I’m half way through the Reliant Challenge and I can already tell you that even if I don’t win the trip to BlogHer 2014, simply by participating in this challenge and what we’re now saving on our electric bill is enough of a win!
Last week, Reliant sent out an energy auditor, Daniel, to help show us areas of our home that’s causing our energy usage to go up, provide tips on how to be more energy-efficient, and strategies for decreasing our electric bill.
He begun by reviewing our electric bills over the last 12 months, and what he showed me wasn’t any surprise! Tim and I have both known that our air conditioning runs almost 24/7 in the summer time. Trying to keep our home cooled to 78 is a challenge, but we’ve always attributed this to poor circulation in our home and the fact that we live in Texas. It just gets hot. What did surprise me was that we’re using more electricity than most people who live in Dallas. So, with the energy auditor by my side, we went through a home inspection to discover why!
Although you can call Reliant and request a Home Energy Snapshot for your home, I wanted to provide you with a few pointers that our auditor provided to help you get a jump start on improving your home’s energy efficiency.
5 DIY Projects To Make Your Home More Energy-Efficient
1) Seal your attic— Our home was built in 1968, and we have the original drop-down door leading up to our attic. Our auditor used a tool to detect air temperature around the door of the attic and it was amazing the temperature difference in our hallway around the attic opening.
Recommendation: Insulate the attic door with a layer of foam board or radiant paneling underneath the folding stairs and weather strip around the edges. An even better solution would be to create an attic stair cover or attic tent/draft cap. This will create a seal trapping air in the attic and not allowing our heat (or air conditioning) to escape!
2) Check Your Attic’s Insulation — Would it surprise you to find out our attic has the original insulation from 1968; including some places where there’s no insulation from unfinished home improvement projects? I believe he measured our insulation to be 4-5″ in some of its highest places.
Recommendation: The current Department of Energy recommendation for all attics is R-30 (or an even layer 10″-11″ deep). This is an easy DIY project because most stores will rent an attic blower for relatively cheap, and new insulation can be added over existing insulation as long as air leaks have been sealed and you’re not just masking an existing problem.
3) Take Care of the HVAC System— One of the most interesting facts he shared with us about our current HVAC system is that it’s almost 18 years old and he gave an analogy that even I could understand! Although our system is old, he explained that you can compare it to a car. A good quality car will last a long time as long as you’re providing yearly maintenance and catching smaller problems and repairing them as they arise. If you’re not maintaining, similar to a car, you’ll find more frequent and more expensive repairs happening out of the blue.
Recommendation: Yearly HVAC check-ups by a professional are extremely important to maintaining your HVAC unit unless you want to find yourself replacing it or spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on repairs. Keep the outside system clean with a simple wash with a water hose and change out air filters at least every 3 months (and possibly more often in the summer with extra usage.)
4) Turn Off Your Attic Lights — As homes begin to shift, separation can occur between the walls of your home. Our auditor found a large gap between the ceiling in our living room and the brick of our fireplace. With the lights off, he could see directly down into our living room, and if he could see down, air was definitely escaping up.
Recommendation: Go into your attic and turn off the lights while the house lights are on. See if you can spy any light coming into the attic from your home downstairs. If so, use “Great Stuff” or another type of sealer (as appropriate) to block the air leaks and insulate on top.
5) Replace Those Bulbs — A simple, easy (and cost effective) solution for energy efficiency is to start replacing your incandescent light bulbs with CFLs or LEDs. Thanks to Reliant, Tim & I were gifted a $50 Home Depot gift card to help us on this journey, and through lots of thought and price comparison, we decided to pass up on the florescent and go straight to the LED bulbs. This is the one area on our inspection our auditor was congratulatory to us!
Recommendation: As a family who is home almost all day, and constantly using electricity, switching to CFL’s or LEDs will use about 75-85% less energy to produce the same amount of light. CFL’s and LED’s also produce much less waste heat than incandescents. Since these types of light bulbs can be costly, his recommendation was to prioritize frequently used light fixtures, or lights which get left on for long periods of time and begin replacing these first. Infrequently used lights can be converted as they burn out to maximize financial savings.
So, the “proof is in the pudding” as they say in the south. . . do these tips work? We’ll have to see in the long run–especially in the summer time–whether it will be a drastic savings difference.
But what I can tell you is that we received our lowest electric bill in over 2 and a half years this month!
As I said in the beginning, even if I don’t win the challenge, the savings we’re experiencing along has been well worth this challenge!
**I’ve partnered with Reliant Energy for the Reliant Challenge; however this post has not been sponsored. Reliant provided me with a free home energy inspection and a $50 Home Depot gift card to provide tips on how to create an energy-efficient home. All opinions are 100% my own!