Cutting Your Energy Costs Without Sacrificing Comfort
Assess Where You Are Losing Energy and Money
The first step is to understand where your home is inefficient so you can target those areas. Here are some common ways homes lose energy:
- Poor insulation in walls, attics, basements allows heating and cooling to escape
- Drafty windows and doors let in outside air
- Old appliances and electronics use more electricity
- Incandescent lightbulbs waste electricity producing heat
I recommend getting a home energy audit. This will pinpoint exactly where your home needs upgrades. Many utilities offer free or discounted audits.
After the audit, I focused my efforts on the problem areas it identified. For me, the attic insulation was very poor and needed to be upgraded. Sealing air leaks around windows and doors also provided a quick payback.
Upgrade Insulation in Your Attic, Walls, and Basement
Adding insulation greatly reduces heat transfer in and out of your home. I chose to upgrade my attic first since heat rises and escapes through the roof.
I hired an insulation company to add R-38 blown-in cellulose insulation to my attic. Cellulose is made from recycled materials which I liked. The installation team did a complete air sealing of penetrations like chimneys and ceiling fixtures to prevent drafts before installing the insulation.
After the attic, I added insulation to the exterior walls by removing the siding and drilling holes to blow in cellulose. This required more work but helped balance temperatures from room to room.
Finally, I insulated the basement rim joists and foundation walls. Even basements need insulation!
Seal Air Leaks Around Windows, Doors, Electrical Outlets
Lots of small air leaks can add up. Here are some tips to find and seal leaks:
- Caulk and weatherstrip around windows and doors
- Add storm windows
- Use weatherstripping on electrical outlets and switches on exterior walls
- Seal openings around pipes and wires in exterior walls
I used clear window caulk around my window frames then installed new weatherstripping on doors. Electrical outlets were a big source of leaks for me, so I installed foam gaskets behind each cover.
Upgrade to High Efficiency HVAC Equipment
Replacing an aging furnace, heat pump, or air conditioner with a new high efficiency model can significantly reduce your heating and cooling costs. I replaced my 18 year old gas furnace with a new 95% AFUE model. This lowered my gas usage even though the new furnace was larger.
Some key things to look for are the AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) for furnaces and SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) for central air conditioners. The higher these numbers, the more efficient the equipment.
Make sure your contractor sizes the new equipment properly. Oversizing will cause it to cycle on and off frequently, reducing efficiency.
Upgrade Thermostats to Programmable or Smart Thermostats
Replacing old thermostats with programmable or smart models can save energy and money by optimizing heating and cooling operation.
I installed smart thermostats which allow me to set schedules and control it remotely via smartphone. Some smart models use occupancy sensing and auto-adjust the temperature when no one is home.
Programmable models require more effort but let you set different temperatures for mornings, evenings, and nights to better match usage patterns. Just be sure to actually program them!
Replace Incandescent Light Bulbs
Replacing outdated light bulbs is one of the fastest and easiest ways to cut electricity usage. Those old incandescent bulbs waste lots of energy producing heat instead of visible light. New LED bulbs use 75% less energy and last years longer.
I switched all my inside and outside lighting to LEDs. The brightness and light quality is excellent. I use dimmable bulbs with smart switches to control brightness and further reduce usage. Smart bulbs also allow color changing ability.
With lighting upgrades, be sure to dispose of bulbs properly. CFLs contain mercury and LEDs have electronics that should be recycled.
audit, insulation, air sealing, thermostat, light bulbs
In summary, the keys to improve efficiency while maintaining comfort are:
- Get an energy audit to identify problem areas
- Add insulation and seal air leaks
- Upgrade HVAC equipment
- Install smart thermostats
- Switch to LED lighting
With some strategic upgrades focused on the problem areas, I’ve been able to reduce energy usage over 20% while actually improving comfort. The initial investment has paid for itself through lower energy bills. And I’m doing my part to reduce environmental impact. Just take it step by step to find the right upgrades for your home.