How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient: 10 Practical Tips

insulating walls to improve home's energy efficiency

Making your home more energy efficient is a practical step that can lead to significant savings on your utility bills and a reduced environmental footprint. With advancements in technology and a better understanding of energy conservation techniques, there are numerous strategies you can employ to lower your energy consumption. From simple behavioral adjustments to more significant home improvements, every action contributes to a more efficient and sustainable home.

Sealing gaps and improving insulation are foundational to preventing heat loss in your home. Consider checking doors, windows, and any areas where pipes or wires enter the house, as these are common sites for air leaks. By using weather-stripping or caulk to seal these gaps, you’ll retain more heat during the winter and keep your home cooler during the summer, thereby reducing the need for excessive heating or air conditioning.

Upgrading to Energy Star certified appliances is another effective way to enhance your home’s energy efficiency. These appliances are designed to use less electricity and water without sacrificing performance. Whether it’s a refrigerator, washing machine, or dishwasher, opting for energy-efficient models can contribute to lower energy bills and a smaller carbon footprint. Additionally, switching to LED light bulbs can offer long-lasting lighting while drawing significantly less power than traditional bulbs.

Get your Energy Audit booked with Terra Home Performance to see your personal energy efficiency steps.

Assessing Your Home’s Energy Use

To ensure your home is as energy efficient as possible, it’s essential to first understand where and how energy is being used. This assessment forms the foundation upon which any energy-saving measures should be built.

Conducting Energy Audits

A comprehensive energy audit is the most effective way to evaluate your home’s energy consumption. During an audit, a professional will inspect your house to identify areas of energy loss and recommend improvements. An energy audit typically involves examining insulation, heating and cooling systems, windows, doors, and other areas where air leakage may occur. The process offers a systematic approach to assess your home’s energy performance and outline steps for conservation. Professionals who offer these services conduct thorough assessments that can last between 2 to 3 hours. Consider scheduling an audit to take control of your home’s energy usage.

Book your energy audit today

Understanding Your Energy Bill

Your monthly energy bill provides vital clues to your home’s energy usage. It typically breaks down the cost of energy into categories such as heating, cooling, and electricity usage. By closely examining your energy bill, you can pinpoint high-usage periods or appliances that might be drawing more power than necessary. To help put this into perspective, tools like the Home Energy Yardstick can compare your household’s energy usage to others of similar size and location, offering insights into potential areas of improvement. Tracking changes in your bill after implementing energy-saving strategies can also measure the effectiveness of your efforts.

Implementing a methodical approach to assessing your home’s energy use is a critical first step in becoming more energy-efficient. With professional energy audits and a better understanding of your energy bill, you can identify effective ways to reduce consumption and save on costs.

Heating and Cooling Efficiency

Your home’s comfort heavily relies on its heating and cooling efficiency. By upgrading systems, maintaining equipment, and employing smart technology, you can significantly reduce energy usage and costs.

Upgrading to Energy-Efficient HVAC Systems

If your HVAC system is over 15 years old, replacing it with an ENERGY STAR certified unit can cut your heating and cooling energy usage by up to 50%. Look for systems with a high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) for cooling and a high Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) for heating.

Regular Maintenance of Heating and Cooling Systems

Ensure that your HVAC system is serviced annually by a professional to maintain peak performance. Regular maintenance includes checking for leaks, inspecting and cleaning air ducts, replacing filters, and making sure that the system is properly charged with refrigerant.

Smart Thermostats and Zoning

Installing a smart thermostat can lead to better energy management by adapting to your daily schedule and heating or cooling only when needed. Zoning systems allow you to control the temperature in different areas of your home independently, which avoids wasteful heating or cooling of unoccupied spaces.

Enhancing Home Insulation and Sealing

Insulation and sealing are fundamental for maintaining a comfortable and energy-efficient home. Addressing these areas can lead to significant cost savings and improve indoor climate control.

Types of Insulation Materials

Fiberglass Insulation: Often found in batts or rolls, fiberglass is a common choice for attics and walls, and it provides a barrier to heat flow.

  • R-values: Varies based on thickness and density; typically between R-2.9 to R-3.8 per inch of thickness.

