• Whip Your Home into Energy-efficient Shape

    Is your home as energy-efficient as it could be? Probably not, but whipping it into "green" shape doesn't have to be a confusing, wallet-busting experience. Here are some simple fixes that will have your home on the green A-list in no time. 

    • Get yourself properly insulated. The Department of Energy (DOE) advises homeowners to check whether they have enough insulation in the attic, floors, walls, basement and crawl spaces. See how much you need using the DOE's insulation calculator.

    • Check your windows. Okay, so I lied; this one could end up busting your wallet a little bit. But only on the front end-once you've got those top-notch windows installed you'll start saving a bundle as the warm air stays in all winter and out all summer. The DOE says that good storm windows can reduce heat loss by 25 to 50 percent.

    • Shade your house. This is as easy as a trip to the nursery for some leafy plants and trees that can provide your home a little relief from the beating sun. The University of Missouri advises that the most important tree in your yard as far as shade is concerned is the one near the southwest corner of your house, so plan carefully.

    • Get energy-efficient appliances. Your furnace, hot water heater, refrigerators and other kitchen machines are huge energy hogs, so make sure you have the most efficient ones you can get. They all might be due for an upgrade. Like the window, this will hurt your back pocket at first, but will save you money in the long run.

    • Make sure your ducts are in a row. Ducts that are badly connected or not well maintained can be the Achilles' heal of an otherwise energy-efficient house. The DOE advises homeowners that doing the proper repairs can reduce heat loss by 60 percent. Doesn't sound fun? Think of it this way: you get an excuse to use duct tape.

    While some of this can cause your wallet nerve to tingle, it'll help you snag your energy-efficiency tax breaks. The DOE is advertising various types of incentives, so make sure to study the options carefully.

    You'll recoup the trouble of improving your home's efficiency not only in taxes but in savings on your energy expenses. And that's not all; you'll be a better eco-citizen, and that's something you can't put a price on.

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