Making changes to your home with the goal of saving energy is not only beneficial to the environment, but to your wallet as well. As the cost of energy continues to go up, you can save money on your monthly bill by making a few simple, cost-efficient changes to your home. Sometimes the smallest changes can translate to big savings over time. Here are the top 10 ways to turn your home from an energy-consuming monster to an energy-efficient machine.
1. Get a Home Energy Audit
It is hard to make energy-efficient improvements when you have no idea where to start. Scheduling a home energy audit is one of the best ways to locate your home’s weaknesses and identify exactly what steps need to be taken in order to stop wasting energy. This is an especially important step if you feel like your energy bill is unusually high and you aren’t sure why.
2. Choose Energy-Efficient Lighting
Have you ever walked through a hardware store and gawked at the huge selection of light bulbs? While it may seem daunting to try and choose the most energy-efficient bulb on the market, you really don’t need to put too much thought into it. Simply look for light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Both options are capable of delivering significant energy savings over time when compared with incandescent lights. In fact, some research suggests that CFLs utilize up to 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.
Such a large improvement in energy usage can translate into significant savings over the course of a year. Just make sure not to break your CFL bulbs–though they only release trace amounts of mercury when broken, it is better to avoid any potential hazardous situations and take extra care not to break them.
3. Adjust Your Thermostat
Rather than keeping your home extremely cool during the summer and extremely warm during the winter, it is best to raise or lower the temperature on the thermostat by a few degrees along with the change in seasons. If no one is in your home during the day, consider adjusting your thermostat temperature so that your HVAC system doesn’t have to work so hard to keep your home warm or cool while you are gone. Some newer thermostats, such as the Nest, can even be pre-programmed to turn off while you are gone and then turn back on when you are scheduled to return home in the evening. Pulling your shades and curtains closed while you are gone is a great way to compound the energy-saving effects of turning down your thermostat.
4. Wash Full Loads of Dishes
Ridiculous amounts of energy can be wasted by frequently running your dishwasher when it is not full. Instead of washing small loads of dishes throughout the day, wait until you have completely filled up the top and bottom racks before running your dishwasher through a cleaning cycle. If you find yourself constantly running out of clean dishes, it may be time to add a few more plates and bowls to your cupboards in order to avoid frequently washing partial loads of dishes.
5. Don’t Preheat Your Oven
This may come as a surprise to many people, but preheating the oven is unnecessary in most cases and is actually quite wasteful. You can save energy, time and money by eliminating the preheating period and simply adding in a few minutes of overall cooking time to your meals. The main exception to this rule is if you are baking cakes, breads and other pastries, since they can be quite finicky and may not respond well when baked in a non-preheated oven. The kitchen is a great place to begin when assessing and limiting your energy consumption.
6. Update Your Old Appliances
Outdated appliances can be a ridiculous drain on your energy bill, and they are typically bulky and awkward-looking as well. If you have been hanging on to that 20-year-old freezer or ancient stove from your grandma’s house, you may want to consider replacing them both with more energy-efficient models. Not only will you notice the difference in your monthly energy bill, but your entire kitchen will look refreshed and updated as well!
7. Seal Attic Gaps
Attic gaps are some of the most common culprits of excessive energy loss, but they can be difficult to detect. If you have any suspicions that you may be losing energy through your attic, hire professionals to come and conduct a blower-door test. This test pinpoints sources of leaking air so that gaps can be sealed to improve efficiency. Some professionals will conduct the blower-door test for free if you end up utilizing their services to seal the gaps in your home.
8. Replace Single-Pane Windows
If you have single-pane windows, you are actually putting a lot of pressure on your HVAC system and wasting energy. Many experts recommend that all single-pane windows be replaced with low-e (low emissivity) windows listed as U.40 or higher (also commonly referred to as R-3). In some cases, energy bills can be cut by 20% or more once single-pane windows are replaced with more energy-efficient units. Your home will also look more attractive once you replace cheap single-pane windows with sturdier window units, and outside noises will no longer be heard quite as easily within the home.
9. Beef Up Your Wall Insulation
Many homes lose a significant amount of energy directly through the walls, especially if they are not adequately insulated. If you built your own home then you probably already know how much insulation is in your walls, but if you purchased a pre-built home you may be left wondering if your walls lack the recommended amount of insulation. Hiring professionals to check out the status of the insulation throughout your home is a great way to identify any problem areas.
10. Plant Shade Trees
When it comes to energy-efficiency, improvements need not be limited to the interior of your home. A carefully-developed landscaping plan can cool your home during the hot summer months so that your air conditioning system doesn’t have to work so hard. While it is important to make sure you don’t plant trees so close to your home that the roots or branches will damage your house, you should plant them close enough to benefit from their shade once they are fully grown. For the quickest benefits, choose trees that are known for rapid growth and have large leaves for maximum shade.
Saving energy is a goal that every responsible homeowner should try to attain. By following these 10 simple tips for making your home more energy-efficient, you can rest assured that you are doing your part to protect the environment while also enjoying substantial money-saving benefits over time.