Tips to reduce home expenses
* Check your air conditioner’s ducts for leaks. Simply take your hand and feel for air blowing out of the ductwork. If you find a leak, turn off the air conditioner, remove a thin layer of insulation and apply a sealant. If the leak persists or there is a large hole, cover the area with silver tape and a layer of sealant. After the leak is fixed, reapply the insulation.
* Consider installing attic fans (not pictured) or an active ventilation system if your duct system runs through it. It will help your house remain cooler.
* Regularly clean the condenser and condenser coils in the refrigerator. Dust and dirt collects on them, making the system work harder to keep items cold.
* Consider all places leaks can occur in the home, including cracks around doors, windows, pipes, electric panels, doorknobs and electrical outlets.
* Replace compact fluorescent lights, which contain mercury, with LED lights, which are more energy efficient.
One of the biggest expenses for homeowners is the electricity bill. For some, it can be as much as a second mortgage payment.
However, people can do many things to reduce their utility bills, according to local energy consultant Robert Eidson.
“Most of the public thinks that they can’t control their power bill, that it is a fixed expense,” Eidson said. “But that isn’t the case.
“They never stop to think ‘how can I lower that power bill?’ even though it is one of their highest expenses.”
Eidson is a member of the Hall County Green Alliance and has made a career out of boosting energy efficiency for commercial operations. Most recently, he conducted an energy audit on the city of Oakwood that resulted in a 30 to 40 percent reduction in electricity costs. When he isn’t working, he conducts free seminars and consultations to promote residential energy efficiency.
“Every dollar we spend on energy waste is something we could have done something else with,” he said. “Whether it is giving it to charity, saving it or just buying an extra cup of coffee.”
Though electricity bills can vary in amount based on house and family size and what time of year it is, Eidson said if you pay more than $100 a month for power, you probably have inefficiencies in your house. Heating and air conditioning make up the majority of the energy consumption for most families, yet many of these systems are using improperly sealed or, in some cases, completely unattached air ducts.
“In most houses, the ducts leak like Swiss cheese,” Eidson said. “It is very simple to find, a homeowner just has to take their hand, go to the (air ducts) and feel if there is air blowing out.
“If you feel it coming out, stop it from doing that.”
Most leaks occur at the joints. If a leak is found, all you need to do is turn off the air conditioner, remove the thin layer of insulation from around the duct and apply a sealant, such as “Duct Seal,” to the area. Allow the sealant about 30 minutes to dry and turn the air conditioner back on. If the leak persists or there is a large hole, cover the area with silver tape and a layer of sealant. After the leak is fixed, reapply the insulation.
This should be done for both the air conditioner’s intake and outlet ducts.
If your duct system goes through your attic, it might be worthwhile to consider an active ventilation system as well.
“Your attic temperature can get up to 150 or 180 degrees,” Eidson said. “If your air conditioner is putting out at 70 degrees, that is almost a 100-degree difference.
“I recommend putting in an attic fan; I have four in my house. Sometimes you just need forced-air ventilation.”
As a general rule, homeowners should keep outside air out of their homes, and air-conditioned air in. To do that, they need to consider all possible areas of leakage. Common locations include cracks around windows, doors, pipes, electric panels and even doorknobs and electrical outlets.
Refrigeration is another large component of most energy bills. This can be reduced by regularly cleaning the condenser and condenser coils in your fridge. Otherwise, they collect dust and dirt, which makes the system work harder to keep things cold.
Other things to watch for are so-called “vampire loads,” or appliances that needlessly stay on for long periods of time. This can include lights, televisions and computers, among other things. You can reduce their effect by turning them off, switching to more efficient alternatives or using timers to turn off the appliance when you are asleep or away from home.
Eidson recommends replacing lightbulbs with LED lights and not compact fluorescent lights, which contain mercury.
Additionally, many utility companies offer rebates for improving your energy efficiency and can provide inspection programs.
“Usually I can reduce someone’s energy consumption by 40 or 50 percent with no or low-cost solutions,” he said. “Normally, it is simple things.”
Eidson is a member of a group of energy consultants who do free seminars for groups in Hall County. You can request a presentation by contacting Keep Hall Beautiful at www.keephallbeautiful.org or 770-531-1102.