How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient
By: Andrea Schmutz, Extension Assistant Professor
November 17, 2020
A basic tenet of personal finances is developing a plan for savings. We are advised to save money for an emergency fund, save for retirement, save for our children’s education, and even save for a new car or a family vacation so that we can avoid incurring excessive debt. Sometimes we have to get creative and look for ways to trim our budget so that we can continue to put money into designated savings.
One principle of learning to save money is learning to reduce costs. An easy approach, often overlooked, is to find simple ways to save on the costs associated with owning a home. This can be done by conducting a home energy audit. Take a break from auditing your finances and conduct a home energy audit to find ways to save energy and lower your utility bills. Reduced utility bills means more money in your pocket or in your savings account!
A home energy audit, or home energy assessment, can help you determine where your home is losing energy and prioritize which problem areas to fix to make your home more energy efficient and comfortable. You can hire a professional to conduct an audit or you can perform a thorough “do-it-yourself” home energy audit using a checklist like the one found at energy.gov.
As you work toward making your home more energy efficient, remember that the purpose is to save money. Stick to your budget and when the funds are available, you can make changes like adding more insulation in the attic, replacing drafty windows with more efficient windows, or even purchasing new, energy efficient appliances. In the meantime, implement no-cost or low-cost changes and watch the savings add up.
Making a conscious effort to reduce energy usage through simple, no-cost changes can save up to 10% on utility bills, which translates to more money available for needed repairs or replacements. Try some of the following changes in your daily energy use:
- Take a shorter shower. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 15 to 25 percent of the energy consumed in homes is attributed to domestic water heating, with showering/bathing counting as a major component. A shorter shower saves water, saves energy, and reduces overall utility costs.
- Turn off or unplug appliances or devices not being used. The typical American household has approximately 40 products constantly drawing power. Together these can account for up to 10% of the total electricity used. To learn about standby power and how you can reduce it, visit https://standby.lbl.gov/faq/
- Tweak your laundry habits. Eliminate a load of wash by waiting to run a full load instead of multiple partial loads. Hang dry your clothes when possible. Add a dry towel to your dryer load and significantly reduce the drying time.
- Use window coverings to your advantage. During cold weather, open drapes or blinds during the day to take advantage of the sun’s warmth. During the summer, close window coverings to keep out the unwanted heat of the sun.
- Feel a draft under a door? Roll up a towel and press it into the open space.
When your budget allows, work on making your home more energy efficient by implementing some of the following low-cost changes:
- Install a programmable thermostat. When used properly, programmable thermostats can save up to $150 per year on energy costs. Take advantage of the multiple settings on the thermostat to automatically adjust to energy saving temperatures when you are asleep or away from the house.
- Evaluate your landscaping. If possible, consider planting a tree or two that will provide shade in the summer and allow for sun in the winter. Properly placed trees can help save $100-$250 per year.
- Install ceiling fans. Using a ceiling fan can help you feel cooler in the summer and increase the circulation of warm air in the winter by switching the direction of the blades. Turning up your thermostat two degrees and using a ceiling fan can lower air conditioning costs by up to 14% over the course of the cooling season.
- Seal and insulate your home. Some common areas where air leakage may occur are electrical receptacles and outlets, fireplace dampers, attic hatches, wall or window mounted air conditioners, inadequate weather stripping around doors, baseboards, and window frames. To learn more about sealing and insulating your home, visit https://www.energystar.gov/campaign/seal_insulate/why_seal_and_insulate
- Install efficient, low-flow showerheads. Selecting a showerhead with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gallons per minute will help you achieve maximum water efficiency. Not only will you save on water, but an efficient showerhead also could save you up to $145 a year in energy costs.
Remember that good money management is about making good decisions. Deciding to make small changes around your home will result in savings that add up each month and from year to year. A small 10%-14% savings may not sound like much on a $69 water/utilities bill or a $75 electrical bill. However, by making just a couple of energy-savings adjustments, an extra $20-$25 a month will translate into $200-$300 at the end of the year.
U.S. Department of Energy. (n.d.). Do-it-yourself home energy audits. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/home-energy-audits/do-it-yourself-home-energy-audits
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (n.d.). Stand-by power: frequently asked questions. https://standby.lbl.gov/faq/
Energy Star. (n.d.). Energy savings tips at home. https://www.energystar.gov/products/energy_star_home_tips
Energy Star. (n.d.). Why seal and insulate?https://www.energystar.gov/campaign/seal_insulate/why_seal_and_insulate