Home improvement investments

When it comes to upgrades, homeowners are always looking to get the biggest bang for their bucks. One sure-fire way to make financial sense is to invest in upgrades that save money throughout the home. Making your home weather-tight is a great way to maximize the long-term benefit of a home improvement investment.

Interior Insulation
Insulating a home is always a massive part of thermal-proofing a home, separating interior temperatures from exterior ones and allowing homes to maintain a constant temperature to the homeowner’s preference. A lot of insulation is out of sight, but it should never be out of mind. Check on the insulation inside the walls and in ceilings (in every ceiling of a multi-level home, as heat invariably rises while cold sinks, creating significant heat disparities between levels).  Typical insulation methods include layers of styrofoam, fiberglass, or new spray-foam insulating polymers, but “green” or bio insulation can also be incorporated from recycled or renewable materials. Checking and updating a home’s insulation can significantly affect energy use and temperature control year-round.

An Open-Shut Case
Any opening to a home, whether it is a door or window, or even a fireplace or vent, provides an opportunity for temperature loss. Thermal windows and door are a great investment, but less intensive (and far less expensive!) options can also provide solid returns. Thermal films (thin clear plastic applications) can be added to existing windows, and weather stripping can seal off gaps between doors (or windows) and their frames. Thermal caulking or foam sealants can block cracks in and around frames, or other unintentional openings. Fireplaces can be closed and covered when not in use (something as simple as a drape or quilt can be both an effective and attractive method to block temperature loss). Window hangings, from thick winter drapes to pale summer sheers, can provide extra insulation. The best time to investigate draft zones are during cold months, when cold air leaks are most keenly felt and located, but applying standard thermal measures can happen any time to show immediate thermal benefits, keeping the home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer while reducing fuel and energy costs.

Lights “Lite”
Lighting can generate a lot of heat. While a heat-generating lamp may be appreciated in the winter, during the summer it only degrades cooling efforts. Also, heat is just another form of energy, so a light producing heat is likely to be an energy-hog, wasting electricity on inefficient light production. Incorporating cool, energy-efficient lighting saves money year-round; the energy savings can be put to better use in whole-house heating or cooling.

Applied Appliances
There are a lot of secret heat leaks in a home that can raise energy costs and undermine summer cooling efforts. Furnaces and water heaters are often stored in unheated areas (such as basements or attics, where any excess heat they generate is heat lost. Save energy and reduce heat loss by insulating furnaces and water heaters, and well as ducts, and pipes. Thermal blankets and insulating wrapping materials come in all types and are highly affordable ways to maximize thermal retention.   Another issue to consider: how much heat does the dryer, oven, or dishwasher pump into the home? Proper insulation and venting can help move the heat out when you don’t want it in, and help the appliance perform better in cold months.
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