Few people realize how much energy is wasted heating and cooling their homes. What’s worse is that the biggest waste comes not from using A/C or heat too much, but the fact that most of the energy ends up outside the house. Cracks and leaks allow both hot and cool air out into the world where it doesn’t belong, forcing your appliances to work even harder to keep you comfortable. On top of that, old, inefficient appliances suck more energy than necessary, and we’re often too busy to notice.

Every time I look for advice about how to make my apartment less of an energy black hole, all I can find are suggestions about replacing my dishwasher or re-insulating my house. These energy upgrades are not only too expensive for my budget, they’re nearly impossible for a non-homeowner. Who says we have to rely on experts to help us prevent energy waste in our homes, anyway? Below are five DIY home energy upgrades that can be completed for around $100 each (and they don’t require you to be a master electrician or remodeling contractor).

If you’ve got other suggestions of energy-saving upgrades that can be made on the cheap, please share them in a comment!

DIY Home Energy Audit

Image via Shutterstock

The first step to smaller utility bills is figuring out how and where your home is losing energy. The best way to located energy escape routes is to have a whole home energy audit. This is usually done by professionals and can cost hundreds of dollars (although some utilities offer discounts). With the right set of instructions, however, you can conduct your own home energy audit that will let you know if there are any glaring leaks. There are lots of different guides to performing your own energy assessment available on the internet, however this one from the city of Seattle [PDF] is one of the most comprehensive. This one from the U.S. Department of Energy isn’t too bad either.

Keep reading for more DIY home energy upgrades under $100!

Insulate Your Water Heater

Old Water Heater
Image via Shutterstock

OK, so if your water heater looks like the one in the above picture, you probably have bigger problems than insulation. But if it’s running fine, just not very efficiently, a new sweater of insulation could reduce standby heat losses by 25–45 percent. Here’s a simple test to help you know if your water heater’s wasting energy: touch it (carefully). If the outside of the tank feels warm, you’re losing money. Check out the DOE’s guide to wrapping it up in new layer of insulation.

Caulk/Seal Leaky Windows and Doors

Caulking Leaky Windows
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Sealing up drafty windows and door frames is perhaps one of the most important ways to prevent home energy loss. There are a number of different methods for preventing air from coming in or going out, but the easiest is to add caulk or weatherstripping. First, inspect the area for visible cracks or gaps that could be letting air through. Caulk is best for sealing gaps that are less than a quarter inch wide, while weatherstripping can handle larger cracks.

Give Your Home A Water Conservation Boost

Image via Boost Home Products

Heating and cooling aren’t the only ways your home wastes energy. There are multiple appliances known to waste water. And given our current state of global drought, water probably isn’t the smartest resource to send down the drain. Rather than running around town, searching for faucet aerators and fretting about how you’ll pay for a new toilet, why not scoop up the Whole Home Water Boost Box? This DIY kit contains all of the water-saving gadgets you need to maximize savings throughout the entire house. According to the company, this box will help you save you over $800 and over 50,000 gallons of perfectly good water every year.

Make-Your-Own Home Energy Monitor

Image via Janne Mäntyharju

The payoff for making some or all of these home energy upgrades is watching your power usage decline. Unfortunately, if you’re not using a home energy monitor, you’ll be left with only the report provided by your utility and a calculator. Home energy monitors allow you to see energy consumption in real-time, allowing you to track trends and make adjustments based on hard data. There are several energy monitors that you can purchase for around $100, but since this is a DIY post, it only seemed right to feature this hacked-together version made by Janne Mäntyharju.

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