Contributed by James Dulley

Sensible Home: Tubular skylights provide efficient natural illumination

Q. I like natural light and thought I could save some electricity on lighting by installing either a traditional or tubular skylight. Which type is better? A. Although the amount of electricity used for lighting in the typical house is only a fraction of that for heat, cooling and water heating, lighting still constitutes a … Read More »

June 17th, 2018 at 6:00 am

Sensible Home: Follow these tips to help keep AC unit running efficiently

Q. I have my central air conditioner and furnace serviced every few years to keep them running efficiently. Is there anything I can do to the air conditioner myself on the off years to improve its efficiency? A. There are several things you can do yourself to keep a central air conditioner, a heat pump … Read More »

May 13th, 2018 at 6:00 am

Sensible Home: DIY solar water preheater can help reduce utility bills

Q. We have teenage daughters who take long showers, and our water-heating costs are sky high. We are on a tight budget but want to use some solar water-heating techniques. Is there a system we can make ourselves? A. For a typical family of four, heating water can account for about 20 percent of your … Read More »

April 15th, 2018 at 6:00 am

Sensible Home: Protect electronic devices with whole-house surge suppressor

Q. I have a lot of electronic items at home, and I have thought about installing a whole-house electric surge suppressor. What are the various types of suppressors, how can I compare the various models, and do they save energy? A. Today’s homes have more sensitive electronic devices than most people realize. Everyone knows that … Read More »

March 18th, 2018 at 6:00 am

Sensible Home: DIY-ers can make inexpensive, efficient storm windows

Q. I would like to install exterior storm windows on my home, but they are expensive. Will storm windows improve my windows’ efficiency very much? Is there a low-cost, simple storm-window design that I can make myself? A. Installing exterior storm windows can be a wise choice for some homes, but they are not an … Read More »

February 18th, 2018 at 6:00 am

Sensible Home: Portable battery pack can shed light during power outage

Q. We have had electric power outages from storms lately. It is inconvenient, so I want to find some type of backup electric power. What are some options that are not extremely expensive to purchase or install? A. A small gasoline-powered generator, which you can buy at any home-center store, is a reasonably priced option, … Read More »

January 21st, 2018 at 6:00 am

Sensible Home: Compare alternative heating sources for energy efficiency

Q. My old heating and air-conditioning system must be replaced. With current energy-cost volatility, how can I determine which type of fuel — oil, gas, propane, electric, etc. — is best to go with? A. It might make economic, environmental and life-style sense to switch to an entirely different type of heating source for your … Read More »

December 18th, 2017 at 8:14 am

Sensible Home: Insulating window coverings provide added comfort, savings

Q. I would like to replace my old windows before winter, but I cannot afford more debt right now. Is installing insulating window shades or curtains a viable alternative? If so, which types are best? A. Old, inefficient windows can account for a substantial amount of heat loss from a house. A single pane of … Read More »

November 19th, 2017 at 6:00 am

Sensible Home: Chimney maintenance is important both inside and out

Q. We use our woodburning fireplace for heat. It has not been cleaned out for the year, and we noticed bad spots on the outdoor chimney brick. What maintenance steps can we do ourselves? A. There are some maintenance items you can do yourself, but you must first have the chimney flue professionally cleaned by … Read More »

October 15th, 2017 at 6:00 am

Sensible Home: Durable, eco-friendly roofing options abound

Q. The old, dark asphalt-shingle roof on my house is leaking — again. I prefer to install a longer-lasting roof this time, even if it costs a little more. Other than metal, what durable roofing materials are available, and which ones are environment-friendly? A. There are many nonmetal roofing options that have a significantly longer … Read More »

September 17th, 2017 at 6:00 am