Renovate to help get utility bills under control

This was originally published on Monday, November 4, 2013, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Question: I just recently purchased a home that is about 10 years old. I am looking for some home renovation ideas to help get my utility bills under control. Do you have any ideas?

Answer: Congratulations on your home! Homes that were built before the high cost of utilities became a reality may need some help catching up to those that have been built in the last five years or so. There are many ways to help get your utility bills to a more reasonable cost.

If you are purchasing new appliances, look for Energy Star products. These products have specifications set by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Energy. Many notable name brands carry models that fall under the guidelines of energy efficiency.

There are some low-cost fixes that are easy one-day projects that can help save money:

• Low-flow water fixtures are inexpensive and easy to install. According to Energy Star, low-flow fixtures can reduce your water consumption by as much as 50 percent and can save you up to $145 per year.

• Traditional light bulbs create not only light but heat, therefore, raising your power bill. New light bulbs such as compact florescent lights (CFL) or light-emitting diodes (LED) may cost more at initial purchase, but you can save $6 a year per bulb.

• Weather stripping around doors and windows. Air conditioners are costly, so why let it escape between windows and door cracks? Installing weather stripping can keep your house cooler and lower your power bill.

• Hot water heater blankets are fiberglass-filled insulation blankets that can be wrapped around your heater. They can reduce energy loss by 25 to 45 percent.

• Install a timer on your hot water heater. Your hot water heater constantly warms water whether you need it or not. By installing a timer, your heater will produce hot water only when you need it.

Other home improvements may cost a bit more:

• Ceiling fans are a great way to circulate air in a room and keep you comfortable. A ceiling fan can save you about $15 a year per fan. I have four in my home and am happy with how they move the air around and make rooms cooler.

• Paint your roof with a heat reflecting paint. This may cost a bit more than your typical white paint, but you will be able to feel the difference immediately.

• Paint your house a color that is light and will not absorb heat. Concrete retains heat and will warm up a home.

• If your house has a drop ceiling, consider using insulation between the ceiling and the drop ceiling.

• I’ve used tankless water heaters that provide hot water on demand. According to Energy Star, you can reduce your power bill by 20 percent. Tankless water heaters also last five to ten years longer than traditional tanks.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at


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