Home energy solutions are a top priority for Meridian homeowners for a variety of reasons. Naturally, there is the “green” angle for those concerned with maintaining the environment and being responsible with natural resources. Even for those who place saving energy a little further down on the priority list, budgets are always an issue. That’s why conserving house energy in Idaho is a topic that interests everyone. Fortunately, energy saving tips range from simple and easy to do to more complicated solutions. Everyone can evaluate their own circumstances and balance that out with their personal beliefs and preferences to create the perfect plan of home energy solutions.
Audit Your Energy
Most professionals in the energy field agree that a reliable first step to saving money on house energy in Idaho is getting an energy audit of your home. According to Consumer Reports, a certified specialist will do a thorough assessment of the house, looking at everything from your cooling and heating systems to your insulation and even your utility billings. After inspecting your home and evaluating what you spend on house energy in Idaho every month, the auditor will give you his report outlining the issues he found, as well as recommending improvements for home energy solutions.
Some utility companies, like Idaho Power, will arrange home energy audits for qualifying customers and even cover all or part of the cost. To qualify you typically need to use electric as your primary heating source. DIY-ers who would rather address their specific house energy in Idaho can perform an amateur audit on their own. For instance, a stick of incense can help you locate air leaks that let cold air in during winter and hot air in during summer.
Just close all the doors and windows, turn off the water heater, furnace, and any other combustion appliances, and flip on the bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans. Then, light the incense and hold it near the frames of the doors and windows in your house. If there are leaks, the smoke won’t float upward but will flow away from the opening, carried by air seeping into the home. Other areas in the home notorious for harboring cracks that leak air are foundations, exterior walls, ceilings, and the roof especially if there are gaps around exhaust or fireplace chimneys.
Energy.gov recommends other simple-to-do audit steps such as:
- Evaluate the lighting in your house—take a look at the light bulbs you’re currently using. Are they LEDs, compact fluorescent lamps, or energy-efficient incandescent bulbs? If not, make a note to make the switch.
- Inspect the heating and cooling units—do the filters need replacing? Heating and cooling pros recommend filter replacement every couple of months if the units are being used daily. It’s a good idea to have furnaces and central air units cleaned annually, too. Also, be aware of how old your system is. Anything older than 15 years may not be very efficient. Newer units incorporate the latest technology and are a big part of home energy solutions on their own. Your efficiency rating should be posted on the outside of your furnace.
- Checking the insulation in the attic is th most important as that is where the majority of heat loss occurs. There should be 10 to 14 inches or a minimum of an a R-38 rating. An R-50 rating means that your insulation was probably previously upgraded if your home was previously owned. Make sure that the insulation does not block the attic vents located in the soffits, etc so that you get adequate attic ventilation.
What’s more, under-insulated walls can be sources of heat loss that significantly affect efficiency of house energy in Idaho. So, if you really want to be thorough, you can check your home’s wall insulation, too. Examining insulation in a wall is a little more complicated than looking in on the attic. You’ll need to choose an exterior wall with an outlet on it, then turn off the breaker to that area of your house. You can make sure there’s no electricity running to the outlets by plugging in a radio or a lamp to see if they turn on. Once you’re certain the power is off, take the cover plate off of one of the outlets, exposing the hole in the wall behind it. You might be able to see the insulation—or lack of it—visually, but you can also use a plastic crochet hook to prod around inside the wall beyond the opening.
If insulation is present, you’ll be able to feel the resistance against the hook. If the insides of your walls are just wide, open spaces, you’ll want to arrange for an infrared scan of your home to reveal how little or how much heat is escaping from your home. Once you have those facts, you can decide on the extent of home energy solutions for increasing the house’s overall R-factor.
Make Small Improvements
Even if you opt to skip the energy audit, making small improvements can save money on house energy in Idaho. Unplugging unused appliances eliminates phantom energy drain. Even changing the settings—turning up the temperature on your fridge or freezer by just a few degrees, for instance—reduces energy use. Plus, the same energy savings tips go for appliances as for heating and cooling units. Keep them clean and, if they’re 15 years or older, buy new to ensure they are energy efficient.
Plugging air leaks and insulating are among other energy savings tips. Pump expandable sealant into foundation, wall cracks. Replace the weather stripping on doors and windows. Caulk or foam around electrical outlets, and seal gaps in the roof near chimneys. Insulating pipes and air ducts that run through the basement or other unheated spaces saves house energy in Idaho, too. You can get self-adhesive insulation strips at home improvement stores that work well for these home energy solutions. The R-value doesn’t have to be that high. You’ll want at least R-6, but it will keep water and air from cooling down as it flows from the water heater or the furnace to you.
