September 22, 2016
Category: Trends & Innovations
How to make your home more energy efficient
Whether you are looking to cut your energy bills or to reduce your carbon footprint, making your home energy-efficient is always a good move. According to the International Energy Agency, “something is more energy-efficient, when it delivers more services for the same energy output or the same services for less energy output.” Back in July we discussed Green Construction and why it matters, but even if you are not yet ready for a complete “green overhaul”, you can still make your home more energy efficient by making small changes. We put together a few tips to help you with that.
Replace light bulbs
You can save a lot of energy by replacing your incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient ones. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), halogen bulbs and light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs) last a lot longer and consume less energy. If you are not sure what kind of energy-efficient bulbs to choose, look for the Energy Star label – those bulbs use 70 to 90 percent less energy than traditional incandescent ones, last 10 to 25 times longer and save a lot of money in electricity cost over their lifetime.
Replace light switches
Once you have replaced your light bulbs, you may consider updating your light switches as well. There are multiple models available on the market designed specifically to help you save energy. They can be used with multiple light sources including different technologies in one circuit. You can choose a switch with a dimmer, an “off” timer or the one with the “occupancy sensing” ability, which means that it turns the lights on when someone enters the room and turns them off 30 seconds to 30 minutes after everyone has left.
To preserve the energy already present in your home, you may consider improving your insulation. If you look at your home as an “envelope” you will notice that it probably has multiple leaks in doors, windows, outer walls and other openings. If you seal the leaks in the “envelope” through the right kind of insulation, it can help you not only save on your energy bills, but also make your home more comfortable by reducing the noise level from the street, providing better humidity control and offering an extra barrier against pests and allergens. You can improve your home insulation by sealing doors, windows and any cracks in the foundation. If your insulation needs are substantial, we recommend hiring a professional. When you seal your home’s “envelope,” you can immediately enjoy the increased comfort and decreased energy bills.
Replace shower heads
“Low Flow” shower heads got a “bad rep” on the Jerry Seinfeld show, as many of us can remember Jerry and Kramer with their misshapen hairdos after showering with “not enough pressure.” However, almost two decades later, “low flow” shower heads are no longer the nemesis they used to be. The newer models provide you with enough water pressure to shower effectively (and sometimes even better than with conventional models), while still reducing your water (and water heater) use. Look for the WaterSense label, which means that a shower head uses no more that 2 gallons-per-minute (gpm), while the traditional ones use at least 2.5 gpm.
Use cold water to do your laundry
Maintaining your laundry room equipment can go a long way to help your home to be more energy-efficient. There are a few things you can do, like doing full loads or using a special setting for reduced loads and regularly cleaning the screen in the dryer to prevent fire hazards and improve air circulation, but nothing saves you more energy in the laundry room than washing your clothes in cold water, using cold-water detergent. According to consumer reports, your clothes will be just as clean if you use cold water instead of “warm” or “hot” setting. The mechanical and chemical factors (the thumbling and friction in the machine and using the detergent) are strong enough without adding a heat source, even for your “whites.”
Change your energy source
While switching to alternative energy sources can come with a hefty price tag, it can save you a lot of money in the long run. Solar panels are becoming more and more commonplace, as more and more households consider this investment worthwhile. Even if you live in a geographic area with limited sunlight, you can still benefit from alternative energy sources by using a geothermal system that can be installed anywhere. Do your research – some states offer incentive programs for homeowners looking to switch to alternative energy sources. New York State’s, for example, offers solar installation incentives for new users, as well as “net metering” and tax incentives, as outlined by the NY State’s Department of Environmental Conservation(NYSDEC).
If you are not sure about where the energy is wasted around your home, you may consider hiring an energy auditor to evaluate any possible inefficiencies. Although certified and trained auditors charge per square foot, they can identify areas that need improvement and pin-point savings opportunities.
Stop using space heaters
Even if you need an extra heat source, using electric or gas space heaters may be a bad idea. While you may want to feel extra “toasty” during the winter, space heaters are the worst way to keep you warm – many of them use an insane amount of power to run and can seriously drain your energy use. The author of this article once had a rude awakening to a hefty ConEdison bill and requested an audit from the energy company. The rep on site inspected all of our electrical plugins and, noticing several electric space heaters around our floor-through space, said (while pointing her finger), “I see your problem right there, and there, and over there as well!” She was talking about a half-dozen electric heaters we had set out all over the place, which were apparently drawing a ridiculous amount of energy. We tossed them all in the trash and, by just doing that, cut our electric bill in half.
Unplug unused chargers
Another good thing that can come from an energy company audit, is some helpful advice from professionals. The same ConEd rep that recommended tossing our space heaters, also pointed out a number of plugged in phone and computer charges that were not connected to any device. The “phantom” power they use can add up over time, even when they are not connected to anything. Unplug them you’re your devices are not in use and you will enjoy energy savings that you didn’t even know about.
Use Energy Star products
All Energy Star products (not just the light bulbs we mentioned earlier) use 10 to 50 percent less energy than conventional appliances and help reduce emissions and lower your energy bills. Nowadays, you can find Energy Star televisions, air conditioners, stoves, washers, dryers and many other appliances. A quality Energy Star appliance can serve you for years and save your hard-earned money, while making your household more eco-friendly.
We hope that you found our tips on how to make your home more energy efficient helpful and that you will give some of them a try. Remember, small steps can lead to big changes!