U.S. consumers collectively spend a whopping $241 billion on home energy use every year. This is done by everyday activities such as keeping the home comfortable, the lights on, the food cold, the clothes clean and the gadgets going. The fuel burned to deliver this energy into our homes pumps 1.2 billion tons of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. Improving efficiency could cut home energy use by half, giving way to lower energy bills and a reduced carbon footprint. This article will offer some helpful suggestions on how to save energy at home by making the home more energy-efficient.
Get a home energy audit
The first step to making any home more energy efficient is to simply log onto the internet or make a phone call to set up a home energy audit. An energy auditor helps you find ways to make your home more energy-efficient. The Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory’s Home Energy Saver is a free online tool that uses data developed by the U.S. Department of Energy to make specific recommendations for energy-saving upgrades for your home. The suggestion are based on details you provide such as ZIP code, address, house size, type of insulation and how many people live in the home.
For anyone seeking an audit with a live person, there are nearly 2,000 professional home energy auditors that are recommended by the U.S. Green Building Council. A directory is available on the council’s Green Home Guide. They will be able to help you identify precisely what you need to be doing and can offer a list of measures ranging from the least to most expensive.
Plug up leaks
A quarter to half of the heat leaving the furnace (or cool air escaping the air conditioner) leaks out of the duct system before it even reaches the living area of a home. Patching up the ducts can really help save you money. When repairing these leaks, don’t reach for the duct tape! It doesn’t always stick well, nor does it last very long. It is recommended that you use a professionally applied sealer that is sprayed into the duct system to fill the holes. Cold air that sneaks in through leaks in the front and back doors can be plugged with weatherstripping, and using caulk to seal up common intrusion areas like the space between the stove and countertop are easy and helpful ways to stop wasting energy.
Insulate the attic and walls
Padding the walls or attic with insulation – typically fiberglass, cellulose, or foam – will reduce the heat that escapes out of the house in the winter and sneaks into the house in the summer. This will ultimately reduce the energy needed to heat and cool the house. Handy people may be able to remove outlet covers and examine the walls to see if there is insulation, and if so, how thick the insulation is. Others that are not so construction-savvy can use a home energy auditor to identify insulation needs. Visit the energy department’s ZIP Code Insulation Program to discover the most economic insulation levels for your home.
Consider new windows
While replacing windows can be a pricey in the beginning, it can cut home energy bills by 25 percent. If your home widows are old and drafty, an upgrade to energy-efficient windows should eventually pay for itself. Existing windows can be made more energy-efficient by adding storm windows.
Weatherstrippping and caulking leaky windows may also help Shades or blinds cut down on lost heat in the winter or additional heat in the summer.
Turn down, insulate water heater
120 degrees F is sufficient for most hot water heaters. A 3 to 5 percent in savings in energy is gained for every 10 degrees F the hot water temperature is lowered, according to the Department of Energy.
To save even more, you can wrap the hot water heater in an insulating blanket. It’s simple to gauge if your hot water heater could use more insulation – simply touch it. If it feels warm, there is an opportunity to save energy.
Another quick fix is to insulate the final six feet or so of the cold water pipe that leads to the hot water heater. This blocks a pathway that enables heat to escape.
Switch to compact fluorescent lights
The average U.S. home spends 11 percent of its energy costs on keeping the lights on. Replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights can reduce lighting energy use by 50 to 75 percent. Using motion and daylight sensors can also improve savings by keeping the lights on only when necessary.
Pick out new appliances for the future
When the water heater decides to breakdown, it may be too late to the necessary research to find the most energy efficient model with the greatest value for your home. This goes for any household appliances, such as the refrigerator, dishwasher, and laundry machines. Start planning today to ensure you’ll make the smartest choice when the time comes.
Large appliances like laundry machines and refrigerators account for roughly 17 percent of the average household’s energy bill. Choosing an more expensive energy-efficient model may ultimately pay for itself in the first few years of its 10 to 20-year life expectancy.
Wring excess water from clothes
This one seems like a no-brainer, but how many of us fail to do this? The laundry machines in your home are hogging energy between the hot water to wash clothes, hot air to dry them, and the energy that goes into running the machines.
A simple way to slash the energy used to dry laundry is to put them in the laundry when they are already closer to dry. One option is to purchase an inexpensive free-standing spinner to help wring water from clothes before throwing them in the dryer. Also, there is nothing more effortless than hanging the clothes on a line outside to air dry.
Plant a tree or bush
The hot summer sun can really heat up a home quickly, using even more energy to keep the air conditioner pumping. To help combat the heat, plant a tree on the south-facing side of the home. It will provide much needed shade in the summer, and in the winter the sun will filter through the limbs to help keep the house warm.
Generate green energy
Using rooftop solar panels to generate green energy at home is another idea to consider. There are many government incentives and rebates for installing solar panels. Despite the initial cost, solar panels often pay for themselves after a few years due to greatly decreased home energy costs.