Top 5 Energy Efficiency Tips for Homes

Inspire Clean Energy

Oct 14, 2016

12 min read

category: Sustainable Living

Learn how to improve & optimize your energy efficiency

We'd like to let you in on a little secret: energy inefficiency is an abundant problem for most homes. Home improvement and performance are ongoing exercises. The good news is that what's good for your house - from an energy usage perspective - is also good for your pocketbook.

We know that getting started with the process of home energy can be quite daunting. Here's a starter's checklist to get you going in the right direction. Rated from 1 to 5 by level of difficulty to repair, cost, and time investment, and potential positive impact. (Note: all estimations assume repairs are DIY.)

1. Replace Old Weather Stripping on Windows and Doors

Cracked or old weather stripping around windows and doors are the number one culprit when it comes to heat and energy loss.

Do a thorough investigation around all windows and doors. Also make sure that the threshold seals tightly with the door. Weather stripping is available at any hardware store, and is not expensive. Installation is easy. A pair of box cutters to cut the stripping to the desired length you need, peal off the backing to reveal the tacky side, then stick it to the surface.

Pro tip: Check your weather stripping once a year. While it is a great solution to prevent heat loss, it’s also prone to wear and tear. If it’s sealing a door or window that gets a lot of use, you might need to replace it periodically.

2. Add Insulation to Your Walls and Attic

Proper insulation can massively reduce the amount of energy your house uses.

If you have a modern home then either fiberglass or cellulose insulates your walls and attic. Both are excellent at doing their job - trapping heat - and once installed they last a lifetime. But, if upon inspection of your attic you find that the cellulose spray is a little sparse or the fiberglass has settled, then it may be time to add some more. Do some independent research and review both options for cost and ease of installation. Then choose the right one for you. You can add additional cellulose on top of a layer of fiberglass or vice versa.

Pro tip: If you are planning on replacing the insulation yourself be sure to wear a respirator outfitted with a particulate vapor filter. You don't want to be breathing either type of insulation for an extended period of time. Also be sure to wear coveralls and safety glasses.

3. Replace Old Appliances

When it comes to using up energy, antiquated appliances are a liability.

The most common culprits are usually your hot water heater, your refrigerator, your washer/dryer, and your pool pump - provided you have a pool. Replacing all of the appliances that are sucking your home dry all at once is quite a hit to the pocketbook.

The best way to go about solving this energy issue is to first do some research about how much energy you are wasting. The U.S. department of energy has a energy calculator for just this purpose. Once you've determined your "energy budget" then you can decide which appliances need to be upgrade or replaced. When shopping for replacements, look for the Energy Star label that indicates the appliances meets the criteria of energy efficiency.

Pro tip: Having energy efficient appliances that meet the Energy Star criteria can earn you rebates in the form of tax credits. To ensure your home appliances are truly optimized, identify any you may have and look for cost effective remedies.

4. Replace Your Windows

The Department of Energy estimates that windows that let out too much heat can account for 10% to 20% of your heating or cooling bill.

That's a pretty huge drain. While expensive, replacing old windows with energy efficient ones will solve this problem. Check out these lower budget and DIY options to be more kind to your wallet.

Pro tip: Installing energy efficient windows in your home can be an investment as well as it’s a great way to increase the overall value of your home as well as curb appeal.

5. Invest in a Smart Thermostat

smart thermostat is an excellent starting point to starting actively managing the heating and cooling of your home.

The most immediate benefit of installing a smart thermostat is its ability to learn your habits. By anticipating when you are most active at home, a smart thermostat can adjust the temperature based on those habits. This allows you to not only always stay comfortable, but to save energy as well.

Pro tip: The popular Nest thermostat has a lot of integrations designed to save owners money on their electricity. Make sure you take advantage of all that apply to you. For a list of some of our favorites, be sure to read about 3 non-obvious ways a Nest thermostat helps optimize your energy usage.

Make the switch
If you’re interested in doing more for the environment, consider switching to clean energy.

Why are energy-efficient upgrades important?

Homes consume tons of energy, with the average family spending over $2,000 on energy every year. Of that amount, hundreds of dollars often go toward wasted energy from drafts, leaks, holes, and more. You can save money and improve the comfort of your home by lowering these losses through energy-efficiency measures—and help the environment in the process.

Energy-efficient upgrades are not only cost-effective, they also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, smart upgrades can help generate jobs, meet rising energy demand, and help people use energy more efficiently. Increased efficiency can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other pollutants while also reducing water consumption, making the world a safer place to live for everyone and everything. 

Individual utility bills can be reduced and electricity prices and volatility can be stabilized by improving the world's energy efficiency. The long-term benefits of energy efficiency include lower overall electricity consumption, which reduces the need to invest in new electricity generation and transmission facilities.

What is a home energy audit?

A home energy audit can help you better understand your household’s energy usage. An evaluation may help you figure out how much energy your home consumes when it's inefficient. Additionally, it can identify problem areas and recommend solutions that can save you money and improve the comfort of your home. 

A professional home energy assessor completes an examination of your home to find problematic areas. The specialist may employ a variety of equipment to locate potential issues, going room by room to pinpoint all problems. If you prefer, you can perform a rigorous self-assessment to improve your home's energy efficiency. 

Are energy audits worth it?

There are numerous advantages to having an energy audit, including the potential to save money and lower your carbon footprint. Depending on your state, you might even be eligible for tax breaks or rebates. The world needs to reduce our collective carbon footprint, and home energy use accounts for approximately 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

By utilizing an energy analyst to identify solutions to increase efficiency, you can develop strategies to reduce energy consumption and increase comfort. Energy analysis studies will specify how well-insulated each room is to determine ways to maximize energy efficiency. 

