Turn the thermostat down 

Five reasons to plant a tree in your yard

Hot summer days aren’t too far off. Why not start thinking about planting some shade trees in your yard to keep your family cool?

Here are five benefits of shade trees around the house.

  1. Planting shade trees strategically around your house can shield your home from hot sunrays in the summer. The less heat and light that comes through your windows, the cooler your home will be, and that means you could rely less on air conditioning. That can lead to lower electric bills.
  2. A hedge of trees and plants adds privacy to a backyard patio. But trees don’t only prevent others from seeing in; they can block an unsightly view and even diffuse noise from nearby streets and parks.
  3. Beautiful trees can boost your property values—by up to 15%, according to some nurseries. That makes planting a good investment.
  4. Trees that flower or those with leaves that change colors before they fall during autumn can add beauty to your landscape.
  5. Trees are good for the environment. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air, which slows the buildup of the gas in the atmosphere.

Should I close off unused rooms during winter?

It seems that if you close the door to an unused room, you can avoid paying to heat it, right?

The opposite is true. When you close off an interior room, or if you close the air vents in that room, your heating system has to work harder and can even break down as a result.

The reason: Your home’s HVAC system is designed to keep the whole house comfortable by distributing heat evenly throughout. If you close off a room or a duct, you reduce the airflow to that room and force your system to work harder to heat it up.

That can cause a pressure imbalance, which can damage your ducts or your heating system.

Here’s a better idea: Save money and energy by using caulk to seal air leaks around windows and holes in walls where cables enter the house. Add insulation to the attic. Install curtains that are thermally insulated. Replace your outdated thermostat with a programmable one that will lower the temperature at bedtime and when everyone leaves the house in the morning.

How qualified is your electrician?

It’s tempting to ask your handy brother-in-law or next-door neighbor to make a few quick fixes around your house. But when it comes to repairing anything electrical, call a professional. 

Electricity can be dangerous in a home that’s improperly wired, has overloaded circuits or has exposed or defective wiring, receptacles or switches. 

Even if the job seems simple, it’s better to call an experienced, licensed electrician to do it. Most electricians have many hours of on-the-job training under the supervision of a more experience electrician and have passed an exam. 

Don’t leave your electrical work up to a handman, your brother-in-law or even yourself. The money you spend to hire a pro will more than pay off in peace of mind and a safe home. 

Invest in energy savings

An investment that can lead to a big return for your family is the same one that will cut your home’s energy use. 

If you want to invest in energy efficiency this year, consider: 

Replacing older windows, especially if they are single-pane models. Old windows are barely better for your home’s comfort—or your energy bills—than windows that stay open all the time. Invest in double-pane windows with low-emissivity (low-e) coatings on the glass, which will keep the cold outdoors and your comfortable, heated air inside where it belongs. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that they typically lose up to 50% less energy than older versions. 

Installing a programmable thermostat. If you’re still trying to remember to turn the heat down every night at bedtime, up again when you wake up, and down again before you leave the house for work in the morning, you’re probably overheating your house. A programmable thermostat will do all the adjusting for you—according to your preferences. 

Turn the thermostat down 

Saving energy during the winter doesn’t have to mean feeling cold in your own home. Here are five free ways to lower your energy bill while staying comfortable indoors. 

  • Lower the temperature in your home by just a single degree. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates you can save 3% on your heating bill for every degree you set your thermostat back during the winter—as long as you leave it there.  
  • Turn off exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom as soon as the steam or cooking smells are gone. It takes only one hour for those fans to blow all of the warm air out of your house, so use them only as needed. 
  • Close the fireplace damper when you’re not burning a fire. An open damper is a hole in your house that sucks heated air out and draws cold winter air in. 
  • Move furniture and rugs away from heating vents so air can circulate freely around the room. That will make your heating system’s work a lot easier. 
  • Open the curtains on south-facing windows on sunny days so the sun’s warm rays can radiate into your home. Close the curtains at night to help trap that heat indoors.