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5 surprising things that zap energy and cost you money

  • 5 surprising things that zap energy and cost you money

    Maryalene LaPonsie | Improvement Center Columnist | March 25, 2016

    Big replacement windowsWhen it comes to saving money on energy bills, most homeowners can point out the usual suspects. They know drafty doors and windows can be major energy drains, and of course, proper insulation is a must.

    However, those aren't the only things that can add dollars to your energy bills. Here are five surprising sources of energy leaks and higher costs.

  • Air leaks in unsuspected places

    Maryalene LaPonsie | Improvement Center Columnist | March 25, 2016

    Insulated attic

    • How much it could raise your bill: 10-30%
    • Sample cost to fix: Varies from a few dollars for foam outlet gaskets to more than $3,000 for attic sealing

    Even a well-insulated home can feel drafty if it has air leaks, and they can be found in practically every room. Uninsulated electrical outlets and switches are frequent offenders as are cable and phone line entrances and dryer vents in walls. Larger leaks may come from crawl spaces and attics.

    The U.S. Department of Energy estimates the average homeowner can save 10 percent on heating and cooling costs by eliminating air leaks. In some houses, the savings may be as much as 30 percent.

  • A cozy wood fireplace

    Maryalene LaPonsie | Improvement Center Columnist | March 25, 2016

    Wood burning fireplace

    • How much it could raise your bill: 30%
    • Sample cost to fix: $50 for a throat damper, $150 for a top damper

    You would think putting your fireplace to use in the winter would mean lower energy bills, not higher ones. However, Emerson Climate Technologies says higher energy bills may be just what you're get.

    For starters, 80-90 percent of the heat produced by wood could go straight up the chimney instead of into your house. If you're paying for your wood, you could be spending a lot of money for heat you'll never feel. What's more, an unsealed or open fireplace damper has the potential to raise energy costs by up to 30 percent.

  • Excessively hot water

    Maryalene LaPonsie | Improvement Center Columnist | March 25, 2016

      Hot shower with steam

        • How much it could raise your bill: 15% for a water heater set at 145 degrees
        • Sample cost to fix: Free!

        Your water heater likely accounts for 18 percent of your home's energy usage, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. If you have its thermostat set any higher than 120 degrees, you could be paying more than needed. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that's the maximum temperature required for most household uses, and you may slice 3-5 percent off your costs for every 10 degrees you drop the temperature.

        For even more savings, insulate the pipes connected to the heater and ask a pro to install a heat trap if you have an older model.

      • Phantom power sources

        Maryalene LaPonsie | Improvement Center Columnist | March 25, 2016

          Electrical outlet with green power cable

          • How much it could raise your bill: 10%
          • Sample cost to fix: Free to unplug, $20 for a power strip

          Ten percent of your house's energy may be sucked up by devices you aren't even using. That's because of phantom - or standby - power, according to the Lawrence Berkley National Library. This is electricity being pulled by electronics that are simply waiting to be turned on.

          You can fix the problem by unplugging devices that aren't used daily or that don't need to be left in standby mode to work properly. If it's inconvenient, spend a few dollars to buy a power strip that will let you cut power to multiple devices at once or invest in smart strips that may be able to do the job automatically.

        • Lighting unoccupied spaces

          Maryalene LaPonsie | Improvement Center Columnist | March 25, 2016

          Lit bulb in empty room

            • How much it could raise your bill: 30%
            • Sample cost to fix: $50 to start

            You've been yelling at the kids for years to turn off the lights when they leave the room, and it turns out you know what you were talking about. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates lighting accounts for 5 percent of the average household's energy costs. However, you can cut what you pay by nearly a third if you install occupancy or vacancy sensors - commonly known as motion sensors - to turn off the lights when no one is in a room.

            When it comes to saving money on your energy bills, you know to replace the single pane windows and drafty doors, but don't stop there. Make sure you also take care of these five energy vampires which could leave your wallet feeling cold.

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