Now that you know how energy is used in your home, you can create a one-stop reference for maintaining comfort and efficiency. A Homeowner’s Manual is an important wrap-up to your remodeling project—a tool to make sure that the benefits of your work are sustained into the future.
Your Homeowner’s Manual will organize numerous useful documents and reminders to keep your home operating smoothly, maximize your comfort and pleasure, and minimize worry and waste. It will also hold your vision for future upgrades and remodeling plans; help you keep on top of periodic maintenance to prevent problems and keep your home’s systems working longer; and remind you to take health and safety precautions, such as changing the smoke detector and CO alarm.
Keep your Manual in a handy location. You may not need it often, but when you do, it’s going to be invaluable.
Putting together your Homeowner’s Manual should be as fun as it is useful. Get as creative as you want with the final product, but make sure you include these items:
Your Manual is a living document, one that you will add to and modify over time. If you’re print oriented, invest in a couple of three-ring binders—the 3-inch size—and the heavy-duty three-hole plastic sheet protectors. The sheet protectors will hold your equipment manuals, warranties, and other resources. Tab dividers will come in handy for quick reference.
If you’re more digitally inclined, you’ll probably want to keep your Manual on your computer. (Make sure you back it up!) You can create documents in a word-processing program, and drop in photos and links to useful web sites (products, equipment, utility company). Many appliances have owner manuals and repair manuals online. You can also input your maintenance schedule to an online calendar with automatic reminders.
Appliance Manuals and Warranties
Appliance manuals and equipment owner manuals aren’t needed often, but when they are, it’s great to know exactly where to go (especially with electronic devices like thermostats that occasionally need to be reset or reprogrammed). As for warranties, you may have a special location in your personal filing system for these, but copies can also find a home in your Manual.
You may have put together a picture album as a coffee table chronicle of your remodeling project, but make sure some of those photos make it into your Manual; it could help you avoid trouble in the future. The most useful photos will be the details of electrical, plumbing, and insulation work before they are covered by the finished wall. If you have construction drawings that can be placed in the sheet protectors, include those as well.
Regular maintenance for your home, like exercise for your body, keeps things running and prevents early deterioration. This applies to the entire house system, from the landscape to the bathroom faucets. Maintenance helps ensure your comfort and your safety, so it’s an important part of your overall plan. The list below focuses on maintenance that relates to energy savings, comfort, safety, and durability. Set up a calendar that includes reminders for these things:
Keep an updated list of contractors and maintenance technicians with whom you’ve developed a good relationship or who come with good recommendations. Having confidence in their advice and in the quality of their work adds to your peace of mind. Remember the old adage: You get what you pay for.
Summary of Historical Energy Use and Cost Information
Include a record of your home’s preupgrade energy use. Use this as a baseline to monitor your energy-saving progress. Your record could take the form of
Make sure these records indicate both the amount of energy used (in therms or kWh) and the cost per unit of energy. Monthly and annual total costs are helpful too, but don’t stop there. With fluctuations in energy prices, the best way to see how much less energy you are using will be by comparing units of energy, not price. Once you get a smart meter, you can include more-detailed information.
Your home performance assessment and recommendations will lay out the game plan for making your home as efficient as possible. Whether you get a comprehensive home energy assessment, get a free or inexpensive assessment from your local utility, or take on the task yourself using Internet resources, doing an assessment has three benefits:
When you decide what combination of strategies and techie tools you want to use to manage your home energy use, record them in your Manual.
If you have a long-term vision for your home projects, or if you deliberately phased your improvements, store those future plans in your Manual to keep you on track.