Cellulose Insulation: Made from recycled paper products, cellulose can be installed using a loose-fill technique.

  • R-values: Generally offers R-3.1 to R-3.8 per inch.

Spray Foam Insulation: Expands to fill cavities in walls, sealing gaps and increasing energy efficiency significantly.

  • R-values: Closed-cell spray foam can range from R-5 to R-6.5 per inch.

Rigid Foam Boards: Great for floors, ceilings, and unvented low-slope roofs; can be used to insulate almost any part of your home.

  • R-values: Typically from R-4 to R-6.5 per inch, depending on the material.

Weatherstripping and Caulking

Weatherstripping: Apply this to movable components of your home, such as windows and doors, to seal gaps and prevent air leaks.

  • Materials: Felt, foam, rubber, vinyl, and metal; each with differing durability and cost.

Caulking: Use caulk for stationary cracks and joints less than one-quarter-inch wide.

  • Types: Acrylic latex caulk is best for easy application and cleanup; silicone caulk, though harder to work with, is more suited for high-moisture areas.

Insulating Windows and Doors

  • Use weatherstripping to seal movable joints on windows and doors.

Window Film and Insulating Panels: Adhesive films and removable insulation panels can improve the energy efficiency of existing windows.

Window Treatments and Coverings: Curtains and blinds provide an additional layer of insulation, reducing heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter.

Door Sweeps and Draft Stoppers: Install these at the bottom of doors to prevent drafts from entering beneath the door.

Energy-Efficient Lighting and Appliances

Making the switch to energy-efficient lighting and choosing appliances with the ENERGY STAR certification can significantly reduce your household’s energy consumption and utility costs.

Switching to LED Lighting

LED lights are paramount in energy-efficient home lighting for several reasons. First, an LED bulb consumes up to 90% less power than incandescent bulbs. Second, LEDs last substantially longer, which means you’ll be purchasing and disposing of fewer bulbs over time. When selecting LEDs, consider the following:

  • Brightness: Check the lumens, not watts, to determine brightness.
  • Color Temperature: Measured in Kelvin (K), lower numbers mean warmer (more yellow/red) light, while higher numbers mean cooler (bluer) light.
  • Compatibility: Ensure the LED bulb fits existing fixtures and is dimmer compatible if needed.

Choosing Energy Star Appliances

Appliances that carry the ENERGY STAR label meet strict energy performance standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. By opting for ENERGY STAR certified appliances, you can save energy without sacrificing functionality or performance. To choose wisely:

  • Read the Energy Guide Label: This label predicts the appliance’s energy consumption and operating cost.
  • Consider Size and Features: Larger appliances and those with additional features may use more energy. Balance your needs with energy efficiency.
  • Check for Rebates: Often, there are rebates and incentives available for purchasing ENERGY STAR appliances.

Water Heating and Conservation

Effective water heating and conservation practices are key to improving your home’s energy efficiency. These measures can substantially reduce your utility bills and also help in conserving precious water resources.

Installing Tankless Water Heaters

By opting for a tankless water heater, you eliminate the need to store and continuously heat water, leading to significant energy savings. Unlike traditional water heaters that maintain a pre-heated water supply, tankless heaters instantly heat water on demand, allowing you to only use energy when you need hot water. Depending on your usage patterns, this change can equate to a reduction in heating costs.

  • Initial Cost: Higher than conventional heaters
  • Energy Savings: Can be up to 25%-50% more efficient
  • Lifespan: Typically exceeds 20 years

Water-Saving Fixtures

Switching to water-saving fixtures in your home is a simple yet powerful step towards conservation.

Low-Flow Showerheads:

  • Savings: Reduces water usage by up to 40%
  • Performance: Modern designs maintain strong water pressure

Faucet Aerators:

  • Savings: Can save hundreds of gallons of water per year
  • Benefit: Easy to install and inexpensive

By integrating these water-saving solutions, you contribute to both energy efficiency and water preservation.

Renewable Energy Solutions

Implementing renewable energy solutions in your home not only reduces your carbon footprint but also can lead to significant savings over time.

