The Best Cheap & Free Tools for Home Energy Efficiency

Making your home energy efficient shouldn't break the bank. Check out our best tips to save on your energy bill.

By
Allen Senchez
on
October 30, 2020
Category:
Smart Home
Tags:

Have you ever thought that you could earn money by saving on your utility bills? Well, a service called OhmConnect has a unique method that will pay you cash money for saving energy at specific times of the day, when energy demand is highest. 

It’s free, secure, and if you know some tips and tricks, downright easy to earn money for your home’s energy efficiency. Customers can earn hundreds of dollars every year for their energy savviness! 

But it’s not just an hour each week that you can pocket some extra cash! By improving the overall efficiency of your home, you can put money back in your wallet by saving even more money.

Try out one of these affordable and free energy upgrades to get the best of both worlds.


1. Earn Money for Saving Energy with OhmConnect

How it works:

  1. Join OhmConnect (it’s free!).
  2. Around once per week you’ll receive an SMS or email notification letting you know about an upcoming #OhmHour.
  3. You unplug unnecessary items and turn down the thermostat for that hour - anything you can do to use less power. (Some committed folks even flip their circuit breakers!)
  4. If you use less energy than you were predicted to, you earn money.

Find out more about the program and see if you’re eligible, here.


2. Caulk and a Caulk Gun

Drafts let heat and cold bypass your insulation and can spike your energy bills by several hundred dollars per year. The good news is how cheap and easy it is to block them.

A tube of caulk runs about five dollars at your local home improvement center. If you don't already have a caulk gun, you can borrow one from your neighbor or pick one up for ten dollars. Check the following areas in your house for gaps:

  • Door frames
  • Window frames
  • Entry points for gas, electric, cable, and phone
  • Outdoor faucets
  • Dryer vents
  • HVAC vents and fans
  • Any place where your siding switches material (i.e. from brick to wood)

Run a line of caulk at the seams of each of these points to minimize draft. If you're not sure how to do it, you can easily find a caulking tutorial online.

3. Vent Blocks

Up to 20% of your heating and cooling energy is wasted by making unoccupied rooms more comfortable. Though centralized climate control has many advantages, this is one place where it definitely produces a challenge.

One solution is to place magnetic vent seals over the vents in rooms you don't use often. These run less than $8 each (less than $5 bought bulk or on sale) and reduce the air flow through the vents you use them on.

End result: faster warming or cooling of the rooms you use. Because they're simple magnetic sheets, they're easy to peel off when you do walk into the guest room/storage room/craft room/etc.

blanket wrapped around a dog in the forrest

4. Old Blankets

Your water heater is a big energy hog: it can take up to 18% of your home electricity costs. Hot water on demand is worth spending money on, but not so much that you shouldn't cut it where you can.

An old, fireproof blanket is one great way to do just that. Your water heater radiates heat from the water through its sides (even on the newer models that work like a thermos). That means it has to activate its heating element more often, leading to more energy consumption.

Wrapping the heater in a blanket you're not using anymore reduces that heat transfer. You can buy specialized blankets for the task, but as long as it's fire resistant you can strap on anything that would keep you warm if it were on your bed. Total cost: Free (or $10 if you have to go out and buy some straps).

5. Leftovers

Your refrigerator alone burns around 9% of your household energy bill every single month. That's a small price to pay for unspoiled food, but that's still a lot of energy. The more food you have in your refrigerator, the less energy it takes to stay cool when you open the door. The foods warm up more slowly than empty air, so less leakage occurs when exposed to the warmer air outdoors.

Wrap and box your leftovers (and stock in a few extra cans of soda or beer) to keep your energy costs down. It will also encourage you to save on your food and restaurant budget, so you win both ways.


shade trees on the side of a house

6. Shade Trees

Planting shade trees in your yard helps keep the house cool in the summer, reducing your cooling costs during those months. For best results, you'll want to plant them so they cover your west- and south-facing windows.

This reduces the amount of sun that hits your windows, meaning less warming throughout the day. Less warming means less need for cooling, and that means less overall energy.

If you plant deciduous trees—that lose their leaves in the winter—that shade will disappear during the cooler months. Sun will hit your windows and help warm your house, so you keep saving energy all year long.

New landscaping is one of the more expensive items on this list, but still affordable and worth the cost. Expect to spend $15-$50 on a tree large enough to shade your windows without needing to wait five or ten years for it to grow to full height.

7. Pipe Wrap

This definitely isn't free but can make some of the biggest differences to your home heating and cooling bills in the shortest period of time. Your vent ducts—the wider pipes that carry air from your heater and a/c to your vents—are made of thin aluminum and often uninsulated. That means they lose heat in the winter and gain heat in the summer with every inch the air travels.

Pipe wrap (aka duct insulation) costs about $10 for 15 square feet. You wrap it around your ducts and seal it with duct tape for an instant reduction in your heating bills. Look in both your attic and your basement (or the equivalent crawl spaces). It's dirty, cramped, unpleasant work to do yourself but it's well within the abilities of most homeowners.

8. Thermal Curtains

Like I alluded to in the intro to this article, your windows are one of the biggest energy leaks in your home—but replacing them with high-efficiency models is out of the budget of many homeowners.

Do the next best thing by spending $20-$50 on thermal curtains. These heavy drapes block heat and sunlight in the summer, and reduce the heat you lose in the winter at night. Twenty bucks might seem like a lot, but it's much less expensive and much more energy efficient than installing blinds.

9. Your Hands

Your hands cost nothing but there are so many things you can do with them to cut your energy costs:

  • Reverse your ceiling fan in the winter to waft warm air down onto you
  • Put on a sweater during cool days
  • Lower the setting on your water heater from 140F to 120F
  • Scrape your dishes before loading them into your dishwasher
  • Dust your vents and the coils of your refrigerator three to four times per year
  • Rearrange your furniture so nothing blocks your vents


Final Thoughts

The formula is simple: Your Energy Savings = Energy Reduction Value + OhmConnect Cash Back.

Making the home upgrades mentioned above is a solid move to make for the planet and your pocketbook and signing up for OhmConnect is a no-brainer. What are you waiting for? Get started now by registering your utility details with OhmConnect

Allen Senchez

Allen Senchez is a ghostwriter with a special passion for sustainable development and being eco-conscious. Living in an old house, he’s come to find the best, smartest, and most affordable ways to minimize his home as he works towards planning a zero-emissions overhaul of his historic home.

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