How to Optimize Home Energy Efficiency
In our articles about preparing for summer and winter, we touch repeatedly on the concept of home energy efficiency. This important aspect of homeownership is common knowledge, but few people take the time to really optimize their home for it. By addressing a few keep aspects of home energy efficiency, you can reduce your monthly utility bills – drastically in some cases. The secondary benefits are that you’ll create a healthier environment in your home and that you’ll be contributing to less pollution outside of it. In this article about home energy efficiency, we’ll look at 5 direct steps you can take, as well as 5 energy efficient habits to cultivate.
The big moves toward home energy efficiency
Ask several contractors what they will say their most important energy efficiency suggestions are, and you’ll get a handful of different answers. The most common one, however, will be, “it depends on your home.” We agree. To get the most bang for your buck, contact your contractor or home energy auditor to look at your home and make a specific energy update project. You’ll likely receive one (or more) of the following suggestions.
Replace outdated weather stripping
Consider that old weather stripping around windows and doors is the most common offender when it comes to heat and energy loss in your home. Check all your doors and windows for a tight – and we mean airtight – seal. If you notice even a slight escape or intake of air, it may be time for new stripping. You can find weather stripping online or at any hardware store, and installation is simple. We advise you check your weather stripping on a yearly basis because the constant use of windows and doors can cause wear and tear.
Insulate your walls and attic
While weather stripping is the most common energy efficiency issue for homes, it is the insulation that has the biggest impact. Put simply, good insulation can reduce your heating and cooling utility bill by half or more, while poor insulation will see you paying big money each month.
Most modern homes will have fiberglass or cellulose insulation on their walls and attic already. However, if insulation is absent or sparse, you should check into the cost of adding it. When installed properly, insulation will last for the entire duration of homeownership. You can install insulation yourself, but we generally recommend using a contractor for this work. A contractor can also advise you on the best types of insulation for your home, and ensure that the installation is done properly. If you do make this a DIY-project, make sure you take all the proper safety precautions such as a respirator with a particulate filter, overalls, and safety glasses.
Get new appliances
You’ve probably seen the EnergyStar logo on everything these days. Most new appliances are incredibly energy efficient, especially when compared to older models. Older models are an energy liability and will cost you more each month and newer ones.
Replacing bigger appliances can be a costly undertaking, so choose the worst culprits first. These include your washer and dryer, refrigerator, and hot water heater. Pool pumps are also a big one for homeowners with pools. We advise you to replace these items over time unless a total overhaul is within your budget.
To make sure you are making the best decisions, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s website to use their energy calculator and home energy audit tools. Replacing old appliances with more energy efficient ones can even earn you take credits in some places.
Replace inefficient windows
The energy-efficient materials used in windows these days are incredible when compared to their predecessors – even recent ones. If you haven’t had new windows installed in the last 5 years, or didn’t choose the most energy efficient ones, you are probably spending close to 20% of your heating bill just on the heat that seeps through your current windows.
Fortunately, as the technology becomes more sophisticated, it also becomes cheaper, and there are many energy-efficient windows available that won’t hurt your budget. Ask your contractor or hardware store expert about which models are right for you. And when you are ready to install your new windows, remember to pick the best time of year to do so. As an added bonus, new, energy-efficient windows are also a perk that many prospective homebuyers will notice.
Get a smart thermostat
Forget the days of setting the thermostat in the morning, when you get home from work, and before you go to bed. That is inefficient, both for you and for your home’s heating and cooling. Plus, if you forget, you might find that you are heating your home when no one is in it! Therefore, we recommend installing a smart, or at least programmable, thermostat.
Smart thermostats can learn your behaviors, and notice when you are home and when you are out. They can adjust the temperature accordingly, and can even be monitored by apps on your phone. This important tool will save you money with you even needing to think about it.
Home energy efficiency habits
While the projects above cost both time and money, there are several things you can do today that will make your home instantly more energy efficient. These habits should be adopted by everyone in your home to derive maximum benefit.
- Turn off and unplug your non-essential appliances. It’s a simple trick to avoid the risk of ‘phantom energy drain’, which can add anywhere from 5 to 10% to your total electric bill each month. Don’t turn your refrigerator off, of course!
- Give your heating and cooling systems a break. A difference of as little as 3 degrees in your home’s temperature during the summer and winter can save you hundreds of dollars each year. This means that keeping your thermostat at 75+ (rather than 72) during the summer, and at 65 (rather than 68) during the winter, will shave significant money from your bill each month.
- Lower your shower temperature. Yes, a near-scalding shower sometimes can be a real treat, but is it necessary? Probably not. And heating water to that temperature consistently takes a lot of energy, whether it is gas or electricity. Turn it down a bit, and you’ll see the savings. There are also surprising health benefits to cold showers!
- Go easy on the washing machine, dryer, and dishwasher. Wash clothes with cold water (tap) unless specifically called for. Dry clothes on low or, even better, hang them to dry if space allows. Finally, skip the dishwasher unless there’s a big load to do. Dishwashers don’t save that much more time than washing by hand and don’t always do a better job.
- Turn out the lights when you leave a room. It is likely that you learned this from your parents. However, if your house starts to resemble the surface of the sun with lights on in every room, even empty ones, then you are wasting energy and money. Teach your kids this good habit, and you’ll save some money (more than you think) on your bill each month.
At Morgan Contractors, we have more than 18 years of experience providing quality home improvement services, including efficient home energy projects, to the Tristate area. So, if you are looking for a safety-compliant, fully insured, highly reputable company for your next home improvement job, we are it!
For more information about how we can make your home remodeling project a success, to request an estimate, or for general questions, please contact us today or call 201-401-1800.