Solar Panel Installation

Solar Power Systems: Installing solar panels, or photovoltaic (PV) systems, on your home can transform sunlight into electricity to power your daily needs. Here’s how you can incorporate solar energy:

  • Assessment: Ensure your home receives sufficient sunlight, considering factors like roof orientation and shading.
  • Installation: Seek professionals who will adhere to local codes and requirements.
  • Off-grid vs. On-grid: Decide if you want a system connected to the utility grid or a self-sufficient one.
  • Size of System: Typically, a home system is scaled at 1 kilowatt per 1,000 square feet of your home.

Benefits of Wind Power

Wind Turbines: While less common for individual homes, if your property has enough space and is in a windy location, a small wind turbine could be a viable option. Wind energy:

  • Reduces Electricity Bills: Can provide a good portion of your electricity needs, reducing reliance on the grid.
  • Clean and Sustainable: Wind is a plentiful and inexhaustible resource, offering a clean alternative to fossil fuels.

Smart Home Technologies

Embracing smart home technologies is a straightforward approach to bolstering your home’s energy efficiency. They allow for precise control and monitoring of various home systems.

Home Energy Management Systems

Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS) provide a centralized platform to track and manage your home’s energy consumption. Equipped with technologies such as ENERGY STAR certified smart thermostats, these systems help streamline your energy usage. For instance, you might automate your heating and cooling schedules to match your daily routines, reducing unnecessary energy expenditure when you’re not at home.

  • Features of HEMS:
    • Automated Schedules: Adjusts temperature settings based on your routines.
    • Energy Consumption Insights: Offers detailed reports on energy usage patterns.

Intelligent Power Strips

Intelligent power strips, also known as smart power strips, combat the issue of standby power that conventional electrical devices consume, often called “vampire power.”

  • How Smart Power Strips Work:
    • They automatically cut power to plugged-in devices when they detect the devices are not in use.
    • Some models sync with your home network allowing you to remotely control individual outlets.

Implementing intelligent power strips in your home office or entertainment center can lead to substantial energy savings over time.

Landscaping for Energy Efficiency

Incorporating energy-efficient landscaping into your home’s surroundings can significantly impact your heating and cooling expenses. Strategic placement of trees and the integration of living architecture not only add aesthetic value but functionally enhance your home’s energy profile.

Strategic Tree Planting

  • Deciduous Trees: Place deciduous trees on the south and west sides of your home. During the summer, their full foliage offers shade which can naturally cool your home, whereas in the winter, their bare branches allow sunlight to pass through, providing additional warmth.
  • Windbreaks: Evergreens and shrubs serve as effective windbreaks when positioned on the north and northwest sides. This helps reduce the impact of cold northern winds, potentially lowering your heating costs.

Green Roofs and Walls

  • Green Roofs: Installing a vegetative layer on your roof can improve your home’s insulation, leading to reduced heat loss in winter and a cooler interior in summer.
  • Living Walls: Consider living walls for additional insulation and temperature regulation. The plants help absorb, reflect, or shade sunlight, which contributes to a more stable indoor environment.

Behavioral Changes and Energy Saving Habits

Making your home more energy efficient is not just about upgrading to the latest gadgets; it’s equally about cultivating energy-saving habits and being mindful of everyday energy usage.

Mindful Energy Usage

  • Turn Off Unnecessary Lights: Ensure that you turn off lights in unoccupied rooms. Utilize natural lighting whenever possible.
  • Adjust Thermostat Settings: Set your thermostat a couple of degrees lower in the winter and higher in the summer to save on heating and cooling costs.
  • Use Appliances Wisely: Run dishwashers and washing machines with full loads, and use energy-saving cycles.

Regular System Check-Ups

  • HVAC Maintenance: Schedule annual check-ups for your heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system to maintain efficiency.
  • Water Heater Inspection: Check your water heater’s thermostat settings and insulate the tank to conserve energy.
  • Ensure seals on refrigerators and ovens are tight to prevent heat or cold from escaping.

Making your home more energy efficient is both economically wise and environmentally beneficial. The team at Terra Home Performance can conduct thorough energy audits and provide home insulation solutions. Join us to identify key areas for energy savings and implement effective improvements, ensuring your home is as efficient and comfortable as possible.

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