(BPT) - The beginning of the year is a great time to make positive changes in your home. While many will wait until March to embrace "spring cleaning" season and make home improvements, a few simple changes can be made now to help you conserve energy and start saving money right away. Here are some steps that can help lower energy consumption - and associated costs - in your home this month and throughout the year:
Turn your house into a "smart home"
From heating and cooling to ceiling fans, lighting and security systems, homes can now be wired for a number of automated functions to optimize the energy consumed by the systems they run.
"Smart home" technology, like the ADT Pulse home automation system, can help save homeowners money by allowing customers to remotely manage thermostats and lighting controls. In addition to helping protect homes against intrusion, fire, flood and dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, integrated home automation systems can help users plan ahead to create schedules to turn off lights when they're not needed, or decrease heating or cooling settings when no one is home. In fact, according to ENERGY STAR's website, using a programmable thermostat alone can save up to $180 a year in energy costs. Users can control their home automation system either through in-home panels, or through smartphones, tablets and computers.
Don't forget the basics
Every home requires insulation and sealing, whether you live in the steamy south or wintery north. Plus, adding insulation can prove to be economically beneficial for homeowners, who can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs by sealing and insulating the "shell" of their homes (exterior walls, ceilings, doors, windows and floors), according to EnergyStar.gov.
Sealing and insulating is well within the abilities of most do-it-yourselfers, but you can also hire a professional to:
* Seal air leaks around windows and doors to prevent drafts.
* Add insulation to attics and exterior walls.
* Replace old, inefficient, worn-out or damaged windows.
* Seal heating and cooling system air ducts.
Lower your light bills
If your home is like the average American household, a significant portion of your energy bill each month could be attributed to lighting costs. Since you need a basic amount of light to function in your home, reducing the number of light sources is probably not an option. Instead, look to reduce the amount of energy needed to power the lights in your home, or increase the amount of natural light that enters the house.
Start by replacing incandescent bulbs - which are energy inefficient - with energy-saving bulbs. Energy.gov says replacing just 15 incandescent bulbs could save you about $50 a year. Energy efficient bulb options include halogen, CFLs and LEDs. And while some homeowners may balk at the higher initial cost of these types of bulbs, keep in mind that CFLs last 10 times longer and use a quarter of the energy of traditional incandescent bulbs, according to Energy.gov. LEDs are even more energy efficient, lasting 25 times longer and using only about 20 to 25 percent as much energy.
Taking proactive steps to improve your home's energy efficiency early on is a great way to save money this winter and throughout the year. It's a lifestyle commitment that will begin to pay off right away and continue for the rest of the year to come.