An energy efficient home is a growing priority for many home owners.  Significant savings in heating, cooling and electricity costs can be achieved with simple d.i.y. changes and updates.

Some of the reasons for creating an energy efficient home may include:

  • Financial incentives – there may be tax breaks and other incentives offered through your state, local government or utility company.
  • Save Money – by reducing the amount of energy consumption in the home you will save money on your energy bill.
  • Increased comfort level inside the home.
  • Climate change – many scientist believe that a reduction in energy consumption related to fossil fuels will lessen the overall impact that greenhouse gasses may have toward global warming.
  • Reduced pollution – improved air quality for everyone by reducing the amount of pollutants entering the air, soil and water supplies.
  1. A better way to heat and cool your home

It is estimated that up to half of home energy use goes toward heating and cooling.  Here are some tips to help reduce your energy costs as they relate to heating and cooling applications:

  • Ceiling fans – ceiling fans use significantly less energy to operate than air conditioning units.
  • Air filters – inspected filters for your furnace and a/c unit monthly and replace/clean as needed.  Dirty air filters are one of the biggest culprits relating to poor HVAC efficiency and yet one of the easiest to remedy.
  • Thermostat settings – ideally, the thermostat should be turned down in the evening and when no one is in the home.  Approximately 2% of the heating costs can be saved for each degree the thermostat is lowered for 8 hours each day.  For example, turning the thermostat down from 75 to 70 degrees can save approximately 10% on your heating costs.
  • Consider a wood stove/pellet stove – a wood or pellet stove is more efficient than your standard furnace.
  • Drawing curtains over the windows – at night this will help to better insulate the room.  During the day, this helps keep the interior cooler.

2.  Tankless water heaters

A tankless water heater provides hot water only when needed.  Standard water heaters have a standby energy costs associated with them due to the pilot light that the tankless water heaters don’t have.  This translates into savings to you.  In addition to improved efficiency, a tankless water heater can deliver a constant supply of hot water.  There’s no need to wait for a storage tank to fill up associated with a tankless water heater.

3.  Replacing incandescent light bulbs

With 11% of the average homes energy budget going toward lighting, replacing incandescent light bulbs can help reduce the consumption and costs.  With newer lighting innovations such as LED’s and CFL’s, lighting energy consumption may be reduced by as much as 50%.  Controls can be installed which will further increase the efficiency and savings by reducing the amount of time that the lights are on but not being used.

4.  Insulate & seal your home

Insulating and sealing your house is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to increase comfort and improve indoor air quality.  This will also translate into savings on your energy bill.  Some of the common places to check for air leakage include:

  • electrical outlets
  • mail slots
  • around pipes and wires
  • around wall/window mounted a/c units
  • attic access
  • fireplace dampers
  • deteriorated weatherstripping around doors
  • baseboards
  • window frames
  • switch plates

5.  Install reduced flow shower heads and toilets

  • Low flow shower heads can be purchased at different flow rates.  Some of these include a pause button which will shut the water off while the bather lathers up.
  • Toilets account for up to 40% of the total water consumption used in the home.  Installing a low flow toilet that uses only 1.6 gallons per flush compared to the older 3.5 gallons per flush toilets helps reduce water usage an average of 2 gallons per flush.  This translates to roughly 12,000 gallons of water used per year.  This is especially important here in Southern California where we are facing historic drought levels.
  • Vacuum assist toilets – these type of toilets utilize a vacuum chamber that uses a siphon action that sucks air from the trap beneath the bowl.  This allows it fill quickly with water to clear out waste.
  • Dual flush toilets are another option.  These allow you to choose the flow rate which you would like to use.  For example, 1 gallon for liquid waste or a 1.6 gallon flush for solid waste.  These reduce consumption from that of standard low-flow toilets by 30%

6.  Be mindful of electronics/appliance 

Accounting for approximately 20% of energy consumption in the home, the following tips will help reduce the costs to operate electronics and appliances:

  • Refrigerators and freezer should not be located in warm areas, such as near windows or stoves.  Refrigerators and stoves located in warm areas require more energy to remain cold inside.
  • Shutting down computers when not in use.  Some studies have indicated as much as 3% of the energy consumption in a home can be attributed to computers be left turned on while unattended.
  • Use ENERGY-STAR rated appliances.  These appliances have been approved by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program.  Appliances include televisions, home theater systems, dvd & cd players, receivers, speakers and more.  The EPA estimates that if just 10% of homes utilized energy efficient appliances, carbon emissions would be reduced equivalent to that of 1.7 million acres of trees.
  • Unplug devices when not in use.  Laptop and phone chargers still consume energy if they are left plugged in, even when not connected to a device.

7.  Utilizing natural light vs. electrical lighting

Some ways to utilize natural light vs. electrical lighting include:

  • Installing skylights
  • light shelves – these are passive devices that bounce light throughout the property.
  • clerestory windows – these are short, wide windows that are placed high on a wall.
  • light tubes – light tubes utilize a unique lens that amplifies low-level light and reduces light intensity from the mid-day sun.  Sunlight gets funneled through the tube which is coated with a reflective material and enters the home through a diffuser that softens and evenly distributes the light.

8.  Insulating windows and doors

Approximately 1/3 of the home’s heat loss takes place through windows and doors.  The following tips will help reduce the energy lost around windows and doors:

  • Caulk and seal all window edges and cracks.
  • Weatherstrip windows with a special lining installed between the window and the frame.  Apply weatherstripping around the perimeter of doors to ensure a tight seal.  Install door sweeps at the bottom of doors to prevent air leakage.
  • Consider upgrading old aluminum single pane windows with newer, more energy efficient windows.

9.  Cook smarter

Cooking consumes and wastes a significant amount of energy in the home.  The following tips will help you avoid wasting energy while cooking:

  • Use convection ovens in lieu of conventional ovens.  Convection ovens use a fan to circulate the warm air evenly which allows food to be cooked at a reduced temperature.  Convection ovens can save up to 20% on energy consumption vs. conventional ovens.
  • Microwaves use as much as 80% less energy than conventional ovens.
  • Place pans on the matching size heating element on the cooktop.
  • Using a lid on pots and pans will allow food to cook quicker which will translate to less energy being used and increased savings on your bill.
  • Place food on the top rack when using conventional ovens.  The top rack is hotter and thus it will cook your food faster.

10.  Changing laundry habits

  • Don’t use the small or medium settings on your washer.  Wait until you have enough laundry for a full load.  This will reduce water consumption overall.
  • Avoid a high temperature wash setting on clothes that aren’t very soiled.  It takes far more energy to heat water to 140 degrees than to 103 degrees for the warm water setting.
  • Inspect and clean your lint trap before every dryer cycle.  A clogged lint trap is not only a fire hazard, but it will increase the dry time for your clothes which will increase associated energy costs.
  • Use a clothes line or air dry your clothes when possible.
  • Wring out clothing or spin dry before placing them into a dryer.

By taking these simple steps, homeowners often find that the little bit of effort it takes is worth the return in energy savings.  If you have any questions on how to apply any of these tips, please contact us today and we will be happy to help out in any way we can.  I hope you found this information valuable and informative. For more homeowner tips, please visit our Blog.