Today I attended a seminar on home energy efficiency put on by the Colorado Energy Science Center, which is loosely affiliated with the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in Golden, Colordao. It was informative, and inspired me to look more closely at improving my own house, which was built in 1971.
Coincidentally, today's Rocky Mountain News had an article on green homes.
A few years ago, we had cellulose insulation blown into the attic and it made a huge difference, most noticeably in the summer. We found that we didn't need to run our swamp cooler nearly as often, nor nearly as long, after our attic is well-insulated. The house stays more comfortable, and it cost only a few hundred bucks.
Did you know that the avergage home leaks 60% of its air every hour? Yep, that means you're paying to heat the neighborhood with your furnace. That's usually the best place to start - fix problems with insulation and leaky windows and doors. If you're house is old like mine, your walls may not even have insulation, and even if they do, it may have settled or been installed poorly, which makes it nearly useless. To remedy this situation, you can have insulation blown into the walls to fill those gaps, and it's supposedly guaranteed not to settle if you find a good vendor to do the work.
How about replacing your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents? These run on 25% of the power, and last 10 times as long. Their quality has improved recently, too, with the use of electronic ballasts that reduce some of the flicker and slow starts that plagued earlier incarnations. You still want to avoid the cheapest, lowest-quality CFLs, though.
Now I just need to figure out how to harness the 60+ mph winds that regularly blast us here on Green Mountain to generate electricity. I can use the savings to pay to fix my roof which keeps getting shingles blown off.