Landscaping Energy Saving Tips
Many energy saving tips are focused on the inside of the house, but home energy solutions can be found outside in the yard, as well. In fact, conserving house energy in Idaho improves when you landscape with energy saving in mind, according to Better Homes and Gardens. Start with planting trees. Strategically placed, they will shade your home and your yard and can reduce the energy expended on cooling and heating by as much as 25 percent. Plus, opting for evergreens, a variety of tree that grows particularly well in Meridian, offers increased benefits. Some grow quite tall and can protect your home’s roof for added energy efficiency. Plus, they don’t lose their leaves in the fall and winter, so they shield your house year-round, helping keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Other landscaping energy saving tips for Meridian homes:
- select plants that are indigenous to Southeast Idaho, ones with strong roots that grip the soil and don’t require excessive watering—and schedule watering time during the evening to avoid evaporation
- plant bushes and shrubs about 12 inches from your house to create dead space that will insulate it and help control the temperature inside
- opt for climbing vines—most of them grow quickly—and plant them near windows to create natural shades that filter light and keep rooms cool
If you’re not sure about which vines, trees, and plants are the best choices for home energy solutions, consult a professional. There are several landscaping companies in Meridian that can offer advice not only on what to plant, but how to arrange your trees, bushes, and vines in an attractive manner that provides optimal house energy in Idaho.
Big-Ticket Home Energy Solutions
The U.S. Energy Information Administration notes that Idaho, unlike its neighbor, Wyoming, doesn’t really have a source of fossil fuel. Still, we do have substantial energy possibilities; it’s just that they’re mostly renewable resources such as hydropower, wind, solar, and geothermal. Essentially, Idaho was designed to be environmentally friendly long before everyone else was even thinking of going green. The good news is that we have the natural resources to provide home energy solutions. The less than good news is that it’s not cheap to harness those resources.
That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to draw house energy in Idaho from the environment. You just have to understand which ones are the most doable and that even those are fairly expensive to implement. Most of the Gem State’s electricity is hydroelectric power—around 59 percent. It’s not yet feasible to outfit most homes for hydropower, so most energy saving tips recommend two choices for house energy in Idaho: solar and wind power.
There’s a reason you see a handful of wind farms in Southern Idaho. It’s because even on a calm day, the breeze still averages about 6 mph—the bare minimum required by smaller wind turbines. Yes, Idaho is a windy state in general, but more prevalent in the eastern part of the state. About 15 percent of Idaho’s electricity is generated by the wind, and the great thing is that the wind blows around the clock, not just during daylight hours.
Some homeowners can get in on wind power home energy solutions with home-sized wind turbines, however these are not typically allowed in subdivision developments. They can be purchased online or at home improvement stores with prices ranging from $250 up beyond $1,000. The size you need depends on how much electricity you use each month. Windpower Engineering says that a 1.5-kilowatt turbine in an area that averages about 14 mph wind speeds can handily supply 300 kWh each month. Of course, because wind speeds fluctuate, you probably can’t entirely count on the wind to power your house at all times and may need more home energy solutions.
If there’s room in your budget, you could add solar options to your alternative plans for house energy in Idaho. Solar panels are pricier than wind turbines but using both together can help cut the overall costs. Panels used to be the only choice homeowners had for solar home energy solutions, but that’s no longer the case. You can now roof your home with solar roof tiles that serve a double purpose: they provide a durable protective surface on your home’s roof and generate electricity at the same time. Even though the recommendation is to only cover part of your roof with solar tiles and to use traditional shingles or tiles on the rest, it can still be triple the cost of a roof, costing as much as $65,000 or more, but who would want to spend that kind of money?
In the end, only you can decide how far you want to go to save money on house energy in the Meridian, Idaho area. It should be noted that at the time of writing this informational article it does not appear that solar power options in Idaho are cost effective based on the current high cost of solar electric panels and systems and the low cost per kilowatt hour for electricity in Idaho.
More and more, new and older homes are incorporating home energy solutions. If you’re looking for an energy efficient house in Meridian or anywhere in Southwestern Idaho give Jeff Stewart at Stewart Realty a call for a personal tour of the area and some great homes that fit your style and budget.
Jeff Stewart, Broker/Owner, Stewart Realty, LLC
Direct: 208-602-1993, Office: 208-887-5445