We’ve all heard that nagging voice telling us to turn off the lights when we leave a room, or turn off the faucet when we brush our teeth. While these are valuable tips, there are many other ways to conserve resources and cut utility costs in your home. Your neighbors are already ahead of the game- get competitive and see if you can save as much as them!
Before you jump into a full home upgrade or retrofit, you’ll want to identify the areas of your home that are using the most energy (and where you might be able to achieve the greatest savings). Energy can be wasted through your windows, old or poor insulation, inefficient appliances, unnecessary water usage, and many other sources.
Home energy audits can show you which parts of your home are using the most energy, and whether that energy is being used efficiently (i.e. whether you can do anything about it).
Once you identify problem areas, consider upgrades and the payback period from energy savings. One look at your utility bill will tell you all you need to know: it’s worth it.
A guide to saving energy and money at home produced by the U.S. Department of Energy provides this breakdown of home energy use:
Source: EnergySavers.gov, “Tips on Saving Money & Energy at Home,” US Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
From improving insulation to adding in solar panels, here are some home upgrades and energy tips that will help you conserve resources, save big on utility costs, and keep up with your neighbors! As you can see, space heating and water heating are the top users of your home’s energy, so this may be the best place to start if you’re interested in generating the most savings.
Heating & Cooling
Upgrading your insulation has proven to be the single most effective way to save on your home energy bill. Odds are, your house has seen some really hot days, followed by some really cold days. Instead of letting your expensive air conditioning or heat seep through old insulation, considering putting in some new insulation.
- Start by sealing the leaks in your house (door frames, windows frames, ducts, outlets & switches, attic entrance are some of the most common areas for leaks) then, look into adding more insulating to your home.
Don’t have the money to invest in new insulation? You can still save big on heating and cooling your home.
- Turn your thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter and as high as is comfortable in the summer
- Adjust your thermostat when you’re on vacation or away from home
- Some smartphone apps will let you turn on your heating/cooling system from afar, so your home will be comfortable when you return
- You can also get programmable thermostats that will adjust your heating or cooling for you
- Turn down the heat when leaving home for the day and before bed
By keeping your home sealed from leaks, properly insulated, and by adjusting your thermostat, you could save up to 30% on your home energy bill (depending on your climate), which could mean about $200 per year on heating and cooling, according to the Denver Post.
Windows can cost you 10-25% of your heating bill, by allowing heat to escape in the winter. They can also increase your bill in the summertime by letting in too much sunshine.
- Weatherize your windows in the winter to reduce drafts
- Use curtains in the summer to keep some sunlight (and extra heat) out
- This will help your air conditioner from over-working
Here’s an easy one! Lighting accounts for 5% of your home energy bill and it’s one of the easiest parts to manage.
- Remember to turn your lights off when you leave the room.
- When you do use lights, replace standard incandescent bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs that last 10 to 25 times longer and use about 1/4 of the electricity
Here are a few cooking tips that may not align with your Betty Crocker recipe, but will definitely save energy.
- Put lids on cooking pots and use heavy pans or iron skillets to retain heat
- Once boiling or desired cooking temperature is reached, lower the heat
- When possible, cook with small appliances, such as a crock pot, microwave, or toaster
- When using the oven, don’t pre-heat and try not to peek!
- Turn the oven off 5 minutes before your food is done
EnergySaver.gov attributes 18% of your energy bill to water heating, making it the second largest chunk of your bill, after space heating and cooling.
- Use less hot water in your showers and when you’re doing laundry and dishes
- Turn down the thermostat on your water heater (setting it to 120°F will allow for comfortable water temperatures for most uses)
- Insulate your water heater, without covering the thermostat
- Buy a more efficient model (look for the ENERGY STAR label when purchasing water heaters, and other appliances)
Your home appliances can account for 15% of your energy consumption, usually from refrigeration, cooking, and laundry. Replacing your old appliances with energy efficient or ENERGY STAR -certified appliances could mean $245 in savings per machine, according to the Denver Post.
- ENERGY STAR certified refrigerators and clothes washers use 15-20% less energy than average refrigerators or washers
- Adjust the settings on your dish washer to use cooler water and air drying
- Look into “smart appliances,” which let you connect your appliances onto a smart grid that tells your appliances to run during off-peak hours
- Use power strips. Otherwise, unplug
If your home is far from the main grid, or if you’re simply interested in environmentally friendly alternatives to home energy, you may want to invest in solar panels. Solar panels usually cost around $11,600 (according to EnergySage) for the average home and can generate heat, lighting, and electricity.
- Solar systems can offer serious savings by offsetting your home energy bill
- Some utilities, states, or cities will also offer a credit for the energy you sell back to the main grid
- Check with your state, city, or local utility for any rebates, tax credits, or incentives you could get for installing solar panels on your home
Extra tid-bits from EnergySaver.gov:
- “Above 50 mph, gas mileage drops rapidly. For every 5 mph above 50 mph, it’s like paying an additional $0.25 per gallon of gasoline.”
- Use a laptop instead of a desktop computer when you can. Laptops use a fraction of the energy used by desktops.
- Avoid “vampire loads” by turning off your electronics and appliances when not in use.
- Wash your laundry in cold water and in full loads whenever possible. Heating water for your laundry is not always necessary and uses a lot of energy.
- Planting trees on the south and wests sides of your house will allow for sunshine in the winter and shade in the summer!
- Don’t over-work your air conditioner in the summer. Invest in heat-reflective materials (like paint, shingles, or tiles) for your roof.
If you’re interested in a full home energy upgrade and energy audit for your multifamily housing property, click here. With plenty of solutions for energy savings and access to rebates and incentives for qualified projects, ICAST is a one-stop-shop for deep building retrofits.