Whether you are using solar power or conventional utilities, a major goal for all homeowners is energy efficiency. We all want to save money on our monthly electric bills, and we also want to live in a comfortable home.
Today, we will examine some of the simplest ways to improve the energy efficiency in the home. Some of these can be completed in as little as a few hours and with very few pieces of equipment or technical know-how. With a few simple changes, you can make important upgrades to your home.
Before tackling any home improvement strategies, it is important to understand how energy is distributed throughout the home. The diagram below gives you a clear indication of where your energy is being used. Pay close attention to the three largest energy users: heating, water, and cooling.
Knowing that over 70% of home energy needs is distributed among three core areas, it makes it easier to plan the first steps in energy home improvement. If you want to make an immediate impact – without much cost or labor – start by sealing your home.
Air leaks account for up to 30% of energy loss per year. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest and most cost-effective home improvements that you can make. With weather stripping, foam, or caulk, you can seal the air leaks and quickly increase the energy efficiency in your home.
Not only does this create a more comfortable environment in your home, it also results in enormous savings on your monthly energy bill. Simply put, your home will be better equipped to remain the temperature that want.
While you are sealing all the air leaks in your doors and windows, this is a great time to add insulation to your house. The most important places to add insulation are the attic, basement, crawl spaces, and exterior walls. Adding insulation in these areas will keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter, which has an obvious impact on both your comfort and your energy bills. When you add insulation and caulk the air leaks around the home, you will instantly improve your home.
Energy Efficient Windows and Doors
Air leaks and insulation are a great start, but you may reach a point at which doors and windows need to be replaced. Storm windows and doors – even when properly sealed – can contribute to up to 50% of energy loss in a home. Good options for windows and doors are double-paned windows and Energy Star storm windows.
Heating and Cooling Systems
Because heating and cooling demand such high energy usage, it is important to keep these systems maintained and upgraded. This includes installing and setting programmable thermostats. This will easily save energy (and money) by regulating the temperature of the home while you are away. Manual thermostats allow too much margin for error, but a pre-programmed thermostat will adjust to the needs of your house without any additional input.
This can result in significant savings over the year. By turning down the heat or air conditioning (particularly during peak hours), you can save 10-15% on your energy bill each year.
You can make many small and simple changes to your home which will pay dividends over time. For example, by switching to LED light bulbs, you will lower your energy usage while ensuring a longer life for your lights.
You can also install plug-ins that will regulate the energy loss from appliances such as toasters, microwaves, and phone chargers. When they are left plugged in, they create “energy drain,” a slow energy loss that can cost you over the long run. These plug-ins will power down your appliances when they are not in use, limiting energy drain.
Of course, one of the best ways to increase your home’s energy efficiency and lower your monthly bills is by installing solar panels on your home. Solar power will affect your electricity use for all appliances and lighting and can also be used to run your cooling system. Although most homes currently use natural gas water heaters, solar-powered furnaces are becoming an increasingly viable option for new construction. This has the potential to allow homeowners to get nearly 100% of their power needs from solar.
Whether you make individual changes to your home, or switch entirely to solar, there are many ways to improve the energy efficiency in your home. By making a few simple changes, you can create incredible energy savings over the course of a year. As a result, you will enjoy a more comfortable environment and significantly lower monthly bills.