8 Ways Your Household Can Save Money by Being More Energy Efficient
Follow the advice in this article and you will definitely save money by being more energy efficient. It sounds simple, right? In actuality it is really as easy as you make it…fortunately there are several things you can do to your existing home or ways to find an energy efficient house if you are looking to purchase a property.
Historically success has been about excess. To earn more, to use more, and in some cases to waste more was a sign that you’d made it. “Greed is good,” as Gordon Gecko famously proclaimed.
But this sentiment is beginning to be flipped on its head. Increasingly success is seen as responsible and efficient use of resources. This can be seen in the push to replace fossil fuel power with renewable sources, in Tesla recently becoming the world’s most valuable car brand, and in the concept of ‘flight shame’, which has seen many people taking a more sustainable approach to travel.
Greed is no longer good. Green is good. Energy efficiency is officially cool, and it begins, like so many things, at home.
NRDC reports that simply switching to energy efficient appliances can save a US household as much as $500 per year. And the perks of making your home energy efficient don’t stop at utility bills:
- The value of your home will increase.
- Your impact on the environment will reduce.
- Smarter ways of heating, cooling, lighting and managing your home will allow you to enjoy a more comfortable life.
- A report by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy found that “achievable and common-sense energy efficiency measures could help save six American lives every day and avoid up to $20 billion in health harms each year.”
The question then is not if you should make your home more energy efficient, but how? Today we’ll be taking a look at eight of the most effective ways to decrease your energy use while simultaneously increasing your quality of life.
The orientation of your home
If you’re lucky enough to be building from scratch, you are granted a fantastic opportunity to create a new home that is incredibly energy efficient. This begins with your choice of land, and how your property will be placed on it. Ensuring your living areas and other ‘day’ rooms are on the southern edge of the property can help to maximize the warmth and natural light offered by the sun. Positioning the home so that there is a large section of roof that is correctly oriented for solar panels will ensure that you have the option of generating your own power, reducing your reliance on the grid.
Those are just two examples of the role that orientation plays in increasing the energy efficiency of your home, but there are many more. To better understand how you can maximize the efficiency of your new home, speak to your builder. And for more info on choosing the perfect block of land, check out Lotmix’s handy guide to help you as you begin your search for land.
The importance of insulation
No matter whether you live in a hot, cold or temperate climate, the fluffy stuff in your walls and ceiling is most likely the biggest factor in the energy efficiency of your home. Insulation ensures that when it’s uncomfortable outside—be it snowing, sweltering or anything in between—your home stays at the perfect temperature, helping your heating or cooling system to do its job efficiently.
According to Energy Star, the EPA estimates that the average homeowner can reduce heating and cooling costs by 15% (approximately $200 per year) by adding insulation in attics, basements and crawl spaces, with the figure increasing to 20% in colder climates. If you are looking to up the insulation efficiency of your home:
- View insulation as an investment: It can be tempting to choose the cheapest option, but the larger initial investment you make on good quality insulation will quickly pay itself back in lower bills.
- Consider autoclaved aerated concrete: Unlike brick, autoclaved aerated concrete, otherwise known as AAC, is designed with thermal efficiency in mind. When compared against brick and other traditional materials, you can expect AAC to insulate well, particularly in more extreme conditions.
- Consider superinsulation: Superinsulation isn’t a product, but rather an approach. It involves designing and building a home using the most effective insulation strategies and materials possible. Superinsulation can be retrofitted to an established home, but it’s more commonly used in new home builds, particularly in areas of extreme cold.
Sealing the inside from the outside
You might’ve chosen the finest insulation in the world, and you might’ve splurged on a top of the line heating or cooling system, but if your home isn’t adequately sealed, it’ll all be for nothing. That is especially true if you are looking to see winter energy savings in the colder months.
We’ve all found ourselves standing by a door when a cold draft sneaks in. A small gap around a window or in the ceiling might not seem like a big deal, but it can seriously undermine your heating, cooling and insulation efforts. To ensure your heating and cooling systems aren’t doing unnecessary work, it’s vital that your home is adequately sealed by:
- Caulking the joints and seams
- Installing weather strips around entry points
- Using draft stoppers/door snakes where appropriate
Choosing the right windows
Windows can act as real energy savers, bathing your home in the warmth and natural light of the sun. By the same token they can also act as energy wasters, particularly if they are cheap or badly installed.
Windows allow a bit of the outdoors in, but from time to time they take
their role a little too seriously. Single-glazed windows can transfer a surprising amount of heat and cold into your home, while poorly sealed edges can lead to the drafts mentioned above.
To guard against the worst of windows while still enjoying the best, choose a double- or even triple-glazed option, even if you’re in a hot climate, as multiple window layers are just as efficient at keeping the heat out as they are keeping the heat in. Like the investment in quality insulation, the higher upfront cost will pay itself back through lower electricity bills.
