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4 Simple DIY Projects That Could Reduce Your Next Energy Bill By Nearly 30 Percent

The author of Green Building & Remodeling for Dummies shares some simple but significant energy saving tips for homeowners

Maureen Swift has been buying energy-efficient light bulbs for as long as she can remember. Over time, she has also swapped old shower heads with low-flow models, and now composts most food waste from her family’s meals. When Swift needed to replace the windows in her Long Island, New York home, she says it was a no-brainer to choose new, energy-efficient, double-pane sashes. She wasn’t surprised by the “Earth mama” quips from her husband; what shocked her was how quickly the new windows impacted her energy bill.

“Our monthly electricity bill is about 25 percent lower than what we were paying before,” she says. “It was such an eye opener to see how all of the steps to go ‘green’ can add up to big savings.”

Building an energy-efficient home from the ground up might be the eco ideal, but Eric Corey Freed, author of Green Building & Remodeling for Dummies, says every homeowner can start reaping the same kind of savings with simpler DIY home projects that can have a big impact on energy consumption and, best of all, generally take mere minutes to complete.

“It often shocks people when I tell them how much they can save by making super-simple changes,” says Freed. 

 

According to pricing data collected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average monthly energy bill in the U.S., including electricity, natural gas and heating oil, is around $181. We plugged this average into Freed’s energy-saving DIY home projects to find out how much you could potentially save per month.

 

Project 1. Close your fireplace flue.

 

Project Time: Five minutes 

 

Energy Bill Savings: Potentially up to 10 percent or more

 

Freed says the fireplace flue is open in 90 percent of the homes he visits to conduct energy-efficiency audits. “That’s like keeping a big window in your ceiling wide open, and then putting a straw in it to suck out heat,” he says. The fast, simple fix: Attach a pull chain to your flue so it’s easier to open and close without getting your hands dirty. Keeping your flue closed when you’re not burning a fire can save you approximately 10 percent (or more) on your energy bill each month. 

 

Potential average monthly savings: $18*

 

Project 2. Reset your hot water heater.

 

Project Time: Five minutes 

 

Energy Bill Savings: Potentially up to 10 percent 

 

In general, most water heaters are set to about 140 degrees, says Freed. Because this can scald, people tend use a mix of hot and cold water to moderate the temperature. This consumes a lot of energy and wastes water, says Freed. Consider instead setting your hot water heater to 123 degrees, which is the temperature needed to kill bacteria, says Freed. The hot water will flow at a reasonable temperature for washing your hands and bathing. Also, be sure to turn your hot water heater temp way down (or off completely) when you go on vacation, says Freed. If it’s an older model, consider wrapping insulation around your unit. (Tip: If the hot water heater is warm when you touch it, heat is escaping. Insulation may make it more efficient.) These simple tweaks should drop your bill by up to 10 percent, he says. 

 

Potential average monthly savings: $18*

 

Project 3. Replace power strips with “smart” power strips.

 

Project Time: 10 minutes 

 

Energy Bill Savings: Potentially up to 10 percent 

 

Fact: your plugged-in coffee maker, microwave, stereo sound dock, plasma TV, computer monitor and the countless other devices scattered around your home all consume energy when they’re not in use. In the energy efficiency biz, they’re called “energy vampires.” If you’re wondering if it’s worth the time to plug and unplug these appliances and devices between uses, the answer according to Freed is: yes. “Energy vampires amount to $10 billion a year in wasted energy costs,” he says. “If you plug your appliances into a smart power strip, which you can find at any major hardware store, it’ll sense when devices aren’t being used and shut itself off.” 

 

Potential average monthly savings: $18” 

 

TOTAL MONTHLY SAVINGS: $54*

 

Bonus Project. Shrink-wrap your windows.

 

Project Time: 90 minutes 

 

Energy Bill Savings: Potentially up to 20 percent OK, it may sound crazy. And, it’s not exactly a décor choice an interior designer would recommend. But if energy efficient windows aren’t in the budget, Freed says shrink-wrapping windows for the worst months of winter and summer (read: when you won’t be opening windows) could save as much as 15 to 20 percent on your next energy bill. Look for shrink warp that’s at least 9 millimeters thick, and check the manufacturer’s product details to be sure it’s made with fire retardant material. Don’t want your house to look (and sound) like a crinkly plastic bag? Be strategic about which ones you wrap, focusing on windows typically hidden behind drapes or pretty blinds or in rooms nobody but you and your family see. Do not shrink wrap any window that may be used as a fire escape. 

 

Potential average monthly savings: $36.20* 

 

*Based on pricing data collected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), with the average monthly energy bill in the U.S., including electricity, natural gas and heating oil, being around $181.

This information is of a general nature for informational and educational purposes only. It must not be taken as advice and does not signify an endorsement. Farmers Insurance is not responsible for any injuries or loss incurred.