How to Make Home Energy Efficient
You can either watch climate change news and sigh, or get up and do something about it. The lessons on energy efficiency in school textbooks are not limited to exams alone. Adopting those techniques in your living spaces is good for the environment. No, we won’t throw statements like you can change the world by making your home energy efficient. But you sure can reduce pollution and cut energy bills.
In layman’s terms, energy efficiency is simply using less energy to get the same job done. Think of it as an LED light bulb that sheds the same light, but eats up less energy. Many newly constructed buildings are energy efficient, sometimes old buildings are renovated for this purpose. Though such buildings use less energy for heating and cooling, there are multiple things often overlooked.
Reasons To Make Your Home Energy Efficient
- You spend less on energy every month if your home is energy efficient. Imagine how much you’ll save annually on electricity bills.
- There are tax breaks and incentives by federal, state, and local jurisdictions for energy-efficient homes. A tax credit of 10% can be claimed on the cost of energy-efficient improvements you install at your home.
- Scientists believe that excessive energy consumption has a huge contribution to global warming. If every home, residential complex, and commercial building is energy-efficient, it can reduce the impact on climate change.
- Conventional production of power pollutes the air, water, and soil. Adopting energy-efficient ways at your home will reduce pollution.
- A home that has been upgraded with such energy also fetches a higher price when it’s time to sell it. It increases the property value of your house.
- Things like programmable thermostats, double-paned windows, and automated lighting make up a comfortable living space. Doing this will ensure you are less exposed to harsh weather conditions.
Identifying Where Your Home Is Losing Energy
You cannot just decide you need efficient energy one day when you don’t know your house well. You need to first identify where exactly your home is taking up more power. Tackling such individual aspects will ensure you solve the right problems and you don’t end up wasting money or time. For this, take a walk-through of your home and inspect where the problems lie. Carry a checklist and note areas that need energy efficient upgrades. This allows you to identify which parts of your home need upgrades on priority. You can get a professional home energy audit for this purpose or decide to do it yourself. If it’s the latter, let’s get down to how you can inspect and identify issues:
Check For Missing Insulation
There can be heat loss due to uninsulated walls, so check if your home is well insulated. Touch the interior walls, floors, and ceilings of all rooms to see if they are warm or cold. If they are warm, keep concerns at bay, but there might be a problem if they are cold to touch. Similarly, the external walls of the house should feel cool to the touch. That will indicate the warm air kept inside the home by insulation.
Take a ladder and go up to the attic, examine if the openings to pipes, chimney, and ductwork are properly sealed. Inspect if there is a vapor barrier like tar paper or a plastic sheet under the attic insulation. Make sure the insulation is not blocking any attic vents. Now go downstairs to the basement, if it opens up to the exterior, check if the living room floors are insulated. For this, just flash a torch and check for underfloor insulation.
Check Air Leaks
There is a considerate energy saving after sealing drafts and air leaks. Locating such air leaks can be a tricky part. There can be drafts along the edges of the flooring, frames of doors and windows, electrical outlets, or plumbing fixtures.
An easy way to locate this would be going around the house with a lit candle. Hover this candle around the parts of your home we mentioned and see if the flame flickers. If the flame bends inward, then voila! you have found an air leak. But don’t forget to switch off fans or anything that can cause air disturbance before this exercise. You can even go outside and locate if there are air leaks between two building materials.
Examine Heating And Cooling Systems
If you have a forced-air central heating system, check for air leaks in them. For this, just go through the seams and check for dirt streaks. The presence of first streaks is a clear indicator of air leaks. Ideally, you are supposed to inspect your heating system every year. If you have newly moved in, ask the previous owner or tenant how old the systems are. Your systems should not bleed through gaps and uninsulated spaces. If they are, then maybe it’s time to get an energy-efficient heating and cooling system
Steps to Making Home Energy Efficient
Now that you’ve thoroughly inspected your house and made notes on the problem areas, you can now get down to making your house energy efficient. Here’s how you can do that:
1. Seal Off All Air Leaks
When you tightly seal all the drafts in your home, you will reduce both energy consumption and utility bills. Sealed homes also improve the quality of air within their four walls and make spaces comfortable. Don’t delay weatherstripping the air leaks on the frames of your doors and windows. Any openings or penetrations for plumbing pipes and electrical wires should be sealed off with foam or caulk. If there are any cracks in your drywall, seal them with beads of silicone caulk. Finally, go over to the electric switch plates and install foam gaskets behind them.
