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Eco-Living: The Best Energy-Efficient Home Improvements You Can Make

There are many ways (and means) to make your home greener.

The proliferation of energy-efficient home improvement options can be confusing. However, a home energy audit shows the areas in your home where energy efficiency needs the most improvement and where those improvements will pay for themselves in energy savings the quickest. Check with your local utilities and your state government to see if they provide free or low cost energy audits. If not, visit the Residential Energy Services Network website for a list of home energy auditors. The site also offers information about energy-improvement mortgages and energy-efficient mortgages that can pay for the improvements you want to make. Below are some improvements to consider.

Insulate and Seal Your Attic

Loss of heated air in the winter and cooled air in the summer is one of the biggest drains on energy costs. Leaks go both ways, too. If the air inside your home is escaping, the air from outside your home is invading. This map from EnergyStar.gov divides the United States into zones and shows the amount of attic insulation required for each zone. Also, install weather-stripping around the attic door or pulldown attic stairs and caulk around the openings where vents, pipes, and electrical wires enter the attic. Use flame-retardant sealant around furnace pipes.

Install Energy Efficient Doors and Windows and Seal Minor Leaks

Doors and windows provide another major source for air leaks. Install energy efficient doors and windows as you can afford to do so. Until you can afford to make replacements, inspect the weather-stripping and replace it when it is worn or damaged. Replace hollow doors first.

Inspect your exterior upper level and basement walls, and, as with the attic, caulk around the holes where wires, pipes, and vents enter your home.

Energy-Efficient Upgrades for Your Water System

Providing hot water for your home accounts for a sizeable chunk of your energy costs. If you can’t afford to replace your water heater with one that is tankless or that has a higher Energy Star rating, wrap a jacket of insulation around it. You can also reduce water usage by switching to low-flow water fixtures.

Other Improvements in Energy Usage

Install a programmable thermostat, replace incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, and replace older appliances with ones with a higher Energy Star rating. Also, on sunny days, leave the drapes open for light.

There are many ways (and means) to make your home greener. Look into funding options for these improvements—there may be more out there than you think. An Austin Mortgage Interest Rates specialist, for instance, reports that reverse mortgages can be used to pay for cost-saving improvements. Incentives like these encourage homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient. Visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency and EnergyStar.gov for more information.

Emma Sturgis, the author of this post, is a freelance writer from Boston, MA.

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