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Monday, November 17, 2014

Make your home more energy efficient - save money for the fun things

While people who don't live in the Bay Area think of it as a warmer place (hey! It's California!) those who live here know that winters (and even summers) can be quite cool. And many of the homes are inefficiently insulated. I remember when we were moving to the Bay Area and stayed in several friends' homes and a hotel, and we froze each time in spite of the heat being cranked up. It was not fun!

That forced us to do a little thinking about how to make our new home more energy efficient so we could not only try to save the environment, but have more money to do fun things. When I was approached about doing this post for PG and E, it was a no brainer, since I'm a big proponent of saving energy.

Here are a few things I've done or recommend:

Seal the doors and windows
Are your doors and windows leaking out your warm air? If you're not getting new ones (those single pane windows with aluminum frames are terrible), then make sure any gaps are sealed. You can use weather stripping or liquid foam, both of which are economical.

When we buy new appliances, we look for the Energy Star rating. We also consider which ones qualify for utility rebates, like these appliance rebates on the PG and E page. And if you're swapping out a refrigerator, PG and E will give you $50 AND take it away for free (if you're a current customer and the unit still works).
Look for the Energy Star label on appliances

Water heaters use 17% of your home's energy, according to research I did for a article. It's often worth it to pay a little more upfront for an Energy Star appliance, because you'll save in energy costs on the back end.

Lower the thermostat
A lot of my friends crank up the heat, which feels great but wastes energy and money. Try setting your thermostat a few degrees lower, and wearing socks and a sweater. PG&E says that if you set your thermostat back 5-10 degrees when you leave the house for at least 8 hours, that you'll save 5-15% on your yearly heating bill.

Lower your thermostat
Also get an programmable thermostat that lets you change the temperature depending on the time of day. You don't need the house completely heated when you're at work. Even though I work at home, I really only need the warmth in one room while the kids are in school, and that's in my home office. I lower the temperature in the rest of the house and use a space heater while in my office (my office heater is on a separate system and is very inefficient). I don't leave the heater on when I leave the room.

You can also set the thermostat lower at night, when you're bundled up under your bedroom blankets. Sleep experts advise having a cooler room at night, so this serves two purposes!

Solar panels
We haven't done this yet, but it's something we're considering. I'm a big believer in solar panels, coming from Arizona. Some companies offer programs that install solar panels for you at no cost. You may not make as much money off the solar in the long run (since you didn't pay for them), but you're still using renewable energy and it costs you nothing or next to nothing. You can get price quotes for free.

Add insulation
Friends of ours got a home energy audit, which told them that they didn't have enough insulation in the walls. They hired someone to create small wall holes, blowing insulation into the walls through those holes (which required very minor patches). They said it made a huge difference in the home holding its warmth, and saved them money too.

add insulation if you don't have enough

PG and E has some energy saving tips here.

Win $100
By the way, PG&E is hosting an Instagram contest, where you can win one of seven $100 Home Depot cards. Check out the #PGEhome Instagram Photo Challenge Contest here. It runs November 17-23.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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