The following is a guest post from writer Reuben Dickison
Getting people to insulate their homes and replace all of their windows is nearly impossible. Since the downturn in housing values, many do not have enough equity in their homes to finance such high dollar improvements, and other methods aren’t always an option. Many have heard from other homeowners that the actual payback in savings was far less than projected when they made these improvements (often a symptom of overzealous sales tactics by contractors).
Telling people they should spend $7,000 to retrofit windows and also reinsulate their home is going to be a hard sell for many. If consumers knew what they could do to convert their homes to greater energy efficiency without having to save and/or spend thousands of dollars, they’d achieve this much more quickly.
Focus on What You Can do Now
There is potential for a lot of energy savings in small things that can be done easily by the majority of homeowners. If emphasis was placed on that, than the resulting savings would not only immediately benefit the environment, but it would free up money in the homeowners budget to consider greater improvements. Particularly in older homes, huge savings can be achieved with simple, low-cost measures.
Windows and Doors
Replacement windows and doors are a great investment, providing you’re able to finance, afford, or willing to absorb the relatively high cost of changing them. There are, however, many low-cost ways of greatly improving efficiency. These methods can be done one a room at a time for under $20 per window. These include:
- Install insulating window films. This is a simple process that reflects solar heat out in the summer and helps retain heat in winter. There are many different kits available for less than $15 per window. It won’t turn them into triple pane efficiency but it can easily double the efficiency of older windows.
- Put new caulking around exterior of windows and doors. A tube of caulk costs about $3 and will do several windows and doors. This will greatly reduce drafts on older buildings.
- Pull off door trim and window trim. There are often gaps between window sills that go all the way to exterior siding. It’s not uncommon for light to be clearly visible. A single roll of un-faced insulation will do an entire house of windows and doors. Use caulk and hand-stuff loose insulation into these gaps. Expanding poly gap sealers also work. When done, put the trim back on.
Exterior wall insulation most often requires contractors and large investments. Though often worth it, with minimal investment, to improve efficiency, there are steps homeowners can do themselves or do small projects each month to keep costs down.
- Attic insulation in an unfinished attic is a very simple process. Simply unroll your chosen insulation between the beams. If costs are an issue, do a few rolls each month. Place one layer between beams and a second blanket over the top in the other direction and dramatic improvement is achieved, with no contractor needed.
- Put an insulation blanket on the hot water heater. Consider wrapping hot water pipes in an unheated basement with insulating wrap to reduce used water waste. You’ll heat the pipe before hot water gets to the tap.
- Unfinished or unheated basements should have insulation around duct work or heating pipes. If not insulated, as much as 20% of heat in older homes is lost before it ever enters the living areas.
These are simple ways to implement energy efficiency that the vast majority of homeowners could do themselves to attain significant savings. This is not only economic savings for the homeowner but saving the environment as well. These smaller changes can be implemented with minimal cost and they pay for themselves in months not years. By putting emphasis on what you can do now instead of what you should do later, meaningful change can begin now.
A semi-retired freelance writer and blogger living in the United States, Reuben Dickison holds degrees in Marketing and Public Administration. His career path has included consumer financial management and private business management training and consulting. His passion is promoting an environmentally sound business ethos and planet.