8 ways to transform your house into an energy-efficient home

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8 ways to transform your house into an energy-efficient home

Do you feel like you’re spending a fortune on your electric bill? Chances are, your home is using a lot more electricity than it needs to, but don’t despair. There are a ton of easy ways to save energy – and save money while you’re at it.

Some things are as easy as changing a lightbulb, while others may require you to change some of your daily habits. But, it’ll all be worth it once the savings are in your wallet.

We’ve compiled eight easy tips that can help you increase your home’s energy efficiency, conserve energy, and make your electricity bills the lowest they’ve ever been.

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    Energy efficiency vs. energy conservation

    There are two ways you can save energy: energy efficiency and energy conservation. While the two sound similar, there is a significant difference between them.

    When something is energy efficient, it will use less energy to complete the same job as something else. For example, an energy-efficient dishwasher will use less electricity to clean your dishes than a traditional dishwasher. The key to energy efficiency is doing more with less.

    Energy conservation is a little bit different. Instead of getting a new appliance to reduce your power consumption, you’re actively changing your habits to use less energy. Think of things like turning off the lights when you leave a room, taking shorter showers, or setting your air conditioner to a higher temperature.

    By combing both energy-efficient upgrades and energy conservation habits, you can see significant energy savings.

    Energy efficient upgrades that save energy

    Creating an energy-efficient home can be done by making several improvements. Some are bigger investments than others, but they end up lowering your electricity bill in the long run.

    Here are a few energy efficiency measures to keep in mind:

    1. Get a home energy audit

    A home energy audit, or home energy evaluation, will identify which energy efficiency improvements you should make to your home to decrease your energy use.

    During an energy audit, several tests and inspections will be completed to determine what improvements will benefit you the most. Once the audit is complete, you can decide what improvements you want to make to your home, whether it’s fixing air leaks from doors and windows or tuning up your heating and cooling system.

    Hiring a professional energy auditor typically costs between $100 and $500, depending on the size of your home. But, you can also complete a home energy assessment yourself and save on the inspection costs. We have a handy DIY Energy Audit Checklist to help guide you.

    Just keep in mind that professionals will be able to perform sophisticated tests and find more room for improvement, which could save you more money on your electricity bills in the long run.

    2. Replace your lightbulbs

    Installing energy-efficient lighting is one of the easiest things you can do to increase your home’s energy efficiency.

    Energy-efficient lightbulbs, specifically LED light bulbs, use 75% less energy than incandescent light bulbs because they don’t release as much heat. By eliminating heat loss, LEDs can use substantially less energy.

    One incandescent light bulb uses 15 times more energy than an LED bulb!

    It seems like a minuscule upgrade, but switching to energy-efficient lighting can save a serious amount of energy. The typical home has about 40 lightbulbs. Having all of your lights on for one hour would cost $6 with incandescent bulbs, but could cost just $1.50 with LEDs!

    Not to mention, LED lights last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, so you also save money by reducing the number of lightbulbs you have to replace.

    3. Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances

    Switching from traditional appliances to energy-efficient ones is another great way to lower energy consumption. Energy-efficient appliances are designed to use less electricity to get the job done.

    Energy star is a third-party company that certifies that appliances and electronics meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) energy efficiency requirements without sacrificing performance.

    Finding energy-efficient appliances is easy — just look for the Energy Star label when you’re shopping. Most major appliance brands offer energy-efficient models, so you can stick to the brands you trust. Energy Star-certified products do tend to come at a higher price point, but you will be saving more on your electricity bill.

    4. Use smart power strips

    If you’re afraid of ghosts, then you should be terrified of phantom loads. A phantom load is an electronic device that is turned off while plugged in but still draws electricity from the outlet. Phantom loads can end up adding $200 to your utility bill every year!

    Smart power strips save you money by stopping power from going to devices that don’t need it, such as your computer, but keep the power flowing to devices that you need to remain on, like your WiFi.

    Things like televisions, printers, computers, and device chargers all draw energy even when they aren’t in use. But do you really want to unplug your TV every time you’re not watching it?

    Smart power strips reduce your home energy use by shutting down electronics that go into “standby mode” while still powering other devices that need to stay on all the time, like your WiFi router.

    5. Tune up your HVAC system

    Heating and cooling your home is a huge source of wasted electricity. In fact, heating and cooling are the two biggest categories of energy usage in households. Because of this, it’s important to keep up with your heating and cooling system’s regular maintenance.

