To many, the house is another member of the family. It has its quirks, its squeaky hinges, its scuffed floorboards, but that’s just part of its character, part of the reason why it is loved.

But homeowners shouldn’t confuse a home’s idiosyncrasies with glaring problems with its ability to function properly. While renovations to improve energy efficiency can decrease the amount of money a family pays when the electricity bill arrives, certain repairs and upgrades can do much more. Energy-efficient upkeep can sidestep issues that could potentially compromise a home’s structural integrity and avoid putting a family at risk in the process.

“More than 40 percent of homes have absolutely no foundation insulation.”

Foundation/basement insulation as a first line of defense

We all know hot air rises, and that’s probably why when we think of insulating our homes to trap heat in the winter, we remember the attic but not the basement. According to a recent study conducted by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, more than 40 percent of homes have absolutely no foundation insulation. A thoroughly insulated foundation can transform a home and enhance its resilience against the elements, all while stifling energy costs.

Insulation creates a seal between indoors and out, but resists far more than just the open air. A foundation must withstand a fair deal of moisture from outside forces, however the U.S. Department of Energy pointed out that even “unconditioned basements” have a greater structural connectivity to the rooms in one’s house than with the outdoors. That means, whatever penetrates a foundation – be it mold, pests or radon – has a remarkable chance of affecting the rest of a home.

In short, the basement is the front door for trouble. Time to lock it shut. Doing so will preserve a home and further prevent degradation. On a lighter note, insulating a basement adds an additional room to the house. Whether a family uses it for storage or for recreation, everyone could use a little extra space, all while using energy intelligently.

When hot appliances battle cold ones in your home, your energy efficiency loses.

When hot appliances battle cold ones in your home, your energy efficiency loses.

Don’t put heating and cooling appliances against each other

HVAC systems know when to kick on by measuring the indoor temperature. This conveniently takes some of the responsibility off of homeowners to manually adjust the thermostat. Unfortunately, HVAC sensors are not impervious to error. Fluctuations in how hot or cold a single room gets could prompt the system to waste energy to balance the indoor temperature across the whole house.

For example, cooking a large meal using both the stovetop and oven will undoubtedly generate a significant amount of heat. An HVAC system can’t necessarily tell the difference between rooms and may read the heat as a uniform change over the whole property, activating the air conditioner. If homeowners don’t manually stop this from occurring, the machine will continue to consume power over the next couple hours. That’s one of the reasons why many kitchens install ventilation hoods.

Laundry rooms are another place homes could use additional ventilation. Clothes dryers generate a lot of heat, so much so that the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates around 2,900 of these appliance cause fires every year. The leading catalyst is lint left unpicked from the lint trap or lodged in an exhaust. Constructing a better ventilation systems for clothes dryers will not only corral hot air and herd it outside where it won’t affect a home’s HVAC, but also limit the chances of lint and other fibrous debris from starting a fire. Better to install a bit of ductwork than lose a home in a tragic accident.