Kaylei Fear for Better Homes & Gardens on conserving energy at home.
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Consider these steps to cut your home’s energy consumption, keep utility bills low, and lead a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
Energy-efficient home upgrades are not only environmentally responsible, but they can also save you a lot of money over time. Even small updates, such as swapping old lightbulbs for LED versions, can make a huge difference. And while large-scale changes like replacing windows or adding insulation help reduce energy consumption in the long run, a lot of energy-saving updates can be accomplished in a day or less. Another reason to consider? Many of the energy-efficient renovations you can make to your home qualify for tax credits. Below, see some of the top home improvements for reducing energy consumption and saving on your utility bill.
1. Buy Energy-Efficient Appliances
Major appliances are your home’s third-biggest energy hog, behind heating, cooling, and water heating. Replace outdated appliances with efficient new models. In the long run, replacing old appliances will help your bills and the environment. Energy Star-qualified models have a range of efficiencies, so compare models and go with the most efficient.
2. Use Occupancy Sensors
Turn off the lights when you leave a room. If that’s difficult for you or your kids to remember, buy lights with occupancy sensors that automatically turn off when there hasn’t been any movement for a period of time. Consider dimmer switches that let you reduce lighting when you don’t need it and have occupancy sensors. Dimmers can easily replace a regular switch and keep a low profile.
3. Unplug Your Electronics
Leaving gadgets and charger cords plugged in when not in use can account for as much as 10% of a home’s energy use. Simply unplugging what’s not being used can make a big difference on your energy bills. Instead, plug devices into a power strip that you can switch off when not in use. Remember to unplug what you can when you leave your home as well.
4. Use Cold Water for Laundry
Do your laundry in cold water. Many of today’s detergents and fabric softeners are much more efficient and don’t necessarily need hot water. Using cold water means you won’t have to waste energy to start up the water heater.
In the summer months, line-dry your laundry instead of using a dryer. Reducing your use of a dryer can save up to $100 a year in operating costs. Plus, line-drying is easier on your clothes, so you save what you would otherwise spend on wear and tear.
5. Program Your Thermostat
Install a programmable thermostat to reduce energy consumption without having to adjust your lifestyle. This allows you to set times for the air-conditioner or furnace to run and won’t waste energy on an empty house. Estimates vary, but you can save about 10% on your energy bill with a smart thermostat.
6. Turn Down the Temperature
Lower the temperature on your water heater. Most water heaters are set much too high at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Save energy by turning your water heater down to 120-110 degrees. Don’t worry, the water will still be comfortable.
7. Change Your Lightbulbs
Replace incandescent bulbs with light-emitting diode (LED) versions. According to Energy.gov, LED lightbulbs use up to 90% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. While more expensive than traditional bulbs upfront, LED lightbulbs save money over time thanks to their long lifespan.
8. Fill Gaps
Small gaps around windows, doors, and other areas of the house add up. In fact, the EPA estimates that homeowners can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs (or an average of 11% on total energy costs) by air sealing their homes and adding insulation in attics, floors over crawl spaces, and basements. Seal gaps and cracks with caulk or weather stripping to keep the cold air out in the winter and the hot air out in the summer.
9. Schedule a Tune-Up
Dirt can build up over time, causing your HVAC system to perform poorly. If ignored, this can lead to higher energy costs and potentially higher repair costs. Have a licensed professional check your system annually. If your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old, and your heat pump or air conditioner is more than 12 years old, consider replacing it with a new energy-efficient model.
10. Replace Filters
Check your HVAC filter each month and wash or replace it at least every three months. A dirty filter increases your energy bill and shortens the life of your heating and cooling systems.
11. Fix Air Leaks
There are probably more air leaks around your home than you think. In addition to caulking and adding weather stripping around windows, close the fireplace damper when it’s not being used to keep cold air out in the winter and hot air out in the summer. Also, check your dryer vent cap to make sure it closes tightly.
12. Fix Water Leaks
Check for leaky fixtures and appliances, and inspect the pipes under each sink. You should also inspect your washing machine hose and the floor around your water heater for potential leaks. These could be wasting energy and draining your wallet. Also, test toilets for leaks. Replacing the flapper will usually fix that problem.
13. Upgrade Windows
If your home has single-pane windows, they could be wasting up to 25% of your energy costs. Replacing single-pane windows with high-performance double-pane Energy Star-rated windows reduces this energy loss. Look for windows labeled low-emissivity (low-E) or spectrally selective. They have a coating that reduces thermal heat transfer.
14. Add Insulation
Most homes are under-insulated, which means heating and cooling systems are forced to work overtime to keep a home comfortable. Add fiberglass insulation to your attic floor and house walls and save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs.
15. Utilize the Sun
On cool days, take advantage of the sun’s warmth by opening south-facing window blinds and shades; close them at night. On hot days, block out the sun’s warmth by closing these window treatments.