2. Insulate Your Attic
Insulating your attic protects your home against moisture damage and extreme temperatures. It makes sure the warm air stays in during the winter months and cool air is locked during summers. Plus, an insulated attic attracts lower heating and cooling costs.
We already elaborated on how you can identify if your attic needs insulation. Once you are sure it lacks insulation, gather your tools. Use spray foam to insulate the walls and floors of your attic, go for blanket insulation for the edges and corners. Paint the interior ceilings of the attic with vapor barrier paint if there is no vapor barrier. Look around for any openings, seal the electric boxes with flexible caulk, and other gaps with foam caulk.
3. Change Incandescent Lights
Though 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent light bulbs are no longer sold in the market as manufacturers stopped producing them in 2014, be aware of your lighting. Go for greener bulbs like halogen incandescents, CFLs, and LED bulbs. They consume 25% – 80% less energy than the old incandescent lights. They are gentler on the pockets since they last 3-25 times longer than traditional bulbs. If you are in a dilemma over CFLs and LEDs, go for LED bulbs as they don’t contain mercury or lead like CFLs. Moreover, LEDs last longer than CFLs. Make this conscious choice sooner as lighting takes up 11% of the energy budget of an average home.
4. Alternatives To Heating And Cooling
Heating and cooling systems take up almost half of the energy required by your home. Some small steps can reduce your carbon footprint. If that isn’t an attractive reason for you to find alternatives to heating and cooling, lower utility bills will surely be one. Start small like switching to ceiling fans in place of air conditioners, replacing air filters in heaters, installing programmable thermostats, etc. Take energy efficiency awareness to your kitchen, and use a wood stove or a pellet stove in place of furnaces.
Also See: How to Move a Wood Stove
5. Fix Efficient Showerheads And Toilets
Installing low-flow toilets and showerheads will reduce water wastage significantly. You must be aware that toilets use a huge amount of water. Loosen your pockets and install a low-flow 1.6-gallon toilet in place of your old 3.5-gallon one. Do the math and see for yourself that you will end up saving a huge 12,000 gallons of water per year! Go one step further and get a dual-flush toilet that uses just 1 gallon of water per flush. Your conventional showerhead uses 5 whole gallons of water per minute. Replace them with low-flow ones that use only 2.5 gallons per minute. Don’t forget to pause it as you lather up!
6. Go For Daylighting
You will see less energy consumption when you avoid electrical lighting. Make use of all that sun before dark comes knowing on your door. Daylighting is a way where you use natural light as much as you can. Some builders have started building living spaces and commercial complexes with daylighting systems.
You can modify your home and design daylighting strategies with the help of professionals. Include designs like skylights, light shelves, clerestory windows, or light tubes and see the difference it makes. It’s going to fill your home with natural light and keep your home naturally warm during winter days. But you will need a heating system for winter nights, can’t argue about that.
7. Waste Management
When you take small efforts like segregating wet and dry waste, it’s going to be both energy-efficient and resource-efficient. The wet waste can be put to good use within the house. As you start these practices, you’ll be amazed at the reduction in waste your home produces. Make a compost pile out of your organic waste. It’s not going to eat up a lot of space in your backyard, just dedicate a container to it. The peels from your vegetables, fruits, or any kitchen waste will go into the compost, making it a great fertilizer. This way, you give back only good things to nature.
