Published: August 17, 2016
Stop sending so much money to your utility company with these simple strategies.
- Caulk and seal air leaks. Buy a few cans of Great Stuff and knock yourself out over a weekend to seal around:
- Plumbing lines
- Electric wires
- Recessed lighting
Savings: Up to $227 a year — even more if you add or upgrade your insulation.
Related: Lots of Homes Also Have This HUGE Air Leak
2. Hire a pro to seal ductwork and give your HVAC a tune-up. Leaky ducts are a common energy-waster.
Savings: Up to $412 a year.
3. Program your thermostat. Shelton says 40% of consumers in her survey admit they don’t program their thermostat for energy savings. She thinks it’s even higher.
Savings: Up to $180 a year.
4. Replace all your light bulbs with LEDs. They’re coming down in price, making them even more cost effective.
Savings: $75 a year or more by replacing your five most frequently used bulbs with Energy Star-rated models.
Related: LED Bulbs Are Confusing, But Here’s a Guide to Help
5. Reduce the temperature on your water heater. Set your tank heater to 120 degrees — not the 140 degrees most are set to out of the box. Also wrap an older water heater and the hot water pipes in insulating material to save on heat loss.
Savings: $12 to $30 a year for each 10-degree reduction in temp.
NOTE: Resist the urge to total these five numbers for annual savings. The estimated savings for each product or activity can’t be summed because of “interactive effects,” says DOE. If you first replace your central AC with a more efficient one, saving, say, 15% on energy consumption, and then seal ducts, you wouldn’t save as much total energy on duct sealing as you would have if you had first sealed them. There’s just less energy to save at that point.
Bonus Tip for More Savings
Your utility may have funds available to help pay for energy improvement. Contact them directly, or visit DSIRE, a database of federal, state, local, and utility rebates searchable by state. Energy Star has a discount and rebate finder, too.
Related: Fun DIY Projects to Cut Energy Use
Home sizes are beginning to shrink, which may also help prices edge down, too.
“We are starting to see [smaller] starter homes come back,” says Rick Palacios Jr., director of research at John Burns Real Estate Consulting.
The uptick started slightly in mid-2016 as employment and wages rose.
More buyers are “now in that life stage of their early 30s [where] they’ve got a good job now, they’re getting married, they’re having kids,” Palacios says.
Some builders are heading farther from cities, where land is cheaper. Or they may construct more homes on smaller lots or build a line of attached townhouses.
“A builder can’t pay through the nose for land and then build a starter home on that land,” Palacios says. “It just doesn’t pencil out for them. [We’ve] started to see more builders gaining confidence in building lower-priced, smaller homes.”
Nearly 29 percent of the homes built between 2010 and 2015 were 3,000 square feet or more—hardly small by any standards. More builders focused on the high end of the market following the recession and built fewer smaller homes. Census data shows that 14.72 percent of new homes in the 1990s were between 1,000 and 1,499 square feet. Between 2010 to 2015, that percentage shrunk to 9.75 percent.
Robert Dietz, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders, projects about 850,000 new homes will be constructed this year, even though the market could really support about 1.2 million new homes.
An uptick in smaller homes is “not something that can be fixed overnight,” he notes. “It’s going to take a while.”
Source: “Tiny Might Be Trendy, But Homebuilders Have Been Thinking Big – Until Now,” realtor.com® (July 13, 2017)