Furthermore, many areas offer rebates to help make energy-efficient audits more affordable. Assessors can also teach you more energy-saving methods to save money and reduce your emissions. As audits can improve the lighting, appliances, entrances, insulation, heater, and air quality, you only stand to benefit from an audit. 

What is a sustainable home?

A sustainable home is built or modified in a way that conserves resources, optimizes energy and water use, and is equipped with high-quality equipment to last longer. Essentially, a sustainable home uses low-impact, high-performance materials for energy efficiency and comfort. 

Also, green homes focus on all aspects of energy, including the method of delivering supplies to the home. In addition, energy-efficient materials and systems tend to last longer. Sustainable home design is primarily about common sense, so whether you're building or renovating, get it right the first time. Furthermore, green homes come in many forms, including passive, tiny, prefabs, straw bale, zero carbon, and more. 

The overarching goal of a sustainable home is to reduce energy waste and consumption. A green home should use less energy and be less expensive to maintain. It should be long-lasting and composed of safe materials for you and the environment. Additionally, it should account for how your family is likely to change in the coming years and adapt accordingly. Waste generated during construction should also be taken into account, both in terms of cost and environmental impact.

Make the switch
If you’re interested in doing more for the environment, consider switching to clean energy.

What makes a home sustainable?

Before technology took over the world, everyone had sustainable homes, that is a home built from the resources around them. Nowadays, homes are built with materials transported from all over the country or even worldwide. However, companies are starting to understand the importance of viable materials that allow for reuse over the coming generations. 

A sustainable home will not fall apart in a few decades; instead, it's made to last, and these types of high-quality materials typically come with added energy-saving features. In addition, a green home must be energy-efficient for the local climate to reduce resources needed in the future for repairs or reconstruction. 

The right location makes a home more sustainable—such as a location close to work and your children's school—because it reduces road time and the amount of gasoline you need to fill up your tank. Next, make sure your home is appropriately sized for your needs so you won’t use more energy than necessary.

Other elements that make for a sustainable home are smart technologies that help it run smoothly and efficiently. Many of these savings will come from programmable thermostats designed to ensure you only use the amount of heating and cooling you need in the rooms you use. Lastly, consider all of your home's choices, from decorations to building materials and everything in between, to ensure it's sustainable.

What uses the most energy in a home?

Every year, more and more items use electricity in the home, which can wreak havoc on your electricity bill and harm the environment in the process. A few items are the top contenders that consume more energy than other items in the home. If you know the offenders, you can plan better to create a greener home. 

An HVAC system consumes the most energy of any single appliance or system, accounting for 46 percent of the energy used in the average U.S. home. Depending on the efficiency of your unit, your HVAC could use 28-63 kWh in a 24-hour period, resulting in approximately 850-1,950 kWh every month. Next, a water heater can use up to 13.5 kWh per day, or 405 kWh per month, and is a major energy consumer in the home.

Home appliances (such as washers, dryers, refrigerators, ovens,  stoves, dishwashers, lighting, and media equipment) account for roughly 13 percent of total energy consumption in a typical home. Of course, you do not need to give up any of these items, but if you could reduce usage or add solar power to generate electricity, you can save a bundle of money and help the planet in the process. 

Can you make home improvements specifically for energy efficiency?

While new homes can be built with energy efficiency in mind from the start, existing homes usually have a lot of room for improvement. Local governments can encourage homeowners to conduct full home evaluations and execute the recommended steps to improve the energy efficiency of homes in their jurisdictions. Modifying a current home to make it energy efficient can be a cost-effective solution for homeowners while also improving the health, comfort, and safety of their houses. 

Retrofitting your current home can also help at-risk communities by creating green jobs and improving the durability of the housing stock. In addition, local governments can work with utilities, trade associations, product sellers, and other stakeholders to supplement or leverage existing energy-efficiency measures, just as they can with a new home.

Check with your local government to find out what options are available, including an energy-efficient mortgage, Property Assessed Clean Energy (or PACE) Bonds, financing, programs, and more. Furthermore, you can look into a new home with high Energy Star ratings that must adhere to strict guidelines set by the EPA. Ensure your new or revamped home includes Energy Star appliances and HVAC systems. 

What are some energy-efficient home improvements?

Homeowners looking to increase their property's efficiency should consider these two questions. First: Which modifications would save me the most money on energy and add the greatest value to my home? Choosing basic upgrades may be the best course of action to take first, such as installing weather-stripping around doors and windows. However, they will not add much to the value of a home.

Heating systems beyond about 15  years old are generally inefficient by today's standards. And, thanks to recent advancements in the air-conditioning business, cooling systems older than 10  years are candidates for replacement. You can also upgrade your thermostat to a programmable option with better controls that will reduce energy waste. 

Next, add a layer of insulation to the attic. As heat rises, the attic is one of the most common places for heat to escape. An extra layer of insulation in an under-insulated home could result in cost savings and allow a homeowner to recoup costs in as little as four to five years.

Finally, add ceiling fans to circulate air more efficiently in conjunction with the HVAC system. Take a look at your water system, too, and ensure everything uses as little water as possible (i.e., toilets, plumbing, showerheads, and faucets). The last step is to improve lighting to use less wattage by switching to LED or CFL bulbs to reduce energy usage and bills.

Don't worry about climate change— do something about it.

Our clean energy plans are the easiest way to reduce your home's carbon footprint.

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