8. Consciously Wash Clothes
Of the entire energy used by your washing machine, 90% goes towards heating the water. Imagine the amount of energy you save if you decide to wash each load with cool or warm water. Try to wait until there is a full stack of clothes for a full load, as a medium load is going to use up more water and energy than required. Small steps like air-drying your clothes on racks or lines are going to save a little energy with every load. We know you have a hundred chores to do, but paying attention to details like these is never harmful.
9. Chuck Out Desktop Computer
You have no idea how much energy your desktop computer is consuming right now. Desktop computers draw the energy of 175 watts, extremely high right? So when it’s time to replace that computer, invest in a laptop. Laptops use less electricity, almost 80% less than traditional desktop computers. To top that, use a laptop and you will draw the energy of just 60 watts. Additionally, Energy Star-certified laptops are going to save much more energy. They sure are expensive but are greener alternatives to desktops.
10. Go For Solar Panels
Consider this as a one-time investment towards lower fossil fuel usage and saving energy bills. Install solar panels and your home will generate electricity completely independently. Say adieu to utility companies and their extravagant bills. Getting solar panels will look like an expensive affair, but they enable you to qualify for annual tax incentives. Pat yourself on the back if you already decided to get solar panels installed, as they combat greenhouse gas emissions and rely only on pure energy.
Small Ways Towards Energy Efficiency
Apart from the bigger changes in your home, there are tiny ways in which you can be more energy efficient in your home. Something as basic as turning off the tap water while shaving or brushing is going to save gallons of water every day. Here are small things you can do:
- Keep the refrigerator or freezer away from the stove or heater since the heat emitting from the stove makes them work harder for cooling. Position them away so they won’t struggle a lot to keep their internal temperature cool, thus using lesser energy in the process.
- Unplug your chargers when they aren’t in use. You might keep them plugged into the socket, thinking they aren’t using any energy when not connected to your phone. Let us shoot a friendly reminder here, they suck 0.26 watts of energy when not in use.
- Use a microwave instead of a stove for heating small portions of food. Stovetops use up a lot of heat; microwaves are better alternatives at times as they use 80% less energy for reheating as compared to stoves.
- Close blinds or drapes on your windows during the summer months so your air conditioner doesn’t have to work harder to cool the home. The same goes for the winter months; closing blinds ensure warm air stays inside, which means lesser effort for the heater.
- Switch off electronics when you aren’t using them. Keeping the computer, printer, and fax machine on all day is going to consume lots of energy. If you are working constantly, shut off the monitor every time you take a break.
- Fill up your refrigerator. Yes, filling freezers and refrigerators will ensure they work at their full efficiency. If you don’t have enough snacks to fill it with, water bottles can do the trick. Careful about overfilling though as it can restrict airflow and make your fridge work harder.
- Turn off the oven just a few minutes before the timer is up and let your food be in there. It’s a clever trick to cook food for a while without the extra electricity. While baking something, avoid opening the oven door as the temperature inside can drop 25° F every time you open it, resulting in the oven using more energy to bring back that lost temperature.
When you cook, bath, or work around the house, be mindful of energy consumption. As your family adapts to these techniques, you will reduce your carbon footprint. Greenify your home, not for those bills, but for the satisfaction of contributing to a better environment.
How Much Does A Professional Energy Audit Cost?
The average cost of getting an energy audit done is $409 according to HomeAdvisor. Prices majorly depend on the size and type of the house. This is why there is no cap on how much cost you will incur. Expect to pay anywhere between $100 and $1,650 depending on your space. Be ready to shell out more if you live in a larger property or a multi-unit building. Keeping the costs aside, professional energy audits are usually worth it.
How Much Does It Cost To Make The Home Energy Efficient?
It typically costs between $207 – $675 to make your home energy efficient. But it will vary on many factors like the number of energy-efficient upgrades you want. If you want to construct a home that is energy efficient, then it will cost you $100/square foot for standard home construction. Whereas a net-zero home, that is designed specifically for energy conservation will cost you $109.80/square foot.
See also: Most Eco-friendly Cities in America