Kyle Oberlin, president, Stark Trumbull Area Realtors

Kyle Oberlin, president, Stark Trumbull Area Realtors

Your Mexican beach vacation was great, but those margaritas can put on the pound. It’s been two months, and you’re still carrying around extra weight − despite a new running routine and a lot of salads. So why isn’t your weight dropping?

It can be like that with energy bills, too.

Almost half (47%) of the respondents surveyed by the Shelton Group, a marketing agency specializing in energy efficiency, claimed they made between one and three energy efficiency improvements to their home. But 89% of them said their energy bills didn’t go down.

So, what’s up? We’re rationalizing, says Suzanne Shelton, CEO of the Shelton Group.

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“We thought, ‘I bought these [LEDs]so now I can leave the lights on and not pay more,” Shelton said. “I eat the salad, so I can have the chocolate cake.’”

It looks like we’re giving in to higher utility bills. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You just need to know what improvements will make the biggest difference in lowering your bills. There are five, and the good news is they’re seriously cheap.

You can go straight to them here, but there’s another thing you can do that doesn’t cost a dime–and will drop your costs – be mindful about your relationship with energy.

Energy is the only product we buy on a daily basis without knowing how much it costs until a month later. With other services, you get a choice of whether to buy based on price. With energy you don’t get that choice – unless you intentionally decide not to buy.

You can take control by making yourself aware that you’re spending money on something you don’t need each time you leave home with the AC on high, lights and ceiling fans on and your computer wide awake.

That mindfulness is important, because your relationship with energy is intensifying. You – and practically every other person on the planet – are plugging in more and more. Used to be that heating and cooling were the biggest energy hogs, but now appliances, electronics, water heating and lighting together have that dubious honor, according to the Department of Energy.

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Being mindful means it’s also time to banish four assumptions that are sabotaging your energy-efficiency efforts:

1. Newer homes (fewer than 30 years old) are already energy efficient because they were built to code. Don’t bank on it. Building codes change pretty regularly, so even newer homes benefit from improvements.

2. Utilities are out to get us: They’ll jack up prices no matter what we do. It might feel cathartic to blame them. But to get any rate changes, utilities must make a formal case to a public utility commission.

3. An energy-efficient home is a healthier home, and people will pay more for it. Telling someone that an energy-efficient home is a healthier home is an effective way to get people to spend $1,500 on efficient home features. Energy efficient features are associated with health benefits, but expecting a specific return is unrealistic.

4. Expensive improvements will have the biggest impact. That’s why homeowners often choose pricey projects like replacing windows, which should probably be fifth or sixth on the list of energy-efficient improvements. There’s nothing wrong with investing in new windows. They feel sturdier; pretty look; can increase the value of your home; feel safer than old, crooked windows; and, yes, offer energy savings you can feel (no more drafts).

But new windows are the wrong choice if your only reason for the project is to reduce energy costs. You could replace double-pane windows with new efficient ones for about $9,000 to $12,000 and save $27 to $111 a year on your energy bill, according to EnergyStar. The savings is higher if you replace single-pane windows. Or you could spend around $1,000 for new insulation, caulking, and sealing, and save 11% on your energy bill, or $227.

Five things that really help cut energy costs

1. Caulk and seal air leaks. Seal around plumbing lines, electric wires, recessed lighting, windows, crawlspaces and attics. Savings up to $227 a year, even more if you add or upgrade your insulation.

2. Hire a pro to seal ductwork and give your HVAC a tune-up. Leaky ducts are a common energy-waster. Savings up to $412 a year.

3. Program your thermostat. Savings up to $180 a year.

4. Replace all your light bulbs with LEDs. They’re coming down in price, making them even more cost effective. Savings up to $75 a year or more by replacing your five most frequently used bulbs with Energy Star-rated models.

5. Reduce the temperature on your water heater. Set your tank heater to 120 degrees, not the 140 degrees most are set to get out of the box. Also, wrap an older water heater and hot water pipes in insulating material to save on heat loss. Savings of $12 to $30 a year for each 10-degree reduction in temp.

Bonus tip for more savings – Your utilities may have funds available to help pay for energy improvement.

Kyle Oberlin is president of the Stark Trumbull Area Realtors Association. Reach him at info@star. realtor.

This article originally appeared on The Repository: President’s Message: How to put a serious dent in you energy bills

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