20 Ways Your Home Can Be More Energy Efficient

America ranks first in energy waste not only among developed nations, but among all nations. That’s huge. As American homeowners, we’re all guilty of bad habits — but small changes can make a big difference in the amount of waste you produce each day.

Energy efficient homes are no longer a far-fetched concept of the future. Today, though, the term energy efficiency is more than just purchasing the latest appliances that say they use less energy. To truly have an energy efficient home, you must be actively involved in conserving energy.

To help you learn how to save energy at home, we broke down these 20 (totally doable) tips.

How to save energy at home

1. Install a programmable thermostat

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you could save around 10 percent a year on your heating and cooling bills by lowering your thermostat back 10° to 15° for eight hours a day. A programmable thermostat makes this task easier for you because it lets you choose what days and times you want to heat your home and at what temperatures — without having to think about it.

2. Seal your windows

If your windows have worn weather stripping, you could be enabling drafts and letting in unnecessary cold air — which will in turn make your heater run more often and use unnecessary extra energy. In general, you should replace these window seals every five years.

3. Add insulated siding to your home

Most U.S. homes use standard siding to protect the structure from the elements. Insulated (or thermal) siding, on the other hand, provides an additional layer of permanent foam that fills in the gaps between the siding and the wall. Opting for insulated siding could keep your home more comfortable and save you upwards of 20 percent on your annual energy bills.

4. Wash clothes in cold water

According to Energy Star, water heating consumes about 90 percent of the energy it takes to operate a clothes washer. Unless you’re dealing with difficult stains, you should be fine to use cold water. If you switch your setting from hot to warm, you could cut your energy use in half. Using the cold cycle reduces energy even more.

5. Switch to Energy Star appliances

As much as half of the energy used in your home is going towards heating and cooling. If you want to heat your home as efficiently as possible, consider updating your home to use Energy Star appliances. Energy Star products are the same units you use every day — except they use less energy. In order to earn this label, these products must meet strict energy efficiency criteria set by the U.S. Department of Energy.

6. Replace furnace filters

An old furnace filter is one of the most common (and avoidable) HVAC issues. A clogged, dirty filter will limit airflow and cause pressure to build up in the furnace. By simply changing your filter, you can increase your heat output and efficiency.

7. Take shorter showers

Long showers may be relaxing, but they’re also notorious for wasting water. An average shower uses about five gallons of water per minute. By simply shortening your shower by two minutes, you can cut your water use by 10 gallons.

8. Insulate water pipes

If you insulate your hot water pipes, you could reduce heat loss and produce water temperatures 2°F to 4°F hotter than uninsulated pipes can deliver (allowing you to lower your hot water temperature setting). This small change could cost you as little as $10 but save you 3 to 4 percent on energy annually.

9. Seal air ducts

In general, houses with forced-air heating lose about 20 to 30 percent of the air that moves through the system to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts. If you check your ductwork and find a leak, Alexandria HVAC service professionals should be able to cover it with a mastic sealant or metal tape.

10. Add storm windows

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, windows are responsible for 20 percent of the air that’s escaping your home. If you install storm windows, you can reduce your heat loss through windows by 25 to 50 percent.

11. Install a cool roof

A cool roof is a type of roof that’s designed to reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than a standard roof. Aside from reducing the amount of energy your air conditioner uses, cool roofs can reduce local air temperatures, lower peak electricity demand and reduce dangerous power plant emissions.

12. Opt for renewable electricity

US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory discovered that renewable energy could help reduce the electricity sector emissions by approximately 81 percent. Most utility companies will offer the option to purchase renewable electricity. The most common options are electricity made from renewable energy like solar, wind, hydropower, biomass and geothermal.

13. Use window shades wisely

Something as little as window shades has the potential to make a difference in the temperature of your home. During the cold weather, take advantage of the sun’s warmth by keeping drapes open. In the summer, close your window shades to keep the heat out.

14. Turn down the water heater temperature

Although most manufacturers set the water heater thermostats at 140°F, they really only need to be set at 120°F. In fact, if your water heater is set too high, you could be wasting anywhere from $36 to $61 annually in standby heat losses and more than $400 in demand losses.

15. Swap out old light bulbs for LED alternatives

LED lights emit less heat than traditional incandescent and halogen lights. Switching to LED light bulbs can help the typical home save about a $1,000 over a 10-year period. That’s roughly $8.33 a month.

16. Use low-flow showerheads

Showering is one of the leading ways we use water in the home — accounting for nearly 17 percent of residential indoor water use (which is nearly 40 gallons per day for the average family). Minimize the amount of water your showers use by installing a low-flow showerhead. Using a WaterSense showerhead, for example, the average family could save 2,900 gallons of water and more than 370-kilowatt hours of electricity per year.

17. Cook with microwaves and toaster ovens

If you’re cooking a large meal, it makes total sense to use your full-size oven. If you’re warming up a small- or medium-sized meal, however, it’s best to take advantage of your toaster or microwave oven. Cooking a meal in a toaster oven or microwave has the potential to save over 50 percent of the energy used to cook the same meal in a conventional electric oven.

18. Set up dimmer switches

Dimmer switches can do more than set mood lighting for your home. If you use a dimmer to lower the level of light your fixtures are producing, you can save that percentage of energy. For example, lowering the lights by 25 percent could result in 25 percent energy savings.

19. Unplug unnecessary appliances

Standby power accounts for 4 to 12 percent of a typical home’s total energy consumption — so turn off unnecessary appliances when they aren’t in use. To make this easier, plug home electronics into power strips. That way, you only have to turn the power strips off when the equipment is not in use.

20. Get an HVAC inspection

HVAC tune ups or maintenance include a comprehensive check of your entire unit. It usually includes duct and filter inspection, motor lubrication, pressure checks, part cleaning and connection tightening, among other things. If you follow regular tune ups and maintenance checks (in addition to following proper insulation, air sealing and thermostat techniques), you can cut your heating and cooling energy use by 20 to 50 percent. Those are some big savings.

How energy efficient is your home?

We all want to do our part to protect the environment, but there’s a pragmatic reason to make your home more energy-efficient, too. Saving energy means saving money. Learn more about energy efficient homes and consider a service plan through the Alexandria home service company John C. Flood to make sure you’re not letting dollars run out your door. 

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