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Keep your energy bill in check

Maris Callahan is the author of "In Good Taste," and, as an avid self-taught home cook, is widely knowledgeable about all things culinary. She is especially passionate about helping women on-the-go cook healthy, delicious meals and snack...

Ways to green your home and save energy

As the seasons change, so do our energy bills. Regardless of the size of your home, using insulation for both natural pest control and energy conservation is becoming more common, especially in an era of rising heating and air conditioning costs.

Attic InsulationCHECK YOUR ATTIC

According to the US Department of Energy, up to 45% of a home's energy loss is through the attic, though the amount of heat actually lost will depend on where you live and how cold your attic gets. Therefore, homes in colder climates require higher insulation values. Specifically, cellulose insulation is one of the greenest building products in the world. Cellulose insulation takes less energy to make than other insulation products, is made from 80%+ recycled paper, reduces a home's carbon footprint by saving energy, and provides no post-installation waste.

AUDIT YOUR ENERGY

To see how much money you're losing each month, it's important to occasionally figure out if your home is losing energy - and costing you money every month for heating and cooling. One good way to find out is to figure out how much energy you are using - and just as importantly, losing. When auditing your home, keep a checklist of areas you have inspected and problems you found. This list will help you prioritize your energy efficiency upgrades.

Locate Air Leaks

First, make a list of obvious air leaks (drafts). The potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home may range from 5% to 30% per year, and the home is generally much more comfortable afterward. Check for indoor air leaks, such as gaps along the baseboard or edge of the flooring and at junctures of the walls and ceiling. Check to see if air can flow through electrical outlets, switch plates, window frames and baseboards and wall- or window-mounted air conditioners.

Inspect windows and doors

If you can rattle them, since movement means possible air leaks. If you can see daylight around a door or window frame, then the door or window leaks. You can usually seal these leaks by caulking or weather stripping them. Check the storm windows to see if they fit and are not broken. You may also wish to consider replacing your old windows and doors with newer, high-performance ones. If new factory-made doors or windows are too costly, you can install low-cost plastic sheets over the windows.

Insulate!

Heat loss through the ceiling and walls in your home could be very large if the insulation levels are less than the recommended minimum. When your house was built, the builder likely installed the amount of insulation recommended at that time. Given today's energy prices (and future prices that will probably be higher), the level of insulation might be inadequate, especially if you have an older home. According to Bill Turk, President of TAP Insulation: "Older homes do not have enough insulation and are therefore not energy efficient. When you combine this energy efficiency problem with an increasing demand for sustainable, environmentally responsible pest control, installing TAP insulation is just a better way for homeowners to save on their utility bills while making their homes more green and comfortable."

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