Are you concerned about long-term savings on energy costs? If you have already done many of the small things you can do to save energy and you plan to live in your current home throughout your thrifty retirement, it’s time to consider investing in more complex and extensive forms of energy savings than simply switching to CFL bulbs.
With renewed emphasis on conserving energy for both monetary savings and ecological reasons, emerging technological advances offer new opportunities to save. Your local climate plays a role in determining which methods will save you the most money, as well as which are most viable. For example, a region with few sunny days is not a likely location to invest in solar panels. On the other hand, if you live in a sunny, arid spot in the Sun Belt, solar panels for heating water or generating home electricity will give you almost instant savings and a short pay-off period.
Replacing old drafty windows with double-pane thermal windows is particularly popular in areas that experience all four seasons, especially colder winters. Depending on the condition of your old windows, winter energy costs can be reduced dramatically by installing new windows. Most homes can be completed in just one day, so interruption is minimal.
Adding insulation to your walls and ceilings is another long-term energy saving solution. Unless you have added insulation in the last five years, chances are you need to upgrade what you currently have. Many options are available, from thick fiberglass batts or rolls, to blown-in cellulose insulation for walls, to spray-on expandable foam for crawl spaces and other specific areas. Green insulation materials range from baled straw to shredded denim jeans and almost everything in between. Do your homework before you decide and hire a reputable contractor to perform the work.
Installing a programmable thermostat not only saves money on energy costs, but also relieves you of one more thing to remember. Most of us turn our thermostat down at night simply to enjoy a more comfortable night of sleep. A programmable or set-back thermostat is programmed once, and then adjusts the temperature for you automatically every day. Different programs are used for winter heating and summer air conditioning. Most thermostats have weekday programs that can be different from weekend programs, and the temperature can be raised and lowered several times a day.
For example, even though we’re retired, you might do part-time or volunteer work for part of the day. In the winter, you can set the program to warm the house before you get up in the morning, turn it down when you leave, warm it up again when you return home, and finally turn it down for the night. Not having to remember that yourself is wonderful, and you will save money with virtually no effort.
You can go to the U.S. Department of Energy website at www.energysavers.gov for information on a home energy audit you can do yourself. Some utility companies offer free energy audits of your home, and they might install programmable thermostats free of charge. The trade-off for that service is often that you must allow them access to control your thermostat to reduce energy drain during peak seasons of heat and air conditioning. If you’re comfortable with such an arrangement, free professional installation is a good deal.
If your major appliances are more than ten years old and you are contemplating replacement, you should certainly consider purchasing Energy Star appliances. The advances that have been made in the last few years are impressive and will save money every time you do the laundry, wash dishes, or open the refrigerator. A tankless water heater provides instant hot water that never runs out, and although it has a high initial cost, the energy savings are considerable. Even low-flow faucets, showerheads, and toilets reduce energy costs. Of course, you use less water, but you also use less hot water, for even double savings.
In our thrifty retirement, sometimes we have to spend a little to save a lot. The long-term savings offered by improving our energy efficiency will pay us back in the long run and give us a warm internal glow right now for helping save our planet.
Copyright 2009, Linda Manley