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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Is Your Home an Energy Hog?

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy of flickr
When it comes to going green, most people think about buying a hybrid or electric car to save money at the gas pump.  Or, they vow to do more to recycle their trash.  I even have a number of friends who are fanatics when it comes to eating organic food and reducing their reliance on chemicals and pesticides.  While all this is a good start when it comes to making less of an impact on the environment, most of my friends have yet to consider doing something about the biggest energy hog they have: Their home.

How Hungry is Your Home?

Like it or not, our homes are one of the biggest investments we will ever make.  Even once you eliminate the mortgage and insurance payment from the equation, our homes continue to deplete our bank accounts in a number of ways:

Electric Hog – While we all need electricity to light, heat and cool our homes, it’s amazing how much money goes to the electric company.  The average monthly electric bill in Florida is just shy of $130, which is 12% above the national average.  While Floridians don’t spend as much to heat their homes come winter, we make up for it by running our air conditioners from May through October.  What’s even worse is these bills could be substantially reduced by making a few small changes.

      1.      Who turned on the lights? - By adding inexpensive motion sensors to your outdoor lights, you won’t waste electricity by running your lights all night long.  Switching your indoor bulbs from incandescent to compact fluorescent can save you up to 75% on the energy consumed. 

      2.      Traditional electric water heaters are tremendous energy hogs, accounting for up to 25% of your monthly electric bill.  Particularly if you have an old electric water heater, upgrading to an Energy Star model, or better yet, an on-demand system can literally pay for itself.

      3.      Energy Star Appliances – Speaking of old appliances, when was the last time you bought a new refrigerator, washer/dryer or dishwasher?  If it’s been a couple decades since you replaced any of these, they are definitely draining your wallet dry since they consume as much as twice the energy of modern appliances.

      4.      Windows & Doors – While your doors and windows require no electricity, they can sure cause you to burn more electricity if they are old and drafty.  Replacing outdated windows and doors is another way to keep your money from going up in smoke.  If your air conditioner seems to run almost non-stop during the summer, this could indicate your windows are not nearly as efficient as they used to be.

Image courtesy of wikimedia
Water Hog - Another way to help the environment and your wallet at the same time is to reduce the amount of water your family consumes.  Did you know that Americans use more water than any other nation on the planet?  What’s even worse is we also waste more water than any other nation.  This is sad, since there are so many ways to conserve without changing your lifestyle one iota.

      1.      Do your showers have low-flow shower-heads? – Regardless of whether you typically take a 3-minute shower, or a 15-minute shower, you can cut water consumption in half when you take a shower by installing a low-flow shower-head.  Low-flow shower-heads work by increasing the pressure while decreasing the volume of water.  This means you get just as wet while saving half the water used by a traditional shower-head.

      2.      Speaking of head, how old is your toilet? – When it comes to waste, the toilet is king. Especially if it’s more than 20-years old.  Just as shower technology has come a long way since the turn of the century, the same can be said for toilets.  Where older toilets can use as much as 5 gallons of water every time you flush, modern low-flow models get the job done while using as little as a gallon and a half.  If you think it’s much ado about nothing, the EPA estimates that low-flow toilets save a typical family of 4 around $110 per year.

      3.      Sprinklers – Here’s another water waster, the automatic sprinkler.  Aside from old, leaky systems that waste water every time they come on, I’ve seen my neighbors water their lawns in the middle of a rainstorm.  Several ways you can keep your money from going down the drain when it comes to your sprinklers is to install such things as rain sensors, high-efficiency nozzles, or even program your system to activate early in the morning when evaporation is less severe.  When you consider that thunderstorms are an almost daily occurrence during the summer, that rain sensor could save you big.

Image courtesy of Max Pixel
Remodeling – If you’ve been thinking about remodeling your home, there are a few things you can add to the list that will reduce energy waste.

      1.      Add insulation – According to the Alliance to Save Energy, nearly half of all the homes in the US have inadequate insulation.  While you can see at a glance how well your attic is insulated, do you know if your walls have any insulation?  One way to find out is to remove a wall socket to see if your wall is insulated.  If it isn’t, you don’t have to pull down the drywall to insulate.  There are machines that can blow fiberglass or cellulose insulation inside the wall through a small opening that is then plastered over. 

      2.      Solar panels and water heaters – Since Florida is the Sunshine State, isn’t it odd that more people don’t take advantage of it by adding solar panels and/or solar water heaters to their homes?  The beauty of either system is that once installed, they don’t use energy, they make energy.  This means they more than pay for themselves over the long haul.

If your current home is an energy hog, consider making some of the improvements listed above.  That way, not only can you go green, you can save some folding green at the same time.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more ways to save on home owner's insurance, check out her website at


  1. Unless you enjoy paying more money to the utility companies, making your home more efficient is a definite win/win.

  2. Great stuff! I am a closet environmentalist and love finding new ways to save energy.


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