Tips to Save Energy and Money at Home
No matter what the season is, wasted energy in your home will cost you. There is the expense of high utility bills, but using more energy also means your appliances and electronics are working harder than they should. Overworking electrical devices shortens their lifespan, adding up to even more expenses down the road when your water heater or HVAC condenser breaks sooner than you expected.
If you are interested in improving your home’s energy efficiency, it’s best to employ a comprehensive “whole house” approach. Addressing individual issues one by one isn’t as effective and might end up being more expensive in the long run, especially if you have to keep fixing the same “small” problem more than once.
The first step in any energy conservation plan is to stop any leaks in the existing system. Leaks are wasted energy and money. They also affect airflow around your home, and therefore the overall comfort from room to room.
- Inspect all the seals around the doors and all the windows of your home. Some leaks may require just a dab of exterior caulk, others may require new weather stripping.
- Check that your house has sufficient insulation, especially in the attic and/or basement. Attics should have at least 6 to 7 inches of insulation in the R-38 to R-49 range.
- The ductwork in your home is another potential source of leaks. On duct joints use mastic instead of tape for a tighter, more reliable seal.
- Routinely check and change the filter on your air conditioner. Clogged filters force an HVAC system to work harder, reducing equipment life.
Once you’ve fixed any leaks, you can further reduce your household energy consumption through a combination of changes to your daily routine and small upgrades.
- Keep windows facing south and west covered during the day.
- Use ceiling fans to facilitate airflow to reduce reliance on air-conditioning in summer. Most fans also have a switch to change the blades’ direction of rotation to circulate heat during colder months.
- In fall and winter, set the heat lower at night and sleep with an extra blanket. During the day, keep the heat low and dress warmly indoors with sweaters or fleeces.
- Close the doors to rooms not being used.
- Switch to cold water wash for laundry. Heating water represents about 15 percent of a typical home energy bill.
- Replace burnt-out incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient compact fluorescents or LED bulbs, both of which use less energy to produce the same amount of light.
- Set electronics to “sleep” or shut them down when not in use, and unplug AC adapters when not charging anything, such as your phone. While plugged in, adapters only draw a minimal amount of power, but leaving them plugged into the wall unconnected can reduce their lifespan, forcing you to replace them more often.
Appliances, such as a refrigerator or washing machine, account for about 20 percent of household energy use. Upgrading to EnergyStar-certified or high-efficiency appliances can take a significant chunk out of your utility bill. More advanced models may be more expensive, but keep in mind that the price of any appliance is two-sided. Paying more up-front may save you more money in energy costs over the lifespan of the item. If you are considering upgrading your HVAC system or installing a second unit for another floor, look for systems with a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) of 13 or higher. You may also want to install a programmable or smart thermostat to ensure more consistent energy usage during the times of day when you’re away from the house and when you return home.
Improving your home’s overall energy efficiency can save you a lot of money in the long run. It can be accomplished all at once in a total overhaul, but for most people, the process will like be completed in stages. Bigger improvements may take some time and budgeting, but there are a number of modifications or affordable upgrades to improve the performance of your household’s existing system and appliances. It’s easy to get started today.