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Bankrate's 2007 Living Green, Saving Green Guide
Green today
Learn 153 ways to be eco-friendly while saving green.
Green today
153 ways to go green
Energy: Long haul
Tips » Long haul $ Factor
Tip 40:
Maintain your furnace and air conditioner.
Regular maintenance will keep your heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC, system operating efficiently, saving energy and money. Regularly clean or replace the air filter in your furnace, repair any leaks in the duct system, and make sure the radiators and baseboard air ducts are clean and unobstructed by rugs or furniture.
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Having a professional tune up your system -- every year for oil-fired systems, every two years for gas furnaces and three years for heat pumps, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy -- will increase the life of the system, improve energy efficiency and reduce pollutants.
Tip 41:
Know when to replace your appliances.
If your furnace, air conditioner or other major appliances are more than 10 years old, it may make sense to replace them with newer, more efficient models. Americans spend an average of $1,900 on energy every year. Buying newer, Energy Star-certified appliances can save you at least $30 a year.
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For instance, replacing a pre-1994 dishwasher with a new Energy Star model will save you $30 a year in energy costs. Replacing your pre-1994 washing machine with a new Energy Star model would save you $110 a year.
Tip 42:
Insulate the attic.
Boosting attic insulation gives you the most value for your dollar. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends attic insulation with an R-value of 22 to 49 in most houses. To check your insulation, measure the thickness. Seven inches of fiberglass or rock wool insulation and six inches of cellulose insulation are equal to an R-value of 22. In all but the mildest climates, the agency recommends adding more.
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Adding insulation can cost up to $1,800 and could reduce your heating and cooling bills by more than $100 a year. If it is less than seven inches, you may need to add more. Also check to see if there is a vapor barrier under the insulation. Vapor barriers such as Kraft paper, tarpaper and plastic sheeting prevent moisture from entering the attic through the house below. If there is no vapor barrier, you may want to paint the home's ceilings with a vapor barrier paint to reduce potential moisture damage to the attic.
Tip 43:
Plant trees.
Planting deciduous trees -- those that lose their leaves every year -- on the south, east or west sides of your house will lower your heating and cooling bills. The trees will shade the house from the sun in summer and then let in light to warm the house in winter.
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Well-placed trees can save you $100 to $250 a year in energy costs, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. The cost to plant the trees varies by type and size.
Tip 44:
Get an energy audit.
Energy audits evaluate your home and look for ways to improve energy efficiency. You can hire a professional, or in some areas your gas or electric utility will do the audit for you. Inspectors often use thermography and other technologies to evaluate hidden leaks and insulation problems.
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Fixing problem areas, such as air leaks, can save you between 5 percent and 30 percent in energy costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, but you can perform a basic energy audit without any special skills or equipment.
-- Posted: Oct. 4, 2007
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