(ARA) — Old Man Winter brings a variety of gifts for us each year — cold winds, snow and, of course, higher energy bills. You can’t control the cold and the snow, but you do have a little control over how much energy you will use this winter.
With today’s technological advances, it has never been easier to lessen your impact on the power grid and reduce your heating bills. An energy audit is a good place to start to find out areas where heat is escaping from your home. After you’ve identified those areas, you may also want to think about outfitting your home with devices or systems that will make it more energy efficient.
Here are five recent innovations that can help you conserve energy this winter:
• Freewatt home energy system. This eco-friendly heating system features micro-CHP technology that is integrated with a high-efficiency natural gas or propane furnace or boiler and generates both heat and electricity for your home. Such a system has the potential to generate half of a typical home’s annual electrical needs, according to ECR, makers of the freewatt and freewatt plus home energy systems. Additionally, a water heater may be added to the system to produce even more electricity. If your state and utility company have net metering programs, you can also sell back additional electricity generated by your system to be used elsewhere. The freewatt plus system also acts as a back-up generator should your home lose power.
• Rooftop solar water heaters. Why pay for energy to heat water when the sun will do it for you at no cost? While a solar water heater may cost more up front, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that you can save 50 to 80 percent on your water heating bill. It’s possible that you may also be able to receive a tax deduction if you roll the cost of the heater into your mortgage. If you are interested, it may also be wise to check with the Department of Energy or retailers to see if there are any other tax benefits available for any efficiency upgrade you are thinking about making.
• Solar light tubes. Adding these to your house can add fresh and natural light to a space that might otherwise need electric light, thus reducing the electricity you’ll use. These can be added during construction or installed at a later date.
• Radiant barriers. This strategy, using reflective barriers, often in the attic, can reduce the amount of heat that is lost through the roof of your home. It also can reduce the amount of heat coming in from the attic in the warmer months.
• If you determine you are losing a lot of heat through your windows, it might make good financial sense to replace them with more energy-efficient ones. It might be helpful to work with your energy auditor or window company to determine the best option, as it can often be dependent on what kind of windows you have and where they are located.