Now that the holiday decorations are packed away and that pesky New Year’s Eve confetti is finally swept up, many of us are going to take a look at how we can improve our lives in the New Year. While the typical resolution may take some of us to the gym, we’d all be surprised by how we can improve the comfort and efficiency of our homes – from the newly constructed or remodeled, to those dating back to the ‘60s.
Whether it's inefficient lighting, wasteful water heating or poor air sealing, making a resolution to finally shape up our home’s energy efficiency shortfalls – many of which you may not know exist – will help create a healthier home that’ll keep your family comfortable and cost less to power all year. And while the biggest energy savings will come by working with a qualified building performance contractor for proper testing and making the right home upgrades, the following steps will help you get a jump start on this trip around the sun.

Zap those “energy vampires.” Many household appliances -- computers, microwaves, cable boxes and game consoles -- are still sucking up power while in “sleep" mode or switched off. Plug them into an advanced power strip, which you can turn off while the appliances aren't needed. Take the savings further by using energy efficient devices, such as those with the ENERGY STAR label.

Replace incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs. It's one of the least expensive and most noticeable changes you can make in your home. Also known as light-emitting diodes, LEDs can cut your lighting energy use by roughly 80 percent and will last considerably longer than incandescent lighting. This modern technology is constantly becoming more affordable.

Dial back water heater settings and maximize efficiency. Heating water is typically the second biggest source of energy usage in your home. While most water heaters come from the manufacturer with thermostats set to 140 degrees, dialing it back to 120 degrees will save energy without disrupting comfortable hot water use. Installing low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators will also help you save water and energy.

Seal small and large cracks in your home. Usually found in or around windows, doors and walls, these gaps let your conditioned air out and the outdoor air in, disrupting the regulation of temperature in your home. You can seal some of them yourself with a caulking gun and weather stripping from your favorite hardware store. Whole house air sealing, including sealing and insulating air ducts, will require a trained contractor, but it can improve heating and cooling system efficiency by 30 percent or more.

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