There are numerous ways for homeowners to save BIG on their energy costs, make their home more attractive to buyers, and help the environment. The best part is that most of them are easy and inexpensive for homeowners to do themselves.
Why make your home more energy efficient? For starters, there are a variety of state, utility and local financial incentives, such as tax breaks or rebates that are available after making upgrades to the energy efficiency of your home. It also saves money because you will be using less energy to power your home while making your home more comfortable. You would also be doing a favor for Mother Nature since energy efficient homes use less energy, therefore reducing excess energy consumption and the pollution created by producing energy that many scientists believe contributes to global warming.
Below are just a few ways that you can make your home more energy efficient, courtesy of InterNACHI.
Make sure your home is properly sealed and insulated. Sealing and insulating your home is generally one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy efficient. Leaks in your home’s building envelope contribute to high energy bills and poor indoor air quality. The most common places for leakage are: around electrical receptacles & outlets, mail slots, around pipes or wires, wall or window-mounted air conditioners, attic hatches, fireplace dampers, doors, baseboards, window frames and switch plates. These areas can be sealed inexpensively with caulking, spray-foam insulation or weather stripping. Also make sure that all pipes and duct work are insulated to minimize energy loss while cold air and hot water move through your home.
Pay attention to your heating and cooling systems. Make sure to change your air filter regularly (most systems recommend monthly) to avoid excess strain on your air handler from having to push air through a dirty filter, which also increases your indoor air quality and reduces allergens. Set thermostats to an appropriate temperature, such as turning it up to 78 – 80 degrees during the day when no one is home. In most homes, about 2% of the energy bill will be saved for each degree the thermostat is increased for at least 8 hours each day. You can even install a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust temperature settings based on the time of day. Use ceiling fans in place of the air conditioner as much as possible since they use a lot less electricity, or use the “fan-only” option on your thermostat.
Install a tankless water heater. Tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand water heaters, save energy by only heating water when it is needed. Traditional tanked water heaters heat water 24 hours a day, and much of that heat is lost in storage or traveling through the plumbing system. Tankless systems are extremely compact compared to traditional tanked models, and are great for homes that are tight on space. They are also great at eliminating one of the biggest annoyances for larger families – you will never run out of hot water again! The best part is that tankless models are very comparable in price to traditional tanked models and there is minimal work involved to transition your existing system.
Install efficient plumbing fixtures. Low-flow showerheads are available in different flow rates and have been proven to dramatically reduce water usage while showering. Aerators are an inexpensive addition to kitchen and bath faucets to increase water flow while minimizing water usage. Upgrading your toilet from the standard 3.5 gallon (or more) flush model to a low-flow 1.6 gallon flush model could save as much as 12,000 gallons per year in most households. Dual-flush toilets can reduce water consumption by an additional 30% by providing a 1 gallon (or less) flush for liquid waste and a 1.6 gallon flush for solid waste. Vacuum-assist toilets use a vacuum chamber to suck air from beneath the bowl to quickly, efficiently, and quietly clear waste while using a minimal amount of water.
Use appliances and electronics responsibly. Appliances and electronics account for around 20% of the average home’s annual energy consumption. Shut computers down when not in use, or at least turn the monitor off if the computer cannot be turned off. According to home studies, computers average around 3% of all energy consumption in the United States. Make sure that chargers for phones and laptops are unplugged when not in use. Replacing your electronics and appliances with ENERGY STAR-rated models will also lower energy costs. According to the EPA, if just 10% of homes used energy-efficient appliances, it would reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of 1.7 million acres of trees.
Use smarter lighting. Daylight is free, and it is a great way to brighten the interior of your home. Aside from opening your curtains or blinds, you can also introduce more natural light into your home by installing skylights or light tubes. Just make sure that they are sealed and flashed properly to avoid leaks. Another way to light smarter is to replace your home’s incandescent light bulbs with much more efficient CFL (compact fluorescent) or LED (light-emitting diode) versions, which could reduce your energy requirements for lighting by 50% to 75%. CFL’s use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last on average 10 times longer. LED’s last even longer and use less energy than CFL’s and unlike CFL’s, they do not contain mercury. Putting lighting on motion sensors and converting at least some of your exterior lighting to solar power also helps to reduce energy costs.
Cook smarter. An enormous amount of energy is wasted while cooking, something that most of us do every day. Replacing your existing oven with a convection oven, which uses a fan to distribute heat evenly, could reduce energy consumption while cooking by as much as 20%. Microwave ovens use approximately 80% less energy than conventional ovens. Using pots & pans with lids that are the correct size for the stove element or flame you are using will help food cook more quickly and evenly while using less energy.
Change how you do laundry. Instead of doing small loads, wait until you have a full load to maximize your energy and water usage. Avoid using high-temperature settings if the clothes are not very soiled. Water that is 140 degrees (hot setting) uses a lot more energy than water that is 103 degrees (warm setting), but isn’t that much more effective at getting clothes clean. Using cold water whenever possible also helps to reduce energy costs. Using the spin-dry cycle on your washer or wringing the clothes out before putting them in the dryer helps to reduce the time it takes for them to dry. Make sure to clean out the lint trap on your dryer before every use and clean your dryer vent hose quarterly. Not only is excess lint a fire hazard, but it will increase the amount of time it takes for your clothes to dry. You could also go a step further and dry your clothes using lines and racks when possible.
Use smart landscaping. Deciduous trees (like oak or maple) are great at providing shade during the summer to keep your home cooler and reduce the workload on your air conditioner. Using plants that are native to Florida and are drought-tolerant helps to reduce water consumption during months with little rain.
Decorate with light colors. Homes with light-colored paint (interior & exterior), roofing materials and/or flooring do not get as hot during the day and require less energy to cool.
Taking the initiative to implement these changes in your home is more than worth the effort. These small changes could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars every year on energy and water costs, while also making your home more comfortable and more desirable when it comes time to sell it.