Ask Eco Ed Column: How Do I Keep My Home Comfortable and Energy Prices Down?

Dear Eco-Ed:

It sure has heated up quickly.  I live in an older home, built in the 1930’s.  I swear it is hotter than in past years, and it’s only early June.  Our electric bills were very high last summer, as the air conditioner was running constantly.  These past couple of weeks it has been running, but doesn’t seem to get our home comfortable.  What do you recommend?

– Sweltering in Ridgewood

Dear Sweltering:

Learn how to keep your historic home comfortable this summer, without expensive energy bills.

Learn how to keep your historic home comfortable this summer, without expensive energy bills.

It sure did go from spring to summer in a hurry this year.  And a very short spring it was!  There are many things that you can do to prepare for the summer, but it sounds like there may be other issues you are contending with also.  We had one heck of a hot spell last year, where it was over 100 degrees for about a week.

Here are some action items which can help you be comfortable this summer, without breaking the bank.

  1. DO NOT run to cut down trees because of recent storms.  Sometimes limbs or sick trees require attention, but mature trees provide tremendous value to us, our yards, along with our community.
  2. Have an energy audit done with a certified home energy auditing company.  It will benchmark your current conditions, as every home is different.  The energy audit will help you to prioritize where to best spend your time and efforts.  It is also the first step towards getting you rebates from the Home Performance with Energy Star Program to cover the cost of certain efficiency upgrades – up to $5000 per home, and 0% financing for up to $10,000!
  3. A professional energy audit can prioritize tasks to improve your home´s comfort, safety, and energy efficiency.

    A professional energy audit can prioritize tasks to improve your home´s comfort, safety, and energy efficiency.

  4. Single-paned windows do little to keep out the heat.  If the windows are in good condition, no need to buy new ones – installing a storm window provides a second layer of protection and is much more cost-effective in most situations.
  5. Upgrade your incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescents, or even better, LED’s.  LED lights have finally come down in price to a point where it is feasible to install them everywhere.  This not only saves money on electricity, but lights generate a lot of heat.  This heat makes it even more difficult to cool your home properly.
  6. Have your air conditioning system checked by a qualified HVAC professional.  Older systems may leak refrigerant, or just get inefficient as they get older.  Or it may be that your ductwork could be leaky, and not getting the cool air to the proper rooms.  Go with someone you trust, as many companies will just recommend that you buy a new unit, which many times is not the core issue.
  7. Check your insulation levels.  Insulation does not only keep heat inside in winter, it also keeps heat out in summer months (and cooler air inside).  In an older home odds are the insulation is not up to current standards.  Even homes built in the past 10 years could be better insulated, as recommend standards and codes have improved in recent years.
  8. Dress comfortably!  Many of us come home from work, still dressed in long pants, long-sleeves, etc.  It is amazing how much more comfortable shorts and a light shirt are on hot summer days.
  9. Enjoy a nice cool shower now and then.  This is refreshing and keeps your body temperature down.  It is one of life’s little pleasures that is very under-rated!

 

Summer is a wonderful time of the year, so don’t let the heat bring you down.  Make your home comfortable castle that it should be!

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