Learning about ways to be friendly to the environment while also being friendly to your wallet is an ongoing project for most homeowners. Beyond the usual ideas of turning off the lights and using programmable thermostats, most of us could use a few dynamic ideas to reduce energy usage in our homes.
1. Seal it up.
This is first on the list because it is the most important. Up to 30% of your expensively heated or cooled air can escape through poorly sealed windows, doors, gaps, and cracks. Replacing worn weather stripping and caulk around ducts and plumbing entering the home for starters. Then, have a professional test your home for air leaks to help you detect even the smallest problems and get them tightened up.
Help keep that expensive air inside where it belongs. A properly insulated home is second only to a home that is sealed up airtight. Adding additional insulation to the attic or crawl space is usually easy. Accessing some walls to bolster the insulation can be tricky, however, some types of blow-in insulation can reduce access damage and may be worth it if the existing insulation is poor enough.
SHGC refers to solar heat gain or the amount of heat that is transmitted through the glass of a window into the home. Strategically placed windows with different SHGC ratings can reduce the amount of energy needed to heat and cool your home. If your winters are long and summers moderate, higher SHGC windows may reduce your bills, while areas that require a great deal of cooling would benefit from windows with a lower SHGC.
4. Window treatments.
Curtains, blinds, awnings, and drapes are not just for looks. Making the right choices can not only beautify your space, but it can reduce your energy usage. In the summer, shades can keep the sun from heating up a room. In the winter, shades can be opened to allow the room to warm and then drawn tightly to keep that warm air inside for the evening.
5. Power strips.
If there is one thing that today’s technology does not do well, it is turn off. From TVs and gaming consoles to washers and dryers with LED displays, just about everything that is plugged in is always a little bit on even when it is off. Taking the time to unplug and replug everything is not efficient, but flipping a switch is easy. If it has any sort of standby mode at all, plug it into a power strip and turn it all the way off when you’re not using it.
6. Motion sensors.
These are not just for turning the lights on and off anymore. Occupancy sensors are becoming increasingly useful for heating and cooling purposes. Already in use for large commercial systems, technology is moving towards integrating these in residential areas as well. Homes that have zoned heating systems or other high levels of smart technology can already benefit from occupancy sensors.
7. Light bulbs.
Gone is the advice to replace your old incandescent bulbs, now it’s becoming mandatory. In just a few short months, another round of bulbs will be pulled from the shelves for good so it’s time to learn about what the available options are and what will work. You aren’t limited to a $15 ugly light bulb that ruins the look of your fixtures. Take a trip to the home store, and ask an employee to walk you through the choices. You will probably be pleasantly surprised.
Some of the worst energy offenders are refrigerators, especially the second fridge in the garage or the chest freezer in the basement. If they are more than 10 years old, it is time to upgrade. For major appliances like the furnace or air conditioner, if they are approaching 10 years old and a major repair pops up, consider replacement with an energy-efficient model as an option.
9. Get competitive.
Some utility companies are now sending out home energy reports with their bills. The idea is to let you see if others with similar homes are using less energy. Challenge yourself to get to the lower end of the scale over the course of a few months. And, while you’re at it, try to be the home with the smallest trash pile and biggest recycling pile on the block.
Increasing your home’s energy efficiency doesn’t have to be a daunting task done all in one day. Do the easier things first, and tackle the bigger projects one at a time. Over time, you’ll be able to make a big impact that both the Earth and your bank account appreciate.