Several benefits come along with improving the efficiency of your home, including healthier living conditions, increased savings, positive environmental effects, a higher level of energy independence, and even a boost in property value.
Ultra-efficient homes aim to reduce unnecessary energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and demands for nonrenewable resources by combining state-of-the-art, energy-efficient construction, appliances, and lighting with commercially available renewable energy systems, such as solar water heating and solar electricity. By taking advantage of local climate and site conditions, designers can even incorporate passive solar heating and cooling and energy-efficient landscaping strategies.
However, not everyone has the time, money, or ability to transform his or her dwelling into an ultra-efficient house. Luckily, there are a number of simple things you can do that will still boost your home’s efficiency and help you to start saving both your wallet and the environment.
Note that before you begin to make your home more energy efficient, it’s important to know where you currently stand. Several solar companies offer energy audits, during which an energy professional will inspect your home and determine areas where efficiency can be improved, as well as which parts of the property could use additional attention. It’s recommended to start with an audit to find out which items on this list will be most beneficial for you specifically. Here are 25 simple and easy ways to increase your home’s efficiency.
1. Get a programmable thermostat
Installing a programmable thermostat can save money and increase efficiency by automatically turning down heating and cooling appliances during times when no one is home and at night. Programmable thermostats contain no mercury and, in some climate zones, can save homeowners hundreds of dollars per year in energy costs.
2. Check weather stripping and caulking
Ensuring that your windows are properly caulked and your doors have good weather stripping can help keep cold drafts and warm air from seeping into your home. If you do find that your weather stripping and caulking needs to be replaced, it’s a quick, inexpensive DIY project that you could likely complete in just a few hours.
3. Unplug appliances when not in use
If you have appliances that you only use occasionally, there is no reason for them to be drawing energy around the clock. Getting in the habit of unplugging appliances when you’re not using them is a simple way to conserve energy.
4. Revamp windows
Windows are a major source of heat loss in a home, so it’s important to make sure that your windows are as efficient as possible. There are a number of ways to revamp your windows, including replacing aluminum frames with vinyl, installing multiple panes, tinting, and replacing your current windows with Energy Star-rated panes.
5. Switch out light bulbs
If you currently have incandescent lights, consider replacing them with fluorescents. Although compact fluorescent bulbs are more expensive initially, they provide considerable savings in the long run because they last up to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Even using a mix of fluorescent and incandescent lighting throughout your home can have a significant impact on overall energy usage.
6. Add insulation
Insulation is the key to maintaining heat in your home. As a result, a tightly sealed house can improve comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility bills. Because hot air rises, air leaks are most likely to occur in the attic. Taking the time to add a little extra insulation to your attic, ceilings, and walls will prevent cold drafts and ensure that you won’t pay unnecessary heating costs.
7. Update old appliances with Energy Star appliances
Older appliances are less energy-efficient than newer models, so replacing old kitchen appliances, washers, dryers, water heaters, and furnaces with Energy Star-certified devices will go a long way towards saving energy and lowering your electric bills. Look for the Energy Star label while shopping to make sure you’re getting an energy- and money-saving appliance.
8. Audit temperature settings
Check both your home thermostat and your water heater thermostat to ensure that they are each set at an optimal temperature. A water heater set higher than 140 degrees wastes quite a bit of energy, so the savings may be worth turning it down a bit.
9. Hang curtains
Hanging thick curtains over your windows not only makes your home more decorative and snug, it can also help prevent heat from escaping from your house.
10. Improve water heater
Improving the efficiency of your water heater is a great way to conserve energy and lower your bills. You can insulate the hot water lines to prevent them from cooling off quickly between uses, or install on-demand hot water circulating loops that are activated when you turn on the tap and deactivated when hot water has reached the fixture.
11. Fix furnace
Take a look at your furnace and see if you can increase its efficiency by switching out the air filters or sealing the ducts. If you really want to boost efficiency, consider exchanging your current furnace with a new, high efficiency module that burns less gas and produces fewer carbon emissions. Don’t forget to close the vents in rooms that you use less frequently to ensure that you’re only heating or cooling rooms that are occupied.
12. Add solar panels
Adding solar panels to your house can help you cut down on energy costs by giving you the ability to produce your own electricity. If you aren’t interested in purchasing panels, many solar companies offer lease and power purchase agreement options that still give you the opportunity to utilize green energy and save money.
13. Install ceiling fans
Air conditioners require a large amount of energy to cool a home. Consider installing ceiling fans throughout your home and using them in place of air conditioners.
14. Plant a tree
If you have room, plant a tree in your yard on the side of your house that gets the most sun. During the summer, the tree and its leaves will provide shade to help keep your home cool. In winter, the tree will be bare and allow warm sunshine into your house during the most optimal time of day.
15. Install a rainwater collection system
Buying or building a rainwater collection system will allow you to trap rainwater that would otherwise become runoff. That trapped water can then be used as irrigation water for your lawn or plants, cutting down on the water you’ll need to pull from other sources.
16. Update toilets
Toilets alone account for approximately 30 to 40 percent of the total water used in a home. To conserve water usage, install something more efficient, like low-flow toilets, vacuum-assist toilets, or dual-flush toilets.
17. Install daylighting
Daylighting is the practice of using natural light rather than electricity to illuminate the home’s interior. It can be achieved by installing skylights, light shelves, clerestory windows, and light tubes.
18. Update roof
Some roofs are made from special materials that are designed to reflect sunlight and lower roofing temperatures. This energy-saving technique is ideal for houses in warm climates where air conditioning costs are high all year round. If you live in one of these climates and are in need of a new roof, consider installing a reflective roof.
19. Choose appropriate flooring
The type of flooring you have in your home can have an effect on energy efficiency, so ensure that your flooring is appropriate. Carpet should be used if you want to trap heat and keep your home warmer, while tile should be used to keep your home cooler.
20. Paint the house
The color of your home can greatly contribute to the heat inside it. A light exterior color will help the home stay cooler, while a dark exterior color will better maintain heat. If your home is located in a warm climate, consider painting it a lighter color. If your home is located in a colder climate, painting it a darker exterior color is ideal.
21. Cook smarter
An enormous amount of energy is used while cooking. To ensure that you don’t waste energy while you cook, switch your conventional oven out for a convection oven, use a microwave instead of an oven when possible, and put lids on pots and pans to heat food more quickly.
22. Change your laundry routine
Laundry is another huge energy suck. To conserve energy while washing your clothes, wait to wash until you have a full load, avoid using high-temperature settings, clean the lint trap every time before you use the dryer, and air-dry clothing when possible.
23. Be mindful of activities
Take care to turn off lights when you leave a room, shut the door behind you, and take shorter showers. Small and simple changes like these can make a big difference over time and help to bring your total energy costs down.
24. Take advantage of tax incentives
Recent increases in incentives now allow for homeowners to receive credit for up to 30 percent of the cost of energy-efficient home improvements to an existing home (up to $1,500). That, on top of the savings you’ll see on your bills and the increased value of your home, equates to even more money in your pocket.
25. Keep an eye on energy consumption
Invest in an energy monitor and put it someplace where the whole family can look at it. Having the ability to see how much energy you are actually using, as well as how much that energy is costing, can help keep you aware, accountable, and on the right track towards optimal home efficiency.
Author: Sarah Hancock