How to Drastically Reduce Your Energy Usage Without Sacrificing Modern Comforts
Conduct an Energy Audit
The first step I took to reduce my energy usage was to conduct an energy audit of my home. This helped me identify areas where my home was losing energy so I could target those areas specifically. I hired an energy auditor to perform a thorough audit, but you can also conduct a simpler self-audit. The key areas to check are insulation, air leaks, heating and cooling systems, appliances, lighting, and electronics usage. The energy auditor performed blower door tests to locate air leaks and used advanced tools to check insulation levels in walls, attic, etc. The audit report gave me a clear understanding of my home’s energy efficiency and a list of recommended improvements.
One of the most impactful upgrades I made was to increase insulation levels in my home. The energy audit showed areas with insufficient insulation. I had an insulation company add insulation in the attic, exterior walls, and crawlspace. Increasing insulation helps reduce heat transfer through surfaces. This keeps your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer without your HVAC system working as hard. Make sure to match insulation levels with current recommended levels for your region. Payback is usually 2-5 years. I also added weatherstripping and caulked around windows, doors and other areas identified as having air leaks. Stopping air leaks reduces drafts and improves comfort.
Upgrade HVAC Equipment
My old, inefficient furnace and AC unit were ready to be replaced. So I invested in new ENERGY STAR certified high efficiency HVAC equipment. New systems can be 15-30% more efficient. I went with a 2-stage gas furnace that operates at lower capacity during milder days rather than being always on/off. Make sure the new unit is properly sized for your home. I also had a programmable thermostat installed to better control temperatures based on my schedule. And I now change HVAC filters monthly to allow proper airflow. Finally, I had ductwork inspected and resealed where needed to reduce leaks.
I swapped all light bulbs to LED bulbs which use at least 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last 25x longer. I also took advantage of natural daylight by opening blinds and curtains during the daytime to reduce the need for lights. For rooms used most at night, I installed dimmers, motion sensors, and timers on lights so they’re only on when occupied and needed. Exterior lighting was replaced with solar path lights along walkways. And outdoor security lights are LED and controlled by motion sensors.
When old appliances broke down, I replaced them with ENERGY STAR models which are around 15-30% more efficient on average. Key upgrades were the refrigerator, dishwasher, washer and dryer. I also improved efficiency by only running full loads, using cold wash settings whenever possible, and utilizing air dry settings instead of heat dry. My water heater was upgraded to a tankless model that heats water on demand rather than maintaining a full tank at temperature 24/7.
Reducing hot water usage has the double benefit of saving water and the energy needed to heat that water. I installed low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators to conserve water while still having sufficient flow. The water heater temperature was lowered to 120°F. I take shorter showers now, turn off water when brushing teeth or washing dishes, and run full loads in the dishwasher. Clothes washer runs on cold now unless a hot wash is needed. These simple habit changes reduced my hot water usage over 25% without sacrifice.
In summary, conducting an energy audit allowed me to identify and methodically address areas of energy waste in my home. Prioritizing insulation, equipment upgrades, lighting improvements, appliance efficiency, and water conservation have cumulatively reduced my energy usage over 35% with great returns on investment. I enjoy the same or better comfort and convenience while slashing energy costs and environmental impact.