7 ways to increase your home’s energy efficiency
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. By making your home more energy efficient, you can substantially cut down your monthly electric bill.
But that’s not all! Making energy efficient upgrades to your home decreases the amount of carbon emissions you release into the atmosphere, meaning you’re helping the environment as well as helping your wallet.
We have 7 easy tips that can help you increase your home’s energy efficiency and decrease your monthly energy bill.
What is energy efficiency?
Before we go into how to make your home more energy efficient, let’s go over what energy efficiency is. The key to energy efficiency is doing more with less. When something is energy efficient, it will use less energy to complete a job. For example, an energy efficient home will use less electricity to heat a room to 70 degrees than a non-energy efficient home.
Increasing the energy efficiency of your home will thus reduce your overall energy consumption. This has two major benefits - you spend less on your electricity bills and you help the environment by reducing your carbon footprint.
Decreasing your energy costs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Sounds like a no-brainer to me!
Top 7 tips for making your home more energy efficient
Having an energy efficient home can be done by making a few upgrades to your home. Some are bigger investments than others, but they will all end up saving you money in the long run. Here are SolarReviews’ top tips for increasing your home’s energy efficiency:
1. Get a home energy audit
A home energy audit, or a home energy evaluation, will identify what energy efficiency improvements you should make to your home in order to decrease your energy consumption. It will also show where air is leaking out of and into your house, which contributes to how energy efficient your home is.
During an energy audit, a number of tests and inspections will be completed that will determine what home improvements would be most beneficial.
2. Replace incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient light bulbs
This is one of the easiest things you can do to increase your home’s energy efficiency. Energy efficient light bulbs, also known as LED light bulbs, use 75% less energy than incandescent light bulbs. Not to mention, LED bulbs last 25 times longer. That means not only will they save you money by using less energy, you’ll also save money by not having to replace your bulbs as often.
Energy efficient light bulbs are more efficient than incandescent bulbs because they don’t release as much heat. Incandescent bulbs release about 90% of the energy they use as heat. By eliminating the heat loss, LEDs are able to use substantially less energy. This will reflect on your energy bills.
The average American could save about $600 per year on their electricity bill by switching to energy efficient light bulbs, assuming their home had 40 lightbulbs that were used for 5 hours per day.
3. Consider using smart powerstrips in your home
If you’re afraid of ghosts, then you should be absolutely terrified of phantom loads. A phantom load is electricity that is used by electronics that are turned off but are still plugged into an outlet. Phantom loads can end up adding $200 to your electric bills every year!
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? There’s an easier way to prevent phantom loads, thanks to smart power strips.
Basically, all you have to do is switch your traditional power strips over to smart ones. Smart power strips shut down power to any products that go into “standby mode”. Some electronics you own, like your wifi, need to stay on all the time. So, smart power strips have outlets that have a continuous power supply.
Cutting the power to devices that are in standby mode prevents you from paying for electricity that you aren’t even really using! Smart power strips save you money while increasing your home's energy efficiency.
4. Install smart thermostats
Another big source of wasted electricity is heating and cooling your home. Heating and cooling are actually the two biggest categories of energy usage in households. Cutting down that portion of your bill can give you substantial savings. That’s where smart thermostats come in. With a smart thermostat, you program what temperature you want your home to be and what your daily schedule is like.
Based on the schedule you program, the thermostat adjusts the temperature of your home to be lower when you’re not home and just the right temperature for when you walk through your front door. By adjusting the temperature when you’re not home, you’re not using as much energy to heat or cool or space.
The settings of your smart thermostat can also be changed using an app on your smartphone, making it easy to adjust settings even when you’re not home.
However, that’s not all these thermostats do to save you electricity. Smart thermostats track your interactions with the thermostat (like how and when you adjust the temperature) to better control the temperature of your home. Plus, when connected to your smartphone, they can track when you leave the house so it can optimize your temperature settings even further.
Not only does this make you more energy efficient, it saves you lots of money. According to a study done by smart thermostat manufacturer Nest, homeowners save an average of 10% to 12% on heatings costs and an average of 15% on air conditioning costs when they install a smart thermostat!
Check out Solar-Estimate.org's article comparing Nest and Ecobee to see what features each brand offers, and which smart thermostat is right for your home.
5. Invest in energy efficient appliances
Switching from traditional appliances to energy efficient appliances is another great way to decrease your energy usage. Energy efficient appliances are designed to use less electricity to complete the same tasks that a traditional appliance would.
Most appliances have energy efficient models, ranging from energy efficient space heaters to energy efficient washing machines. For example, energy efficient refrigerators have improved insulation and compressors that allow them to use less energy to operate than older refrigerator models.
It’s easy to find energy efficient appliances - just look for the Energy Star label when you’re shopping. 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 their performance abilities.
Energy Star energy efficient appliances tend to be more expensive than other appliances on the market. However, this higher price tag pays for itself through saving you money on your electric bill. An Energy Star-certified refrigerator alone can save you $300 over the lifetime of the appliance.
Some states even offer rebates when you purchase energy efficient appliances, but we’ll go over that later on.
