Last week I wrote about remembering to turn off your lights in order to help conserve energy in an article titled “Lights Out.” This got me thinking of other easy ways to help reduce energy consumption that are not often publicized. As a college student, my housing accommodations are not ideal to say the least. I live in a house with four of my friends. Our house is a stereotypical college home. Pizza boxes piled in the corner of the kitchen, Christmas lights dangle from the ceilings, and somehow the floors remain unbelievably sticky no matter how many times we mop.
These past few days have also been quite cold. Our thermostat is set to 85 degrees, yet the temperature in the house reads a cool 62 degrees. My first thought was that our heating system was broken. As I walked towards one of the heating vents, I was met with a gush of hot air. Clearly our heating system was working fine. The problem was that our house is poorly insulated. Some of my friends have even nicknamed our house “The Cardboard Box.”
In the past, I never realized the extreme difference insulation could make in keeping a home warm. Just from insulating your attic, you can save as much as 20% on your energy bill. Insulating your home is not as easy as remembering to turn off your lights, but the potential for energy savings is huge. Collectively, as a society, we can significantly reduce the amount of energy we need for heating/cooling by simply improving our homes’ insulation.
Many people are hesitant to spend the money to insulate their homes. However, the truth is that almost all insulation projects quickly pay for themselves because of the energy savings. Insulation, like remembering to shut off the lights, is commonly overlooked as an effective way to be a part of the “green initiative.” People are often so caught up with the latest green fads, that they forget the simple and often most effective techniques for environmental friendliness. I personally believe that insulation is often overlooked because it’s not visible on a daily basis. Usually our homes’ insulation is between the walls, in the attic, or other places we don’t look on a day-to-day basis.
Earth Hour helps to publicize shutting off lights, but no such event exists for insulation initiatives. The federal government offers a 10% tax credit for residential insulation projects. Many state governments also offer tax incentives associated with insulation projects. President Obama is even quoted as saying “Insulation is sexy.” President Obama compares poor insulation to watching money float out of your windows.
I’m also sure that many of you who are reading this are thinking that your home is already insulated and there’s nothing more you can do. Fortunately, there is more you can do. Simply replacing old insulation can save up to 30% on your heating bill. There are also many insulating techniques that most people do not know about. For example, insulating your water heater along with your pipes can help to keep your home’s water hot, and as a result reduce your energy usage. Even sealing your windows with rubber weather sealing and placing door sweeps under your exterior doors will go a long way in cutting your energy costs.
If you’re looking to help out the environment and reduce your energy consumption, and not to mention reduce your energy bill, start by looking in your own home. I’m sure that there are opportunities for insulation improvements in almost all of our homes. Check your windows, your doors, your attic, your walls, your basement, your water pipes, your water heater, and any other area that would benefit from insulation. Most likely at least one of these areas in your home could use some added insulation. Even if everywhere you check you see sufficient insulation, consider replacing it for newer, more efficient insulation materials.
People understand that insulating their homes will help to save energy, but many do not realize the numerous ways in which they can insulate. I believe that this lack of awareness creates an opportunity for large home improvement chains and manufactures of insulation materials. If the home improvement chains and the manufacturers can help to educate the general public about different insulation techniques through pamphlets and reading materials, they stand to increase their revenue flows from the sale of insulation products.
Insulation is not a flashy green initiative, and while President Obama refers to it as “Sexy,” most people probably think otherwise. However, it is an easy way to significantly reduce energy consumption, and to do your part in helping the environment. Improving your home’s insulation will help you keep warm, help you save money, and most importantly help you conserve energy. So while the latest and greatest green technologies are wonderful advancements, we as a society still have a lot to gain from simple changes such as better insulation.