Upgrading a home in order to cut your utility bills, while also making the most out of the power you do draw upon is a part of what it is to be a savvy homeowner.
In part 2, and the last, in his series about his own household energy upgrades, writer and homeowner Ryan Boots weighs in on some strategies he considers to be long-range strategies for energy efficiency as it relates to a reduced energy bill.
As I explained in my previous post about energy efficiency upgrades, I have owned homes in two of the hottest areas of the nation during the last 10 years. As a result, I have had more than enough incentive to find ways to make our home cooler while also keeping energy costs under some degree of control.
In that post I reviewed some of the home improvement projects that have gone a long way towards making our home cooler and helping shave some of the cost off our monthly electricity bill, which during the summer routinely topped $300.
There are other projects we’ve done that, while somewhat helpful, will likely take a good deal longer to pay for themselves.
When we first moved into our current home, the windows were quite old (probably the originals) and were sealed very poorly. At the time, my wife worked from home and reported that the upstairs windows where she worked popped with heat expansion. So when we had the money saved up, we had them all replaced with high-strength storm windows.
This was easily one of the most expensive upgrades we did to our house. Not surprisingly, it will almost certainly take longer to pay off than some of the other energy efficiency upgrades we made. However, they are a good deal stronger – a selling point in hurricane country – than the old windows, which were badly in need of replacement. So the cost was more easily justified. And the new windows are a lot prettier.
You’ve seen this before in hotel rooms – it can do a great job of blocking out the sun when the curtains are closed. We only put this in the master bedroom and one of the rooms with a westward-facing window that gets blasted with the afternoon sun. It helps block out the sun to keep things darker. But its impact on our energy costs is probably minimal in the short term. In addition, blackout fabric is considerably heavier than regular curtain fabric, so you’ll need a stronger curtain rod and mounting hardware.
There are other things we’d like to do to our windows in the future, such as install solar screens. We also recently installed blinds in our living room, kitchen and master bedroom. I can’t say yet how much they help during the summer.
Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs
As you may be aware, there’s some amount of controversy over these bulbs. The federal government has mandated that all light bulbs sold in the United States be at least 25% more energy efficient by January 1, 2012, in effect mandating the use of bulbs such as CFLs.
A number of users have reported that CFLs don’t last as long indicated in manufacturers’ estimates and don’t save as much energy as promised. I’d say they probably help save energy. But I can definitely attest that we’ve ended up having to replace our bulbs much sooner than planned. We installed several CFLs when we bought our house four years ago, and we’ve already had to replace a couple of them.
There’s another problem with CFLs that probably doesn’t get enough attention: substantial differences in lighting color from one bulb to the next. Some produce the more familiar soft white or yellow light that we’re used to from incandescent bulbs, while others give off a more bluish light. We found this out the hard way when we had to replace one of the dead CFLs in our bathroom.
Like many ongoing home improvement projects, we haven’t really finished so much as hit a stopping point. Is there something else we might consider? Chip in a comment below!
Have your experiences in making energy upgrades to your home been the same as Ryan’s. Have they been radically different? As he suggests himself, “chip in” a comment to tell us about it!