We military people tend to move. And whenever we move into a new house, there are a number of things we should do to make sure that our new home is energy efficient. Which items work for you depends on a number of factors: are you renting or did you buy? are you paying for your utilities? how long will you be there?
Here are some things to consider doing:
- Turn the hot water heater down to 120 degrees. You will save a lot of electricity and you’ll also lower the chances of someone burning themselves with hot water. If your hot water heater is more than 15 years old, consider adding a water heater blanket. For $30-40, you can save a bundle on your water heating costs.
- Put in compact flourescent lights (CFLs) or LED lights where appropriate. Both use significantly less energy than traditional incandescent lights, plus they usually last longer. CFLs can be used anywhere, but you can start with halls, outdoor lighting, basements and garages. There does seem to be some different in the quality of CFLs – I would stick to brand name products for this. LED lights don’t produce as bright a light, so they are better for applications such as nightlights, hallways, and recessed lighting.
- Replace (or clean) the air filter in your heating and air conditioning system. Some military housing provides this service for you. Find the filter, write down the dimensions, and pick up a replacement the next time you are at the store. Not only will you save money, you might prevent your system from quitting on the hottest (or coldest) day of the year. I once called my HVAC company because my air conditioning had stopped working. The knowledgeable scheduler asked me a few questions to make sure it wasn’t a simple problem and sure enough, my filter was old and completely clogged!
- Keep furniture and draperies away from vents, radiators or baseboard heaters. I know how hard this can be – sometimes it seems like they purposely put the vents in the only sensible place for the furniture! However, the benefits are worth the drama of arranging around the vents. You will be more comfortable, your furniture will last longer, and your utility bills will be a lot lower.
- Seal doors and windows. The options are nearly unlimited. Start with caulk, expanding foam and weatherstripping. Put foam gaskets behind outlet covers on exterior walls, and put safety plugs (baby-proof kind) in unused outlets. Use heavy draperies – I’ve been known to hang quilts over drafty windows in the winter. Replace drafty door thresholds, or put a rolled up towel in front of them. Consider shrinkwrapping your windows. There are all kinds of kits available. Most use tape to affix the plastic to the window, after which you blow dry to shrink the plastic to fit. I’ve even seen new types advertised that claim to be completely see through. Staple some insulation to the back of the attic access door and weather strip around it. Make sure that all storm windows are installed and closed.
These few, simple measures can help keep your utility bills lower. While we transient folks can’t make every possible change to save energy, these are things that we can easily do to make our lives a little more efficient and affordable.