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Energy: Even small changes can pay off

Boston-area building science expert Michael Blasnik has recommendations for energy savings — even small changes can pay off big for homeowners.
BY MARY BETH BRECKENRIDGE Published: February 18, 2012

What saves energy in a home? Consultant Michael Blasnik, a Boston-area building science expert, urges homeowners to have a blower door test done and to address big issues such as sealing attic leaks and insulating attics and walls.

Other big-ticket projects such as replacing old refrigerators, clothes washers and furnaces with highly efficient models also can yield significant energy savings, he said.

Blasnik also had some low-cost, low-effort measures that can make a noticeable difference in your energy bills:

• Unplug an underused refrigerator.

Often the fridge in the basement or garage is an older, inefficient model. Taking it out of service saves an average of $128 a year, according to a study by Blasnik.

Likewise, unplugging a freestanding freezer would save an average of $96 annually. When you weigh the electricity cost against the savings from buying in bulk, the freezer may not be worth it, he said.

• Change the thermostat when you're asleep or away.

Turning the heat down 8 degrees for eight hours a day saves an average of $84 a year, although the savings are smaller in a highly efficient home. Get a programmable thermostat, and you won't even have to think about it. The savings are even bigger when you turn up the temperature on an air-conditioning system, Blasnik said.

• Set the furnace/air conditioner fan on automatic.

The air handler fan generates a lot of heat, which warms your home and makes the air conditioner work harder in summer, Blasnik said. What's more, depending on how your house is designed, you may have air ducts in unconditioned areas of your home, and the fan can accelerate the loss of heated or cooled air through leaky ducts. Switching the fan from on to automatic year-round will save a whopping $480 a year, on average.

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