Thursday, September 12, 2013

How Retirees Can Save Money on their Energy Costs

Air conditioner, complete with piping, insulat...
Air conditioner, complete with piping, insulated with foamed rubber pipe covering (common refrigeration insulation, along with foamglass). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Winter can be a particularly hard time for anybody. People are more prone to illness, roads become burdened with inches of that cold powdery stuff, and our finances are strained by the increasing energy costs of keeping our homes warm. However, winter can be particularly hard on elderly retirees who are hoping to stretch their retirement budget as efficiently as possible. 

While other homeowners are able to turn off their systems to save some energy costs throughout the day, retirees don’t really have an option if they’re homebound. Especially given that around 70% of arthritic individuals suffer far worse pain due to arthritis in cold weather, it can be difficult to compromise on keeping a home heated comfortably for the sake of a budget.

However, with the right practices, retirees never have to worry about paying exorbitant energy bills to keep themselves warm. Here are a few tips that folk who find themselves retired, or anyone who spends the majority of their time inside, can benefit from in reducing their heating related expenses this coming winter:

Perform regular cleaning and maintenance


When it comes to your HVAC system, realize that many parts come with expiration dates. No air conditioner lasts forever, ducts require constant maintenance to remain sealed, and homes regularly need to be audited to make sure you aren’t wasting energy. But if you’re experiencing trouble with your system before your equipment’s typical lifespan, it’s important to ask yourself if you’re having regular maintenance and cleaning procedures performed.

It’s important to recognize how your system works if you intend on doing these procedures yourself. It’s important to recognize the sort of system your house runs on; while many homes run on centralized air conditioning systems, newer houses run on split systems. See this article for a look inside the split system A/C in your home.

Some general forms of maintenance that you should certainly consider to improve your equipment’s lifespan and energy efficiency include:

  • Changing or cleaning your filter
  • Cleaning coils inside and out
  • Monitoring your refrigerant for leaks
  • Cleaning your ducts when debris is excessive or creating a blockage

However, it’s important to recognize your limitations if you find yourself unable to accomplish these tasks. Various how-to’s exist online on these subjects for all kinds of circumstances, but doing repairs which are out of your comfort zone could result in personal injury or property damage. And remember – always turn off your system and disconnect power supply when doing any sort of in-depth maintenance.

Consider how well your home “stores” heat


Depending on the amount of insulation and how weatherized your home is, you might be losing a tremendous amount of energy in your home. With improper insulation, it can leak through your walls. With poor weatherization, you can be sending heated air directly out of gaps and crevices in your windows, doors, open frame construction, and other areas. We wouldn’t leave a door open with the heater on; it’s equally reckless to let these gaps go unmaintained if you want to optimize your heating system.

Installing insulation should be left to a professional, especially if it requires removing or working around insulation which contains asbestos. However, weatherizing your home puts you at significantly less risk. This simply requires knowing where to find leaks in your indoor environment and how to seal them using applications like caulk, polyurethane coating, weather-stripping, and other readily-available adhesives. Professional services can perform these tasks for you, though at a premium. Doing it yourself might be advantageous if your budget is too great of a concern and you are physically capable.

With these tips, you can save yourselves up to hundreds of dollars annually on your energy bills. More importantly, you can keep yourself cozy even in the harshest times of winter without worrying about spending too much.

By Jason Wall, an HVAC technician of over 23 years with Griffith Energy Services


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