Common-Sense Steps Can Cut Home Energy Bills

By Diana Marszalek

RYE, N.Y. (AP) – With a nearly 90-year-old house in Rye, N.Y., Melanie Cadenhead spends a large part of every winter being cold.

The temperature inside usually drops right around Thanksgiving, and Cadenhead pulls out her sweaters.

Having shelled out about $1,000 a month last winter trying to warm up the place, she does not plan to crank the heat any higher this year.

“I’ll just sleep in one of those Daniel Boone hats with the ear flaps,” she says. “Winter is not my friend.”

Modern living does not have to be that hard, energy efficiency experts say.

They cite a host of simple ways to cut energy consumption without sacrificing comfort or lifestyle. From sealing air leaks to unplugging cell-phone chargers, these recommended improvements don’t require big-ticket purchases like windows or air or heating systems (although those may be necessary in some cases).

Many energy-saving moves are so inexpensive, relatively speaking, that they quickly pay for themselves.

Unless you’re living in an ultra-modern, ultra-energy-efficient home, the only way to reign in those utility bills is to first show your home a little love. Sealing air leaks – primarily gaps in construction – and upgrading insulation are the No. 1 ways to nip energy waste, says Scott Stefan, a home energy auditor for Elmsford, N.Y.-based BrightHome Energy Solutions.

“American homes are built for cheap energy and we are not in the cheap energy era anymore,” he says.

“Almost every home you go into is badly insulated and leaks a lot of air.”

Air leaks, often found around foundations, pipes, recessed lights and chimneys, can be easily identified and sealed; many states have programs that contract with people like Stefan to help you find the source of the problems.

But even sealing your house nice and tight (while still leaving enough airflow for proper ventilation) won’t really do the job if your insulation has stopped doing its job, Stefan says. Warm air can escape right through insulation that’s been in place for 25 years or more.

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