Today we have a guest post for you from fellow blogger, Anum Yoon. Enjoy!
There is a nationwide call to “go green,” and soaring energy costs are strongly encouraging us to do so. We already have ongoing bills to pay, but it might be wise to look around your home to see what changes you can make to help you go green. Sometimes you have to spend money to save money. Here are a few home improvements which require an initial investment, but which will pay off immediately or over time.
Install a Smart Thermostat
A typical thermostat lets you control your furnace or air conditioner with a dial or digital display. Some offer the ability to program them to increase or decrease the temperature at certain times of the day.
Smart thermostats use technology to control the temperature of your home remotely, via computer, tablet or smart phone. You can program it to meet the needs of your typical schedule or access it for unexpected changes, such as coming home earlier or later than expected.
Smart thermostats won’t necessarily save you money, especially if you tend to like your home hotter or cooler than others. However, it does give you the opportunity to be more energy conscious and energy efficient. Simply put, using less energy will save you money and it doesn’t require you to sacrifice your comfort.
Switch to LED Bulbs
Buying energy efficient light bulbs will reduce your energy consumption with every bulb installed. LED bulbs use about 75 percent or less energy than its incandescent counterpart. They also last about 25 times longer than a typical light bulb.
You are going to pay a lot more for them. Expect to pay eight times as much for an LED bulb. But think of it as an investment in your home energy costs and as a way to decrease world energy use and to cut down on pollution and global warming.
Since LED’s use less energy, they also produce less heat. That’s worth a few dollars. Plus, there are sales now and then as well as rebates. Prices will likely decrease over time.
Purchase a Water Softener
“Hard” water is water containing a high amount of minerals, typically calcium and magnesium. You might notice a white scaly material on your coffee pot or in your sink. These are the minerals in your water remaining after evaporation.
Hard water often tastes or smells bad, especially with increased sulfur compounds in it. It’s not hard to tell if a home uses untreated well water. Hard water can wreak havoc on your plumbing and appliances, as well as ruin an otherwise tasty meal.
Pipes can get clogged as minerals stick together and block the water flow. You can’t see this without dismantling the plumbing, but you will notice a decreased output. You can find minerals clogging the wire screen on the kitchen sink outlet. Your dishwasher won’t run as efficiently when clogged with mineral deposits, and dishes will often appear cloudy. Clothes won’t seem as clean when washed in hard water.
A water softener removes these undesired minerals using a filter which attracts them. Minerals such as calcium and magnesium get “stuck’ in the filter and are replaced by sodium and potassium. Your water becomes “soft” and tastes much better. You might have to get used to showering in it, as it feels slimy like the soap isn’t coming off. Don’t worry, you are actually getting cleaner than before.
Softened water tastes better and is much easier on your appliances. No more clogging, and no more unsightly scales or rust spots on your appliances and clothing. It’s worth the expense and will save money in costly repairs and maintenance.
Swap Out Your Refrigerator
You might not want to get rid of your reliable old refrigerator. Why replace it if it’s working, right?
But did you know your old refrigerator uses almost twice as much energy as a new, Energy Star compliant refrigerator? By getting rid of your old one— and don’t worry, it can be recycled— you can save over $270 over the next five years. Plus, you will be reducing your carbon footprint dramatically. Some local utility companies offer rebates for switching to an Energy Star refrigerator.
Update Your Insulation
You spend over half of your energy costs heating and cooling your home. If your home isn’t properly insulated, a lot of that money spent is escaping through the unseen crevices of your home.
The wall spaces, attic, basement and crawl spaces should all be insulated. Have them inspected. If your home is older, it may be wise to invest in new insulation. Insulation is usually made of fiberglass and comes in blanket rolls.
Some fiberglass insulation is sprayed inside your attic in the form of little pieces which can fill in hard to reach crevasses and openings. If you are handling it yourself, be sure to wear gloves, as fiberglass can irritate the skin.
Check around your home. In the winter, you might feel a draft from your electrical outlets. These can be insulated with a simple foam rubber patch, available at any hardware store. Caulk air leaks around doors and windows. Insulate hot water pipes with a specifically designed foam wrap so that the heat stays in the water and doesn’t escape into the air. Making these easy improvements will noticeably reduce your energy costs.
Install Energy Efficient Windows
Windows are expensive. You take them for granted because they are already in your house. But if your windows are 15 to 20 years old, you might be wasting money trying to heat your home as drafts thwart your efforts. Replacing old wooden windows with energy efficient vinyl windows can cost over $15,000 in an average 2,400 square foot home.
For this investment, you will save an average of 15 percent per year in energy costs. You could also recoup somewhere around 80 percent of your investment in increased home value, should you have to move in the future. These savings potentials vary widely according to your specific housing market, energy costs and climate where you live. As with other improvements, local utility companies offer rebates for these investments.
Whether it’s spending a few dollars for some caulk or pipe wrap or investing thousands of dollars in major updates, your efforts will help save energy and therefore money. It’s up to you. You can pay now or pay later. Better yet, pay wisely.
Anum Yoon is the blogger behind Current on Currency, a blog for adults who can’t money good. All jokes aside, Anum is passionate about sharing actionable personal finance insights.