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4 tips to save on home energy costs

Matt Jones
Y! Homes | Project Center
October 24, 2012

What would you do if you heard you could save as much as one third on your home energy costs?  We'll save you the wonder! Here are four simple projects you can do with our guidance to start becoming more energy-efficient today.

Get energy-saving tips from our "D-I-Why Not?" video host, Jeff Meacham, who shows new homeowner Mario how to reduce energy costs on fans, lighting, doors, and windows. Follow along with our detailed instructions for each project below.

Here's what you'll need

Dusting cloth
White vinegar
CFL bulbs
Infrared thermometer
Self-adhesive weather-stripping
Door sweep
Plastic film sheet
Double-faced adhesive tape
Hair dryer
Tape measure

Clean ceiling fans

To save energy with your ceiling fans, there's a simple step you can take right now.

Clean the blades with some white vinegar (harmless to most surfaces) and a dusting cloth to remove accumulated dust and dirt. The reduced weight will make the fan blades rotate more easily and limit the effort of the fan motor, thereby saving some energy. 

D-I-Why-Not tip: Simply flipping a switch on the base of your ceiling fan can save energy. In the winter, set the fan switch to the left, and the blades will circulate clockwise, forcing trapped warm air down into the room. Set the switch to the right in the summer, and the blades will turn counter-clockwise, blowing cool air down onto you.

Switch to energy-efficient lighting

How many DIYers does it take to change a light bulb? Just you! Swap out typical energy-wasting incandescent bulbs for new energy-efficient CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) bulbs.

Compared with conventional light bulbs, these distinctive spiral-shape bulbs use about 1/3 the energy. CFL bulbs also emit less heat, so you can save some air conditioning energy during warm months.

You can also save about $200 per light over 20 years with CFL bulbs.

D-I-Why-Not tip: When you purchase CFL bulbs, check the packaging to compare the watt equivalent of an incandescent bulb, so you can choose the most energy-efficient CFL bulb for your needs.

Stop heat loss through doors

Adding a tight seal of weather-stripping around your front door will provide a barrier against warm air escaping outside, saving energy and heating costs -- a win-win for the environment and your home budget.

To see how much weather-stripping you'll need, you can first test your door for energy gaps. Use an infrared thermometer to measure the temperatures at various points around the door frame. Hold the thermometer within two feet of the door location you want to test, press the trigger, and note the temperature readout on the thermometer gauge.

Now that you know where the heat loss is greatest, you can apply the weather-stripping.

Measure the inside of the door jamb, and use a scissors to cut lengths of self-adhesive weather-stripping to match the measurements.

Place the weather-stripping along the interior door jambs, on both the sides and top. Press the weather-stripping snugly into place. Be careful as you work to avoid any buckles in the weather-stripping that may leave air gaps.

Once you have applied the weather-stripping, check to make sure that the door can close fully and securely.

For further insulation, add a door sweep to the inside bottom of the door. This will help seal out drafts, water and even insects.

Align the door sweep along the bottom edge of the door, rubber-side-down. Make sure that the door sweep lightly touches the floor. Pencil-mark the screw holes in the door sweep for accurate drilling. Now use a drill to screw the door sweep securely into place.

Insulate windows to save energy and money

This quick and easy project to seal your windows for winter can reduce some home heat loss by up to 30 percent.

Apply double-faced tape around the outer edges of the window frame and sills. Press firmly and then wait about 15 minutes for the tape to fully adhere.

Next, remove the backing paper from the tape along the top of the window frame only.

Unfold the plastic film sheet and allow at least 1" of overhang on all sides as you hold the sheet at the upper corners. Place the sheet over the window, applying the sheet to the tape at the window top and sides. Smooth out any wrinkles.

Remove backing tape from the bottom of the window, and apply the sheet to the bottom of the frame.

Trim excess plastic film with scissors.

Now using a hair dryer at its hottest setting, direct the hot air slowly across the surface of the plastic sheet, beginning at one corner and working all the way over the entire sheet, to help create a pressure-seal.

D-I-Why-Not tip: Be careful not to touch the hair dryer to the plastic sheet, or you may accidentally tear or melt the sheet.

Eager to try more "D-I-Why Not?" projects? Check out our latest videos. You can learn how to turn a spare room into an attractive home office. Adorn a plain wall with custom-made photo frames. Do some decorative fall planting. See how to make a man cave. And there's still time to create some last-minute Halloween decorations

Share comments here about how your project went, and also post photos of the finished look on Yahoo! Homes Flickr to amaze your friends!