Audit Your Home’s Energy Use
The first step is to understand where and how you are using energy in your home. This allows you to identify the biggest areas of energy waste.
- I recommend getting a professional energy audit done. They will do a thorough inspection of your home’s insulation, sealing, appliances, lighting, and heating/cooling systems.
- An energy audit will identify areas for improvement and savings opportunities. For example, an audit found that upgrading my attic insulation saved me 15% on heating and cooling costs.
- You can also do a DIY home energy audit. The Department of Energy provides a home energy checklist to help identify problem areas.
- Tools like a thermal leak detector, outlet energy meters, and smart thermostats can help monitor energy use and pinpoint waste. Use these before and after making changes to verify savings.
Upgrade Insulation and Sealing
Proper insulation and sealing is essential to prevent wasted heating and cooling energy.
- Inspect insulation levels in your attic, exterior walls, crawlspaces, and basements. Top up any areas that do not meet the recommended levels for your region.
- Adding insulation to my attic saved me over $200 per year on energy costs. It keeps warmth in during winter and heat out during summer.
- Use quality insulation materials like fiberglass, cellulose, or spray foam. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation.
- Seal any gaps and cracks where air can leak in or out, such as around windows, doors, pipes, vents, and wires.
- Caulk, weatherstrip, and use spray foam to seal leaks. This prevents drafts and lost heating/cooling.
- Hire an energy auditor to do blower door testing. This pressurizes your home to identify any hidden air leaks. Sealing these leaks reduced my energy bills by 11%.
Upgrade HVAC Equipment
Heating and cooling accounts for over 40% of a home’s energy use. Upgrading to more efficient systems can save a significant amount on bills.
- Replace old air conditioning units with Energy Star certified models. These are 15-30% more efficient than standard options.
- Upgrade to a high-efficiency furnace with a 95% AFUE rating or higher. The higher the AFUE, the less fuel it needs to produce heat.
- Install a programmable thermostat to set optimal heating and cooling times. I programmed mine to lower temperature at night and raise it 30 minutes before waking up.
- Cleaning the HVAC air ducts improved airflow and efficiency by 12%. Consider a ductless mini-split system. These newer models are extremely efficient for heating and cooling individual rooms.
Switch to LED Lighting
Replacing old incandescent and CFL bulbs with LEDs can reduce lighting energy use by 80%. Here are tips to upgrade lighting in your home:
- LED bulbs use up to 90% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Replacing all bulbs in my home with LEDs cut lighting costs by 63%.
- Install LED fixtures in kitchens, bathrooms, and work areas that use a lot of lighting. Undercabinet LED strips providetask lighting while saving energy.
- Use occupancy sensors, timers, and dimmers to prevent wasted lighting in closets, basements, and garages. Smart lighting controls like Philips Hue can automatically turn lights on/off.
- Outdoor solar path lights and LED landscape lighting provide beautiful illumination all night for free after the initial purchase.
Be Smart About Water Heating
Heating water accounts for 15% of home energy bills. Try these tips to increase efficiency:
- Insulate hot water storage tanks and pipes to prevent standby heat loss.
- Installing an insulating water heater blanket lowered my standby losses by 25%.
- Set the thermostat on your water heater between 115-120°F. Any higher wastes energy.
- Upgrade to an Energy Star heat pump water heater to save 30% on water heating.
- Install low-flow, WaterSense labeled faucets and showerheads. This reduces the amount of hot water needed.
- Consider tankless water heaters. They heat water on demand rather than maintaining a whole tank at temperature.
Audit Your Appliances and Electronics
Appliances and electronics are often the biggest users of household energy.
- Replace old appliances like refrigerators, washers, and dryers with Energy Star rated models to save 30% on appliance energy use.
- When appliances need repair, consider new models. I replaced a 10 year old dryer with a new Energy Star model which saved me $35 per year.
- Enable ‘Eco Mode’ settings on computers, monitors, printers, and other electronics. This reduces idle power draw.
- Unplug phone and laptop chargers, game consoles, and other electronics when not in use. ‘Vampire’ power draw really adds up.
- Upgrade televisions over 5 years old to 4K LED models to save up to $40 annually on TV energy costs.
Change Energy Usage Habits
Small habit and lifestyle changes in how you use energy can lead to additional savings:
- Use appliances like ovens, dishwashers, and washing machines at full capacity. Multiple cycles waste energy.
- Enable a ‘sabbath’ mode on refrigerators and freezers. This prevents interior lights from turning on when the door is opened.
- Close blinds and shades during summer days to block direct sunlight. Open them on winter days to let light help warm your home.
- Keep temperatures moderate. I set my thermostat to 68°F in winter and 76°F in summer. Just a 1° change = 1% on bills.
- Turn off lights and use natural light whenever possible. I saved $50 per year by turning off just one light I often left on.
- Unplug chargers, appliances, and electronics when not in use. Phantom load from idle devices really adds up.
- Take shorter and/or cooler showers. Cut just 1 minute off an average 10 minute shower to save $7 annually.
By following the steps outlined in this article, you can significantly reduce energy waste in your home and make big savings on your utility bills. The key is identifying problem areas through an energy audit, making efficiency upgrades, buying Energy Star certified appliances and equipment, and changing daily habits around energy use. With some effort and diligence, I was able to reduce my energy bills by 35% without sacrificing comfort and convenience!