    As your system ages, parts of your HVAC system can become loose or torn. By having a professional take a look at your HVAC system once a year, you can catch these issues before they start wasting your energy and your money.

    6. Get a smart or programmable thermostat

    Once you’ve checked up on your HVAC system, you can reduce your heating and cooling costs even more with smart and programmable thermostats. With these thermostats, you can program what temperature you want to be based on your daily schedule. The thermostat can then automatically adjust the temperature while you’re away so it isn’t overheating or overcooling the home while no one is there.

    Smart thermostats can help you cut down on the thing that’s costing you the most on your electric bill - heating and cooling. Image source: HVAC.com

    Some smart thermostats take it a step further and can detect when you’re home, or even what room you’re in, based on motion sensors and the location of your phone and can make adjustments to the temperature throughout the day.

    7. Install energy-efficient windows

    Installing energy-efficient windows is another excellent way to maximize your energy savings.

    Energy-efficient windows usually have multiple panes of glass that are separated by gas fills. The gas in between the panes of glass is usually argon or krypton, which helps provide added insulation to the windows. They also usually have high-quality wooden frames that reduce the transfer of heat.

    But energy-efficient windows can be quite expensive. So, if you don’t already need to replace your windows, it might make more sense for you to seal your windows using caulk or weatherstripping to prevent air leaks. Air sealing your windows is an easy DIY project that can decrease your home’s energy usage.

    8. Insulate your home

    Poor insulation can be another reason heating and cooling your home can cost you so much money. If your home isn’t properly insulated, you need to use a lot of extra energy to get the temperature where you want it. A well-insulated home is an energy-efficient home!

    Make sure that any walls or floors between your home and an unheated space, like the wall between your home and an attached garage, are insulated. You should also check for any drafts coming from your doors and windows that can be caulked over to reduce unwanted airflow.

    In this home, it would be beneficial to add insulation between the attic and the top floor, as the attic is an unheated space.

    This does tend to be a more expensive upgrade – to the tune of about $1,000. But, the EPA estimates homeowners could save 15% on heating and cooling costs just by adding fiberglass insulation to their homes.

    Save money on energy-efficient upgrades with incentives. There are lots of incentives out there to help homeowners reduce the cost of energy-efficient home improvements. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 actually reinstated the previously-expired Energy Efficient Home Improvement tax credit that can cover 30% of qualified energy efficiency improvements, up to $1,200 annually! There are also energy efficiency rebates offered by state and local governments, as well as by utility companies throughout the country!

    Easy ways you can conserve energy

    As we said earlier, conserving energy is more about changing your daily habits than it is about spending money to upgrade your appliances and devices. Here are a few simple tips you can follow that save you energy:

    • Turn off lights and electronics when you’re not using them
    • Use natural light when possible 
    • Ditch hot water when washing clothes and make sure you only wash full loads of laundry
    • Air dry laundry whenever you can
    • Open windows for a natural breeze to cool your home instead of cranking the air conditioning
    • Use blinds, shades, and curtains to block sunlight to keep temperatures down
    • Take shorter, colder showers

    These are just a few of the easy changes you can make in your daily life that will save energy in your home!

    Going solar is the ultimate way to save money on energy bills

    All of the tips we mentioned will help lower your energy bills, but there is another way to cut down on your electricity costs. Installing solar panels has the potential not just to reduce your utility bills, but eliminate them completely!

    Solar panels generate electricity for your home to use so you avoid having to use it from your power company. By doing this, you substantially lower your energy costs. And if your utility buys excess solar energy, your solar panels can save you money when the sun isn’t shining.

    If you make energy-efficient upgrades to your home, practice energy conservation, and install solar panels, you’ll be able to save a lot of energy and a lot of money. Not to mention, powering your energy-efficient home with clean renewable energy means you’re saving the planet too!

    The best way to find out of going solar is a worthwhile investment for you is with our state-of-the-art solar calculator. We give you insight into how much you can save on energy, what solar incentives you can qualify for, and how many solar panels you’ll need to eliminate your power bills.

    How much can you save annually by installing solar panels on your roof?
     - Author of Solar Reviews

    Catherine Lane

    SolarReviews Blog Author

    Catherine is a researcher and content specialist at SolarReviews. She has strong interests in issues related to climate and sustainability which led her to pursue a degree in environmental science at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

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