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Everyone likes to talk about the weather. In the desert southwest, a summertime discussion of the weather often includes the question, “what was your energy bill this month?” The answer is often followed by a low whistle and the comment “Wow, I could make a down payment on a house with what I spend every summer on energy!”

We spoke with Rosie Certified Partner, David Byrnes of Rosie on the House Certified Green ID who offered ideas to save money on your utility bill. The good news is that there are things you can do to lower that utility bill. There are even simple things you can do for no cost. Upgrades, that make an impact, can be done for under $1000.

No Extra Cost Energy Saving Solutions:

  • Check your Utility Plan: Be sure you are buying electricity at the best price. Both APS and SRP say that many homeowners are not on the right plan for their energy usage.
  • If you are on a rate plan with peak hours or a demand charge and have more than one AC system, make sure both units do not run at the same time during peak hours. Shift your AC program to run one system for 30 minutes, then the other AC system to run the next 30 minutes. This will keep your peak demand at a minimum.
  • For your water heater, if you are using a recirculating pump, check the timer to make sure it is scheduled to run off peak.
  • Leave your bedroom doors open for air circulation unless you have a return in the room.
  • Calibrate your variable speed pool pump for the size of your pool. Generally, a low setting is for filtration and you’ll see an inch of water passing over the skimmer. A high setting is for cleaning and will move the cleaner up the pool walls.
  • Change your AC filters every month.

$100 Energy Saving Solutions:

  • Plant a tree to shade south or west side windows of the house.
  • Invest in shade screens (about $100 for each window).
  • Supply Grilles: Each room has a grille where the air enters the room. Older style stamped grilles are not adjustable and restrict air flow. Replace all stamp style grilles with opposed blade damper (OBD) grilles. They offer higher, 2-way directional air flow. Buy 2 a month until the entire house is converted (about $35 for each register).
    • Stamped grills, like the old style top one, are not adjustable and should be replaced.
    • An OBD grill, like the bottom one is a better choice as it has adjustable 2 direction air flow.
  • Install a water heater timer and program for off-peak times (cost $75).
  • Check the cookie sheet damper on a swamp cooler and consider replacing it with a barometric damper for less air loss during the summer (cost $100).
  • Install a transfer grill above interior doors that close by themselves when the air or heat turn on for better air circulation (cost $50).
  • Insulate the attic hatch with a couple sheets of foam board glued to the lid (cost $20).
  • Caulk around the drywall gaps of all your registers (cost $20).
  • Plug electrical outlets with foam gasket sealers (cost $30).

$500 Energy Saving Solutions:

  • Return air register: many homes have only one return air register. Adding a second register can greatly improve the comfort of the home.
  • Reengineering to the duct work may be needed depending on the structure of the ducts (cost $550).
  • Attic Insulation should be 12-14 inches thick. Insulation can settle or be disturbed over time, so it is a good idea to check the current level and placement in your attic (cost to replace-$1 per sq. ft).
  • Add a programmable thermostat- This will make it easy to buy your energy when it is cheapest. You can set your thermostat to come on when energy is cheapest and turn off or at least up, when it is at high demand. The Nest is a popular brand that lets you control your thermostat through a WIFI connection (cost $350).
  • Install a jump duct in high pressure rooms to help circulate air when the door is closed (cost $250).

$1000 Energy Saving Solutions:

  • Duct Sealing: Duct work should be checked in older homes and after any remodeling. Ducts should be sealed to ensure the efficient delivery of air into the home. Manual sealing is the preferred method. If there are places too hard to reach, then a product like Aero Seal can be blown in for an additional charge (cost $900).
  • Change a single speed pool pump with a variable speed motor for $40-$60 energy savings each month (cost $1,100).
  • Consider injecting closed cell spray foam into a sun struck block wall to reduce heat gain on south, east and west sides of the home (cost $2.50 per sq. ft).

Before spending any money, it is a good idea to get a home energy audit. An audit by a qualified, licensed and bonded HVAC contractor costs only $99 and is well worth the money. Byrnes says a thorough audit should be more than just a visual examination and should check static pressure, room pressure, condition of the duct work, adequacy of return and supply registers, and as assessment of the air conditioning unit. Audit results will help a homeowner determine where the money is best spent as well as offer low cost/ no cost ideas to reduce energy bills and make the home more comfortable.

Home Maintenance To-Do: #EnergyAudit

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