How to Drastically Reduce Your Energy Usage Without Sacrificing Comfort
Audit Your Home’s Energy Use
The first step is to understand where and how you are using energy in your home. Ordering a home energy audit can provide valuable insights into the efficiency of your home. A professional auditor will:
- Check insulation levels in walls, ceilings, floors, ducts, and pipes.
- Inspect windows, doors, appliance ages, and overall home envelope for air leaks.
- Assess HVAC equipment performance and age.
- Identify opportunities for energy savings with lighting, appliances, electronics, and more.
An energy audit will pinpoint problem areas and help prioritize upgrades for maximum return on investment. I received an audit last year that ended up saving me 15% on my energy bills!
Upgrade Insulation and Seal Air Leaks
Upgrading insulation is one of the most effective ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency. Recommended insulation levels vary by climate zone – an auditor can advise you on the ideal R-value for your home. Some key areas to focus on:
- Attic insulation – should be at least R-38.
- Exterior walls – aim for at least R-13.
- Crawl spaces and basement headers – insulate floors above unconditioned spaces.
- ** sealing air leaks in walls, floors, ceilings, doors, and windows. The auditor may conduct a blower door test to detect leakage. I used caulk and spray foam to seal many leaks detected in my audit.**
Properly installed insulation coupled with air sealing can reduce energy costs by up to 20%
Upgrade HVAC Equipment
Heating and cooling accounts for over 40% of a home’s energy use. Upgrading to newer, more efficient HVAC equipment can create significant savings:
- Replace very old central air units – look for a SEER rating of at least 15 for best efficiency.
- I just replaced my ancient 12 SEER AC unit with a new 16 SEER model – it saves me about $200 per year on cooling!
- Install a programmable thermostat to automatically set back temperatures at night and when away.
- Consider heat pumps – they provide both heating and cooling from one system.
- Switch from oil/propane heating to natural gas furnace or boiler for lower fuel costs.
- Maintain HVAC systems yearly and change filters monthly for peak performance.
Switch to LED Lighting
LED bulbs use at least 75% less energy than incandescent lighting. They also last 25+ times longer, producing savings on replacement costs. Some tips:
- Replace all interior overhead lighting with LEDs. I changed over my entire house last year.
- Install LED night lights, undercabinet lighting, and pathway illumination. These lights stay on for long periods.
- Use dimmable LEDs with dimmer switches in dining and living rooms to control ambiance.
- For exterior lighting, choose LED flood/security lights, step lights, and outdoor bulbs.
- LEDs produce less heat than other bulbs – helping reduce air conditioning costs in warm months.
Upgrade Water Heating
Water heating accounts for 14% of home energy use. Options to increase hot water efficiency:
- If over 10 years old, replace with an ENERGY STAR heat pump or tankless water heater.
- Install an on-demand recirculation pump to quickly deliver hot water to fixtures.
- Repair any leaks or faulty valves to prevent wasted heat and water.
- Insulate hot water lines and wrap water heater in a water heater blanket.
- Drain 2-3 gallons from the tank annually to control sediment buildup.
- Set water heater temperature to 120°F – extra hot water wastes energy.
- Install low-flow showerheads and faucets to reduce water usage.
Take Advantage of Smart Technology
Smart tech provides convenience and energy savings:
- Connect smart thermostats to Wi-Fi for control via phone and optimal temperature automation.
- Install smart switches to turn off lights in unused rooms. I love the energy savings from this simple trick!
- Use smart power strips to cut phantom load from appliances and electronics in standby mode.
- Run high energy appliances at night when rates may be lower to reduce costs. Many dishwashers and clothes washers have delay settings.
- Monitor real-time consumption with home energy monitors and set savings goals.
Bonus: Other Easy Improvements
A few more ways to decrease home energy expenditures:
- Unplug appliances and electronics when not in use – they still draw current when plugged in.
- Upgrade old appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers and stoves to ENERGY STAR models. Rebates may offset some costs.
- Insulate hot water pipes wherever accessible – it’s easy and improves efficiency.
- Open shades on sunny days to utilize free solar heat. Close them at night for insulation.
- Plant trees and shrubs to provide shade and shield your home from hot summer sun and cold winter winds.
- Grill outside or use a microwave instead of the oven when possible to limit energy intensive cooking.
With some low-cost fixes and targeted upgrades, I’ve managed to reduce my home energy usage by over 20% while maintaining comfort. A home energy audit paired with proper insulation, air sealing, and equipment updates are the key factors to maximizing energy savings. The advances in smart technology make it easier than ever to conserve energy and money around the house.