Miles Musings

5 Ways to Save Energy Without Inconvenience

Miles YoungThe power bill comes every month. Although we often gripe at the cost, we just pay it and move on. What we should be doing instead is taking a look at things we can change in our homes that will save on energy usage. The problem is that we typically don't like to make the effort for what we think will amount to only a few dollars saved.

What if there were a few changes you could make to your home that would save you a large amount of money each month? Would you take the time then? You can make numerous cost-saving changes in your home. To get you started, here are five ways to conserve energy without inconveniencing your lifestyle.

Adjust Your Water Heater Temperature

water heater | Flickr/Mark Florence

Image via Flickr by Mark Florence 

Most water heaters come preset from the factory at 140 degrees. For most people, that's very hot. If you turn your shower faucet all the way to hot and let it run for a minute, you can test the temperature. If the water is scalding, you know you can turn your thermostat down. Energy.gov recommends that for most people, 120 degrees tends to be a comfortably hot temperature. 

By turning your water heater down just 10 degrees, you can save approximately 3 to 5 percent on your energy bill. The savings may seem like a small amount, but it does add up. 

Use Water Saving Fixtures

If you limit the length of time you spend showering, you'll reduce water-heating usage. However, for some people, the idea of taking a faster shower is unappealing and not something they are willing to do. Instead, you can look into installing water-saving fixtures. 

You may not realize just how much water flows out of your shower head and how much is wasted during a shower. Simply by installing WaterSense fixtures, you can reduce your usage by 30 percent and lower the amount of water you are heating by the same amount. 

Take Advantage of Your Window Treatments

living room blinds | Flickr/Stephan Harris

Image via Flickr by Stephen Harris

Did you know that your curtains and blinds are more than just decorations and light blockers? They also keep the temperature in your home constant as outdoor temperatures fluctuate. By closing your curtains during summer days, you keep the sun from heating your rooms and, thus, keep your air-conditioning from running quite as much. And the opposite is true for the winter, when your curtains and blinds help block the cold from seeping through the windows. A warmer room means your heater runs less. 

Switch to LED

bulbs | Flickr/Samsung Tomorrow

Image via Flickr by Samsung Tomorrow

Are you a creature of habit who's stuck in old-school ways by using incandescent light bulbs? If so, the simplest thing you can do to save on your power bill is switching to LED bulbs. Also, if you decorate your house during Christmastime, you know that your energy bill can increase significantly with Christmas lights burning every evening. Using LED lights is 75 percent more energy-efficient than using incandescent lights. This can make a huge difference in your energy bill. Using LED bulbs from companies such as ChristmasLightsEtc.com not only can save you a ton of money but can also reduce your carbon footprint. 

Use a Programmable Thermostat

Eco View thermostat | Flickr/Advanced Technology

Image via Flickr by Advanced Telemetry

Need a quick and easy way to save on energy costs? Check into using a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat allows you to set the temperature for different times of the day as well as for different days. If you are away during business hours Monday through Friday, there is no reason for your air-conditioning to be constantly running until just before you come home in the evening. Why not program your thermostat and save up to 15 percent on your annual energy bill by simply adjusting your thermostat 10 degrees during hours you are not home?

Taking the time to make these five easy adjustments in your home will not only benefit the environment but also will save you money. So instead of griping over your power bill each month, make these changes and smile knowing that next month your bill will drop.

6 Best Ways to Save Money on Your Home Projects

Miles YoungIn the wake of the housing crisis, more people are investing money in their homes when buying a new one is not an option. Even if you are brand new to the do-it-yourself (DIY) lifestyle, renovating your place is easier than you may realize. Here are six of the best ways to save money on your home projects.

Pick the Right Projects

If you watch a lot of home improvement shows, you've probably observed that most people's motivation for undertaking a home makeover is enhancing overall property value. Conventional wisdom says that making improvements to your kitchen and bathrooms will lend the biggest boost to your bottom line. While there are some arguments to the contrary, this strategy is a pretty safe bet.

Think of your housing project as an investment for the future. While you can have fun with a new coat of paint and some fresh window treatments, you should always have an eye on protecting your investment. Make a list of everything you believe could use updating. Then, perform a bit of research to determine which renovations sustain value over time.

add a new door | miketually/Flickr 

Photo: miketually/Flickr

Do the Math

Many consumers are intimidated by home improvement projects due to fear of the unknown. For example, an often-quoted estimate is that the average cost of a kitchen makeover is $53,931. People hear that number, realize that's the cost of buying a couple of cars, and decide to maintain the status quo. Take a deep breath. You don't have to spend anywhere near that much. By following a few DIY suggestions and employing a remodeling estimator, you may discover that your kitchen makeover can be done for $20,000 or less, depending upon what is needed.

Deck Your Halls

Research shows that a new wood deck costing $10,000 can retain as much as $8,740 of the investment. That kind of project embodies the perfect marriage of current needs and future home appraisal enhancement.

Right now, you can enjoy barbecuing steaks on a grill you buy for your new deck. Down the road, when you are ready to sell your current residence, the money you spent will inflate your asking price. In the meantime, have fun decorating it with fantastic accessories like a bird feeder or an old-fashioned rocking chair. Head to an outdoor furniture specialist like YardEnvy.com, and enjoy knowing that you can afford to splurge a bit since you have already protected your investment.

Open a New Door

Believe it or not, there is an even simpler solution that can return as much as 96.6 percent of your financial expenditure. It's a new door. While this change won't improve your quality of living, it does go a long way toward improving the curb appeal of your home. After all, it's the first thing any visitor will see when they come in.

Find a Ned Flanders

Homer Simpson is always borrowing his next-door neighbor's tools. Even though he is yellow (and fictional), the world's favorite cartoon dad has the right idea. There is no point in buying a new batch of specialized tools for a short-term undertaking.

Let your friends and coworkers know about your project. Find out if they have anything helpful that you can use for a couple of months. If they don't, check Craigslist and similar communities to see if somebody in your area is renting or selling the item you need for cheaper than retail. You want every dime going toward your project, not toward tools you may never use again.

Install Dimmer Switches

Not every addition is about home value. Money you have today is always better than money you may have tomorrow, so take the opportunity to increase your electrical efficiency. Dimmers and halogen bulbs will not be features that sell your home quickly, but they will save you hundreds of dollars in energy costs over time. That's money you can use the next time you want to remodel!

Renovating your home is an exciting but scary process. Using the tips above, you'll be able to find the perfect balance between your immediate needs and protecting your housing investment over time.