If you’re in a warm or temperate climate and don’t feel as though you can justify the expense of double glazing, window films, blinds, shutters, and well-sealed edges are lower-cost ways to increase heating and cooling efficiency.
Generating your own power with solar
What better way to lower your power bill than to generate your own electricity? And what better way to generate your own electricity than to utilize the sunshine that beats down on your roof every day?
Solar panels have made incredible strides over the last couple of decades, and their development is only accelerating. While historically they’ve been seen as somewhat of a luxury, and suitable only for particularly sunny states, they’re now so efficient and inexpensive that they are a compelling option for almost every home.
Solar panels can power your home through the day, and when combined with a battery like the Tesla Powerwall they can power you through the night too! Many areas also offer power bill rebates to solar panel owners who feed excess power back into the grid, which means that you could say goodbye to electricity bills, and actually earn money from running your solar setup!
What’s more, according to Trina Solar a solar panel setup is seen by many buyers as a real showpiece and x-factor, increasing the value of your property by as much as 17%, and seeing it sell up to 20% faster.
Smart and energy efficient appliances
Over the last couple of decades running costs have become perhaps the most important selling point of household appliances, driving these products to become ever more efficient. This evolution means that pretty much every new appliance is significantly more efficient than previous iterations, with new washing machines, dishwashers and air conditioners often using half the amount of energy than that of an equivalent unit of 10 or 20 years ago.
This means that whitegoods and other appliances are yet another example of an upfront investment quickly paying itself back through lower power bills. Big ticket items such as air conditioners and water heaters tend to use a lot of energy, so an investment here can pay itself back particularly quickly.
The US Department of Energy’s eeCompass site is a great place to start for anyone hunting for an energy efficient appliance. Here you can quickly and easily compare the energy efficiency of over two million appliances and make the right choice for your situation. The department claims that their energy conservation standards saved American consumers $63 billion on their energy bills in 2015 alone.
Energy efficiency isn’t just about minimizing the raw power needed to run an appliance – it’s also about intelligent use of that power. In this way smart home technology can be a real energy saver, by automatically turning appliances, lighting, heating and cooling on and off only when needed. A smart home setup could open up the blinds in south-facing rooms while you’re at work, for example, letting the sun warm your home ready for your arrival home at the end of the day.
Water efficiency can represent a significant cost saving too, so be sure to select washing machines, dishwashers, toilets, shower heads and faucets that use less water per cycle, flush or minute.
Shining a light on energy efficiency
Arguably the most actionable of all the items on our list, lighting has a huge role to play in household energy efficiency. Like our household appliances, lighting has taken huge strides forward in the last couple of decades, and now the simple switching of bulbs represents a straightforward and incredibly effective way to lower your power bills. Where incandescent bulbs were the standard for the longest time, more energy-efficient and often longer-lasting options are now readily available:
- Halogen: Halogen lights are still technically incandescent, but they last far longer than traditional incandescent bulbs and are 30% more energy-efficient.
- Compact fluorescent lamp (CFL): A step up from halogen, CFLs are longer-lasting and more efficient, but they do have a tendency to fade as time goes by. For this reason they have been largely superseded by the next option on our list, LEDs.
- Light-emitting diode (LED): Don’t let the high upfront cost of LEDs fool you. These lights are incredibly energy efficient, and offer a lifespan that is no less than 4x that of CFLs, and 35x that of incandescents. Over their lifetime LEDs are by far the most cost-effective choice, while also having no real downside—no dimming, no excess heat, and greater reliability.
Replacing bad habits with good
While all of the other items on this list require you to spend money in order to save money, there is a way of increasing your home’s energy efficiency without paying a cent. It just takes discipline.
Most of us have energy usage habits that are less than ideal. By changing those habits we can seriously reduce the cost of running our household, both in terms of money and environmental impact. A few small behaviors that can make a big difference to your energy use include:
- Waiting until you have a full load of clothes or dishes before you wash them
- Utilizing energy efficient settings on your appliances
- Unplugging appliances and other electronics at the wall
- Setting your air conditioner to a slightly higher temperature—say 75F rather than 65F-70F
- Turning off lights as you leave a room and maximizing natural light
While retrofitting energy efficient technology and strategies to an established home is possible, by far the easiest way to create an efficient home is if you build new, ensuring that the best appliances, fittings and design elements are included. In many ways a move into a new home also represents a new start, making the development of good energy habits that much easier.
Lower power bills and a reduction in your environmental impact. Higher levels of comfort and greater resale value. When you get down to it, there’s really no argument against choosing an energy efficient future. The sooner you do so, the sooner you’ll be enjoying all the perks that come with the low energy life.
Green is good—for the planet, for your family’s comfort, and most of all for your hip pocket.
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