Ready to take on a little “value engineering” this winter? Just as lean-and-mean corporations constantly look for ways to cut their cost of production, we’ve looked at expenditures big and small to come up with good ideas that will help you trim expenditures on what’s probably your biggest asset — your home.
RETIRE THE WAR-HORSE FURNACE AND AIR-CONDITIONER. Replacing your 20-year-old, 70%-efficient furnace with a new, 90%-efficient model would cut your fuel bill by 22%. That’s a saving of $92 a year, on average. Likewise, replacing an older central air-conditioning unit, which might have a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) as low as 6 or 7, with a high-efficiency, 12-SEER unit could save you $125 on average each year. Replacing the AC and furnace at the same time, instead of one at a time, could save $700 in labor on a typical job. On the Internet, check energystar.gov for a list of appliances that rate the government’s Energy Star label.
BUY THE SMALLEST CENTRAL AIR-CONDITIONER THAT WILL DO THE JOB. You’ll be more comfortable because it will run longer and draw off more humidity–yet use less electricity over the years. One-third to one-half of home air-conditioners are too big, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
FRONT-LOAD YOUR LAUNDRY EXPENSES. And back-load your savings. Maytag’s Neptune washing machine is a super-efficient front-loader. It costs $1,130–almost double the price of a comparable top-loader. But it uses 38% less water and 58% less energy. Front-loaders also spin your clothes dryer than top-loaders, cutting time ill the dryer. The combined savings can add up to $100 a year, so you will recover the extra cost of the machine in five or six years.
UNPLUG THE EXTRA FRIDGE. An inefficient 20-year-old model with a top-mounted auto-defrost freezer runs up your electric bill by $118 a year. (A new fridge uses only about $50 worth of electricity a year.) At least disconnect it when Old Man Winter has what it takes to keep your beer and soda cold in the garage.
INSTALL COMPACT FLUORESCENT BULBS. Put three compact fluorescents in that hard-to-reach ceiling fixture and you’ll save $120 in electricity over the seven-year life of the bulbs (even after you’ve recovered the investment in bulbs)–and a lot of time on stepladders, too. The $15 price tag on the Philips EarthLight universal bulb sounds expensive compared with a four-pack of ordinary incandescents that sell for less than a buck. But the Philips fluorescent burns only 20 watts to provide light comparable to a 75-watt incandescent. Check the home-center stores for low prices.
INSULATE YOURSELF. Installing 6-inch-thick rolls of R-19 fiberglass insulation in a 1,500-square-loot attic could cost $350–but will pay off in lower air-conditioning and heating bills for as long as you live there.