9 Steps to Take in Order to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient
Energy efficiency is on everyone’s minds as climate change and electricity bills increase. Fortunately, improving your energy consumption at home takes little effort and always results in impressive cost savings.
If you want to save money and reduce your environmental footprint, these nine energy-saving steps can help you achieve optimal efficiency with less power.
1. Conduct an Energy Audit
You have two options for a residential energy audit: Hire a professional or do it yourself. The benefit of conducting an energy audit yourself is you can learn more about your home’s energy inefficiencies using everyday tools free of charge.
Conversely, a professional energy auditor will provide a more comprehensive and accurate assessment of your current energy consumption with actionable recommendations. Although professional home energy audits are costly at about $100-$2,000, the experts have a much better grasp of hidden inefficiencies you might be unaware of.
2. Switch to LED Light Bulbs
Considering 15% of your home’s electricity consumption comes from lighting, swapping out incandescent light bulbs for light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can save you a lot of money.
LEDs expend 90% less energy, with $225 in annual savings on electricity bills. Energy isn’t the only place you save with LEDs, though — because they last 25 times longer than conventional bulbs, you’ll buy far fewer replacements.
Incandescent light bulbs last about 1,200 hours over their lifetime, meaning they usually need replacing every 1.64 years if you use them for two hours daily. LEDs work for 25,000 hours, requiring a replacement every 34.25 years. Do the math: You could spend $1,000 on incandescent bulbs over an LED’s life span.
If your home hasn’t been reinsulated for some time, you could miss out on energy efficiency and cost savings. Insulation is a barrier to heat flow, locking it in, lowering your heating and cooling expenses, and improving indoor comfort.
It is best to insulate everything in your home, from the walls to the ceilings and the floors. Even the garage door can be insulated. Proper insulation is measured by R-value — the material’s thermal resistance. Save 10% on heating and cooling costs annually with the right amount of R-value insulation.
4. Seal Air Leaks
While insulating your home, identify air leaks from windows, doors, crawl spaces, attics, basements, vents, outlets and baseboards. Often, you can find an air leak by sensing a cool draft.
A technician can do a blow test to determine where air leaks are occurring and the severity. If you choose not to hire someone, conduct a less-detailed blow test yourself.
Turn off combustion appliances when the weather turns cold and windy. Ensure all the windows, doors, and fireplace flues are closed. Then, turn on all the exhaust fans in your home and light an incense stick near potentially drafty areas. If the smoke gets sucked out or blown away, there is an opening in need of weatherstripping.
5. Install a Smart Thermostat
A smart thermostat is a Wi-Fi operating system capable of controlling heating and cooling for optimal indoor comfort. The benefits of using smart thermostats are as follows:
- Allows you to manage your home’s temperature remotely using your smartphone
- Learns your preferred temperature and schedule to adjust your settings automatically
- Uses geofencing to detect when you are on your way home, so it automatically adjusts
- Enable low-power standby mode when there is little activity
- Tracks energy use and monitors indoor humidity
- Uses sensors to detect room occupancy and adjusts the temperature accordingly
Save 8% on heating and cooling bills with an ENERGY STAR-certified smart thermostat, amounting to $50 annually.
6. Replace Appliances With Efficient Models
Unquestionably, you couldn’t live without your microwave or refrigerator. When older appliances start breaking down, replacing them becomes your top priority.
Nowadays, efficient models of everyday home electronics — stove tops, ovens, washing machines, dishwashers and more — must meet the most current federal energy standards. While initial investments tend to be expensive, newer models reduce your carbon footprint and help you save money long-term.
You can always count on the U.S. Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR appliances to do the job correctly with less power consumption. Just be sure to dispose of the older ones correctly — many stores will recycle old appliances for you when they drop off your new models.
7. Invest in Water-Saving Fixtures
In addition to upgrading appliances, you can improve your home’s energy efficiency by installing water-saving fixtures, including faucets, showerheads and toilets.
Toilets account for 30% of residential water usage, with many conventional models using six gallons of water per flush. However, new WaterSense-labeled models only use 1.28 gallons per flush — still 20%-60% less than federal regulations.
Investing in water-conserving toilets saves up to 13,000 gallons annually, amounting to $140 in yearly water bills and $2,900 throughout the product’s life span.
8. Use Smart Plugs
You may not realize it, but your television and other electronic devices consume a ton of energy just by being plugged in. Phantom devices can add $100-$200 to your annual electricity bills — a 10% increase in total energy use.
Like other smart devices, smart plugs are Wi-Fi-enabled and controlled through a smartphone or tablet app. You can also integrate your smart plug with a voice assistant like Google Home or Amazon Echo.
Smartphone control especially comes in handy when you’ve left devices plugged in by accident while traveling. One button can turn off home electronics remotely and save you money.
9. Install Solar Panels
Solar panels have become more popular in recent years, especially with 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act extending tax credits on residential renewable energy projects.
Although solar panel systems are an expensive investment — even with incentives and rebates — homeowners usually save $42,000 over their 25-30-year lifetime, depending on your state’s electricity rates.
Of course, while solar panels still absorb energy in a rainy, cold or cloudy region, they work best where there is the most sun throughout the year.
Live Comfortably in an Energy-Efficient Home
An energy-efficient home enhances your comfort and helps ease the financial burden of rising utility costs. Even minor changes make a significant difference. Take a step-by-step approach to improving at-home energy use and reap immediate rewards.