How To Make Your Home Energy Efficient
Energy-efficient homes help the environment, provide energy savings & increase home values
Being a homeowner comes with a lot of costs and responsibilities. There are some easy ways to cut costs by making your home more energy-efficient. There are several suggestions below for easy and low-cost options, as well as some higher-cost investments for long-term savings.
To begin, we highly recommend completing an energy audit on your home. Many utility companies will conduct an energy audit at little or no cost to you. An energy audit helps you quickly identify what needs to be updated or replaced. You can go a step further and hire a professional contractor to analyze your home, then compare the results to your monthly utility bills. The contractor will provide you with a list of recommendations to improve your home’s energy efficiency and lower your costs. Your Realtor may have some contractor recommendations for this type of service.
Short Term Home Energy Savings
Looking to make an immediate impact and lower your utility bills? The following recommendations are simple and can be implemented almost immediately.
Check Your Insulation
One of the first steps is to check your home’s insulation, starting with the attic. Adding new or additional insulation to your home (attic, ceiling, walls, crawl spaces, garage, etc.) will help more easily regulate the house temperature.
Be sure to close vents in unoccupied or less-used rooms. This can save up to 20 percent on heating or cooling costs.
Caulking And Weather Stripping
Check your caulking and weather stripping around doors and windows. It is simple to replace caulking and weather stripping and can save you lots on your energy bill.
Use The Sun To Your Advantage
An easy and no-cost solution is to utilize the sun to your advantage. In the summer, close shades on the southern and eastern windows during the day to help keep the home cool. Keep the shades in those rooms closed in rooms that are not used. In the winter open shades in rooms facing south or east to help heat the home during the day.
Install A Programmable Thermostat
By installing a thermostat that you can program, you can control the home’s temperature during periods when no one is home. This can save as much as 10 percent a year on your energy costs.
Use Fluorescent Bulbs
Switch your incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL bulbs). Although CFL bulbs seem to cost more initially, they last up to 12 times longer than incandescent bulbs, resulting in considerable savings over time.
Use Appliances Efficiently
Minimize your energy use by minimizing your appliance use. Simple changes can really add up to big savings. Being aware of how you are using your appliances can help save on your energy bill.
- Set your refrigerator and freezer to the recommended energy-efficient settings (37 degrees for refrigerator, 3 degrees for freezer)
- Run the dishwasher when it is full, not half full
- Do full loads of laundry, not smaller loads
- Turn off lights when you leave a room, and consider using fewer lights when in a room
- Unplug appliances that are not often used or when you travel and are away from home
- Unplug home computers and monitors when not in use
- Unplug battery chargers when not in use
- Set your thermostat to a lower temperature at night when you are sleeping and at times of the day when you are away from the home
Long Term Home Energy Savings
Some of the following recommendations require a bit more of an investment but are highly recommended for long-term savings.
Check Your Water Heater
Set the water heater temperature to 140 degrees. Newer water heaters may automatically set to 140 degrees. It is also recommended that you insulate the hot water lines to help keep the heated water hot. If your water heater is older, you may consider replacing the unit with an Energy Star-rated water heater - especially if you will be in the home for several years.
Check Your Furnace
There are several things you can do to help make your furnace more energy-efficient.
- Replace Your Filter - Homeowners often forget to check and replace their air filters. For homes with a pet, it is recommended to replace the filter every 60 days. A home without pets can go as long as 90 days before replacing the filter. If you own a second home or vacation home and do not have frequent guests or visits, it is recommended to replace the filter every 6 months.
- Seal Your Ducts - Help the airflow to the intended destination through the ductwork without losing the heated or cooled air along the way.
- Install An Energy Efficient Furnace - If you will be in the home for many more years, you may consider replacing your old furnace with an Energy Star-rated furnace. The upfront cost will pay for itself over time.
Replace Old Appliances
Larger old appliances can suck a lot of energy. It is wise to replace old appliances with new, Energy Star efficient appliances. Look at it as an investment in money-saving appliances. Check with your local recycling centers to remove the old appliances as many have toxic chemicals that should not go to the landfill, such as the freon refrigerant in refrigerators. Also, check with your local utilities to see if they are offering any financial incentives for upgrading appliances to Energy Star-rated appliances. There may be an opportunity to earn back some of your investment through these incentive programs.
Windows are a major source of heat loss. If you are going to be in a home for a number of years, it is advisable to upgrade your windows or replace them entirely to ensure great energy efficiency for your home. Below are some common window upgrade recommendations:
- Tint your windows from the inside
- Upgrade from aluminum frames to vinyl frames
- Double-panes or triple-panes are more energy-efficient than single-pane windows
- Replace old windows with Energy Star-rated windows for the most energy savings
Install Solar Panels
Probably the largest upfront investment of any of the recommendations here, solar panels can drastically cut energy costs in your home. You will want to be in your home for several years to recoup the investment cost. Check with your local power utility company to see if they will allow you to sell power back to their grid, as some utility companies have such programs in place. In some areas, solar panels may increase the home value. Ask your Realtor if such an investment may raise your home value in your area.
Consider Your Landscaping
Strategically planting shade trees in your yard and around your home can reduce your energy bill by blocking the heat of the sun during summer or the chill of the wind during colder months. If your tree drops leaves during the fall or winter seasons, the warmth from the sun will help keep the home warm. Remember to call your utility companies before you dig to ensure there are no underground utility lines. And, if planting in your park strip, reminder: that this may be owned by the city or county, and you may need to consult your local government office or city planning office to confirm which types of trees or plants are permitted in your area. Finally, a water-wise tip to consider is xeriscaping your yard to avoid heavy water use throughout the spring/summer/fall.
Install A Rainwater Collection System
Collecting rainwater from the home runoff is a water-wise tip to lower water usage and water costs. The collected rainwater can be used for irrigation needs, such as watering your lawn, garden, and plants. Be sure to check with your local city planning office to ensure you can legally capture rainwater, as some areas do not allow private rainwater collection systems.
Being energy efficient is easy. Once you know your home’s inefficiencies, you can decide which areas of the home need attention. Being aware of your own energy use and knowing the areas of your home that can be upgraded or replaced sets you up for major cost savings. Make the changes that you can and upgrade or replace the items that are needed to lower your energy use and decrease your utility bills.
Remember to check for tax incentives and take advantage of any special offers and incentives from your local government, city, utility companies, or local non-profits to reduce your overall out-of-pocket expense. That’s more money in your pocket!