How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

Matthew Heimer, senior editor of SmartMoney magazine, explains that energy proofing a house can actually cut annual utility bills in half.

Matthew covers breaking down home energy costs, how to monitor heating and cooling costs, how to reduce heating and cooling costs, how to reduce energy costs when using larger appliances, how landscaping can actually reduce utility bills - and the best simple tips for saving energy and money every day.

Based on national averages from the U.S. Department of Energy, 44 percent of utility bills resulting from energy usage is heating and cooling the home, 33percent is attributed to lighting, cooking and other appliances, 14 percent is due to water heating, and 9 percent is energy used by the refrigerator alone.

Once you realize how you use energy you can begin to formulate a plan on how to identify places in your home that are losing energy.

Once you assign priorities to your energy needs, you can form a whole house efficiency plan.

An energy audit is a great way to figure out if you need updating or replacing of major heating or cooling systems with the house.

Buying a new heating or cooling system may seem like a huge investment, but overall it will save you money years into the future and even raise the value of the home.

Many utility companies conduct energy audits for free or for a nominal charge, so you can see where your heating or cooling systems may be costing you money.

For a fee, a professional contractor will analyze how your home's energy systems work together as a system and compare the analysis against your utility bills.

One of the most important systems in your home is the network of ducts that carry the hot and cold air throughout your home.

Another great way to cut energy costs is to take advantage of heat from the sun.

Close these shades when the sun goes down to keep the heat from escaping.

Larger appliances such as washers, dryers, dishwashers, stoves and refrigerators are the most serious offenders when it comes to wasting energy.

When shopping for new appliances, look for the Energy Star label.

These appliances have U.S. EPA and Department of Energy approval for being the most energy efficient products in the class.

A refrigerator with Energy Star label will save you between $35 and $70 a year compared to models designed 15 years ago.

About 80 percent to 85 percent of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water.

There are two ways to reduce the amount of energy used for washing clothes use less water and use cooler water.

Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load's energy use in half.

Don't put stoves that produce heat next to refrigerators that produce cold.

Saving energy is cost effective, but also it is environmentally friendly.

What better way to reduce your annual energy cost than to actually use the environment to do this? Carefully positioned trees around the perimeter of a home can actually save up to 25 percent of a typical household's energy for heating and cooling? This is an annual savings on average between $100 and $250. For example, deciduous trees, or trees that lost their leaves in the fall, when planted on the south and on the west of a home will help keep your house cool in the summer and allow sun to shine in the windows in the winter.

Here are a few tips for energy proofing your home:

Consider switching off your computer monitor during long periods of non-use.

The monitor itself uses more than half the system's energy and there really is no reason for leaving it on all night if it is not being used.

Chargers for cell phones, laptops, and other wireless devices use lots of energy even when they aren't charging their devices.

Source: DIYNetwork.com