Ways to Increase Home Efficiency
Many builders are utilizing green construction methods in new homes, but if you own an older home, you may be wondering how to make sure your property is energy efficient without spending thousands of dollars. We recommend that when you do have to purchase a new dishwasher, dryer or refrigerator, go with energy efficient home appliances that are manufactured under newer regulations for maximum energy savings. Instead of making a major retrofit to your residence, use these tips to increase your overall energy efficiency without spending a lot of money.
Heating and Cooling Ideas
- Adjust thermostats when your home isn’t in use, i.e., during the day when everyone is at work or school. At night, when everyone is tucked in under warm covers, turn the thermostat down a couple of degrees. Make sure the thermostat is calibrated annually to ensure the temperature readings are correct.
- During peak heating and cooling times, change the HVAC filter every month. Dirty filters not only result in lower air quality, causing allergies, they also force the HVAC unit to work harder and less efficiently. Make sure that your furniture doesn’t block vents, as this can make your heater and AC burn more energy to work.
- Use shades, blinds and drapes to prevent or encourage heat gain during winter and summer. Keeping the drapes closed at night prevents heat from being lost through the window in the winter. During the day, open south-facing blinds to get direct sun and add heat to a room. In the summer, do the reverse. Keep blinds closed during the day, or install solar screens to prevent the sun from heating up a room during the day.
- It sounds really simple, but one of the best ways to be energy efficient is to turn off lights that aren’t in use or when natural lighting is sufficient. Sunlight is free, where electricity is not, so take advantage of the natural daylight. Check areas to make sure they have the proper amount of lighting. When installing lights, choose energy–efficient LED options. Although the initial investment might be a bit more than traditional CFLs, in the long run, LEDs use less energy and last longer.
- Computers, printers, and televisions pull electricity when they are plugged in. Check the owner’s manual to change settings that put your electronic devices into a low-powered mode when not in use. Use smart power strips that designate which electronics need to be “on” versus which ones do not need power.
Incorporate Your Family Into Energy Efficiency
- Go over your electricity bills with your family and set goals to reduce heating, cooling and lighting costs. Set rewards for using less power each month, and have consequences when lights are left on. If your local utility company offers an audit or suggestions for using less energy, get them involved. Look for rebates from companies to install energy-efficient appliances and systems.
- Have your HVAC system and other equipment regularly maintained to ensure maximum home efficiency. Inspect installation and ductwork to make sure that you’re not losing energy through your attic, walls or windows. Caulk, seals and gaskets are often very inexpensive to buy and install but can save you money throughout every season by keeping your home more comfortable. Make sure your doors and windows are energy-efficient, well-insulated and optimized for size and orientation.
- Recycle used materials when you’re upgrading to green materials. Many green construction methods already utilize recycled components, but the stuff you’re getting rid of shouldn’t just go in the trash receptacle. Talk to your construction company to ensure that glass, plastic, steel, brass, and concrete are being taken to a recycling program specifically for construction materials.
Discuss your energy-saving goals with a home remodeling professional. Design-build contractors who keep up with the industry know what systems are going to save you the most money. Look for tax rebates from federal, state and local governments for installing different measures such as solar panels or energy-efficient HVAC systems.
Going green doesn’t mean that you can’t use electricity or water, it just means that you need to be more conscious about how you use energy. Making good choices in home design allows you to implement ways to increase home efficiency without feeling as if you’re living in the dark.