How to Drastically Cut Your Energy Costs Without Sacrificing Comfort

How to Drastically Cut Your Energy Costs Without Sacrificing Comfort

Audit and Improve Your Home’s Insulation

Improving your home’s insulation is one of the most impactful steps you can take to reduce energy costs. Heat loss through poor insulation leads to higher heating bills in winter and increased cooling costs in summer.

Get a professional home energy audit to identify areas with insufficient insulation. Look for gaps around doors, windows, attics, basements, and crawl spaces. Adding insulation to your attic is often the most cost-effective measure, as heat rises and escapes through the roof. Increase attic insulation to an R-value of R-38 or higher depending on your climate zone.

Seal air leaks throughout the home with caulk and weather stripping. Stop drafts from creeping in that force your HVAC system to work harder. Proper insulation paired with an air tight envelope can reduce heating and cooling costs by up to 20%.

- Upgrading attic insulation from R-19 to R-38 can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs
- Sealing air leaks and adding weather stripping stops drafts and reduces energy costs
- A professional home energy audit identifies insulation gaps; focus on attic, basement, crawl spaces

Upgrade to High Efficiency HVAC Equipment

Replacing an old, inefficient heating and cooling system with a new high efficiency system can trim energy bills by 20-40%. Look for Energy Star certified heat pumps, furnaces, and air conditioners that have a high SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) and AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating.

Higher efficiency systems extract more heat from each unit of energy supplied. Invest in features like variable speed compressors and fans that optimize performance. Zone control allows you to heat and cool only occupied areas of the home.

Work with an HVAC contractor to properly size new equipment to your home’s needs. Oversized units cost more upfront, operate inefficiently, and shorten equipment life.

- High efficiency HVAC units are 20-40% more efficient than outdated models
- Look for Energy Star certified systems with high SEER and AFUE ratings
- Features like variable speed compressors improve efficiency
- Proper sizing prevents oversized units from running inefficiently

Seal Air Leaks in Ductwork

Leaky ductwork can reduce your system’s efficiency by 20% or more. Sealing and insulating ducts prevents cooled or heated air from escaping before reaching your living spaces. Focus first on ductwork in unconditioned areas like attics, crawl spaces, and unheated basements.

Use mastic sealant or metal tape to seal duct joints and connections. Insulate ducts with R-6 or higher wrap to prevent condensation and reduce heat transfer. Confirm proper air flow at vents to ensure duct sealing didn’t inadvertently close off supply runs. Consider a professional ductwork audit and repair service for comprehensive improvements.

- Leaky ducts can reduce HVAC efficiency by 20% or more
- Use metal tape and mastic sealant to thoroughly seal joints and connections
- Insulating ductwork to R-6 or higher reduces heat transfer
- Confirm proper airflow at vents after sealing ducts

Upgrade Windows

Poorly insulating windows allow energy to easily escape from your home, driving up heating and cooling bills. Replacing old single pane windows with new double or triple pane Energy Star certified windows cuts heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer.

Look for low emissivity coatings that reflect infrared heat back into the home. Argon or krypton gas filled windows with thermal spacers provide better insulation. Choose fiberglass or vinyl window frames that transfer less heat than metal frames.

Installing quality window treatments like cellular shades and thermal curtains provides another layer of insulation. Keep windows exposed during colder months to let sunlight warm your home naturally. Close coverings at night for added insulation.

- New Energy Star windows cut heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer
- Low-emissivity coatings reflect infrared heat back into the home
- Gas filled windows with thermal spacers improve insulation
- Window treatments like shades and curtains add another layer of insulation

Switch to LED Lighting

Replacing incandescent and CFL bulbs with LED lighting cuts lighting costs by 75% or more. LEDs use at least 75% less energy while lasting 25+ times longer. Effective lighting also allows you to lower thermostat setpoints while avoiding dark, uncomfortable spaces.

Upgrade first to LEDs in high use areas like kitchens, living rooms, and exterior lighting. Consider smart lightbulbs like Philips Hue that automatically dim and change color temperature to match your circadian rhythm. Install dimmers, motion sensors, and timers to reduce lighting when not needed.

Be sure to choose Energy Star certified LED bulbs from reputable brands to ensure quality and energy savings. Dispose of CFL bulbs properly since they contain mercury.

- LEDs use at least 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs
- Smart LEDs automatically adjust to lighting needs and circadian rhythms
- Dimmer switches, motion sensors, and timers reduce lighting when not needed
- Look for reputable Energy Star certified LED bulb brands

Schedule a Professional Energy Audit

Taking a whole-home approach to increasing efficiency provides the greatest energy savings. Schedule a professional home energy audit to assess insulation, air leaks, HVAC performance, ductwork, appliances, and more. An energy auditor uses blower door tests and infrared cameras to identify problem areas.

Prioritize the auditor’s recommendations to balance energy savings with costs. Some utility companies and municipalities offer rebates or incentives on professional audits and subsequent upgrade projects to help improve local housing.

Be wary of “free” audits from companies looking to sell you products or services. Only implement measures that make sense for your budget and goals. An audit provides a helpful roadmap to trim energy costs while maintaining comfort.

- Professional audits evaluate insulation, air leaks, HVAC, ducts, appliances, and more
- Blower door tests and infrared cameras identify hidden problem areas
- Prioritize recommendations based on energy savings and costs
- Rebates sometimes help offset the cost of upgrades

Alter Energy Use Habits

Simple changes in daily habits and energy use behavior can reduce consumption by up to 10%. Turn off lights and electronics when not in use. Unplug devices instead of leaving them in standby mode. Enable power management settings on computers and monitors.

Use dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers only when fully loaded. Shift usage to off-peak hours when possible. Turn down water heater temperature to 120°F. Wash clothes in cold water instead of hot. Open windows instead of relying solely on air conditioning.

Install a programmable or smart thermostat to set back temperatures at night and when away from home. Keep your thermostat set to 78°F in summer and 68°F in winter. Use ceiling fans to promote air circulation and comfort.

- Turn off lights and unplug devices when not in use
- Operate appliances only when fully loaded and during off-peak hours
- Lower water heater temperature and wash clothes in cold water
- Install a smart thermostat with temperature setbacks
- Open windows instead of over-relying on AC

Conclusion

The way you use energy in your home has a major impact on monthly utility bills. Improving insulation, upgrading HVAC equipment, sealing ductwork, replacing windows, switching to LED lighting, and altering daily habits provide significant savings without compromising comfort. Schedule a professional energy audit for a full home assessment. Focus first on the most cost effective recommendations before moving onto pricier upgrades over time. Investing in energy efficiency improves comfort and saves money for years to come.