy audits or referrals, then try Energy Star's Home Performance program to locate an auditor. Go to tinyurl.com/yd4cgm
* These calculators will help you evaluate your home's energy use: www1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/calculators/homes.html
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