Learn more: This article on Energy Star appliances goes over everything you need to know when considering upgrading your appliances.
6. Insulate your home
This tip tends to be a little more expensive than the others, sometimes coming out to around $1,000. However, installing insulation has the potential to give you substantial energy bill savings.
If your home isn’t properly insulated, it’s going to use a lot of extra energy to heat and cool your home, even if you do install a smart thermostat. A well-insulated home is an energy efficient home!
The EPA estimates that a homeowner could save 15% on heating and cooling costs simply by adding insulation to their home. It is recommended to insulate in attics, crawl spaces, and basements.
You will want to install insulation in any walls or floors between your home and an unheated space, like the wall between your home and an attached garage or the floor above your crawl space.
You can also install energy efficient windows, which are designed to help you maximize energy savings. However, installing all new windows can be expensive, so in most cases it is more cost effective to seal drafts on your existing windows using caulk or weather strips. You should also use draft stoppers for any drafts coming through doors.
7. Install solar panels on your roof
Although technically not an energy efficiency upgrade, solar panels are a great way to save on your electric bill. Plus, you’ll be powering your home by clean energy. Powering your home with solar energy is the best way to turn your energy efficient home into a green home.
Solar panels take your energy efficient home to the next level by taking advantage of renewable energy and reducing your reliance on fossil fuels!
Solar panels work by converting sunlight into electricity. That clean electricity is then used to power your home. You don’t have to pay for the electricity your solar panels produce, which cuts down your electric bill.
When your solar panels produce more electricity than your home uses, the excess electricity is sent back to the grid. In most states, your utility will pay you for that excess power through a process known as net metering.
Check out this video for a detailed explanation of net metering and how it works.
Solar panels and energy efficient upgrades complement each other very well. After you make all of your energy efficient upgrades, your home will use much less electricity. Lower electricity consumption means you can send more electricity from your solar panels back to the grid. That’s extra money going straight to your pocket!
How much can you save with energy efficient upgrades?
Let’s take a look at how much the average American could save by making energy efficient upgrades to their home.
We’re going to use the average household electricity usage outlined by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. For the sake of this example, let’s say this electric bill belongs to the Smith family.
The Smith family is paying $2,060 per year for electricity, but they want to make some energy efficient changes to save some extra money.
Here’s a breakdown of how much the Smith’s would save if they made all of the energy efficient upgrades suggested above:
|Energy Efficient Improvement||Yearly electric bill savings|
|Switch to LED bulbs||$210|
|Switch to smart powerstrip||$200|
|Installing a smart thermostat||$105|
|Installing Energy Star appliances||$62|
By making energy efficient upgrades to their home, the Smith’s cut their electric bill down by 34%! Now, they only pay $1,354 per year for electricity. And that extra $700 they saved is going right towards the Smith Family vacation!
Energy efficiency doesn’t just save money, it saves the planet
What’s great is that the Smith family didn’t just decrease their energy bill, they also decreased their carbon emissions. By making energy efficient upgrades, the Smith’s saved 5,881 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity. Each kWh of electricity that is produced releases about 1 pound of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Just by decreasing their electricity usage, the Smith’s prevented almost 6,000 pounds of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere. Now that’s impressive!
If the Smith’s also decided to install a 6 kilowatt solar panel system on their home that produced 25 kWh of electricity a day, they would save another $1,095 on their electric bill per year. That means the Smith’s would only have to pay about $260 per year to their electric utility.
And as a bonus, the Smith’s would prevent another 9,125 pounds of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Solar panels make the perfect finishing touch to the Smith’s energy efficient home.
Can you finance energy efficient upgrades?
Making improvements in the energy efficiency of your home should be viewed as an investment. However, the initial high price tag of some energy efficiency improvements can make it difficult for some homeowners to implement them.
Luckily, there are many energy efficiency financing options to help you get the ball rolling on your energy efficient upgrades.
Energy efficient mortgages
Energy improvement mortgages, also referred to as energy efficient mortgages, are used to help finance energy efficiency improvements for your home.
If you use an energy efficient mortgage, you will be able to include the cost of making energy efficiency upgrades to your existing home mortgage. However, including these costs won’t increase how much you pay for your down payment. You then get to use the money you save on your utility bill from your energy efficient improvements to help pay your mortgage payment.
For more information on energy efficient mortgages, check out Energy Star’s helpful guide.
Energy efficient loans
Energy efficient loans can be taken out from a traditional lender to be used for making energy efficient property improvements.
Energy efficiency loans are unsecured loans, meaning that your approval for the loan is based on your credit score. There is no collateral on the loan, so if you default on your payments you won’t face a harsh penalty like losing your property.
However, they can have higher interest rates than other financing options, like an energy efficient mortgage.
Energy efficient PACE financing
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing can be used to finance your energy efficient upgrades or to finance a solar panel installation.
The money you borrow from a PACE lender is not paid back through monthly payments. Instead, you repay your financing through an additional payment on your yearly property taxes. The terms of your PACE financing agreement can be as short as 5 years or as long as 20 years.
Residential PACE financing is available in three states: California, Florida, and Missouri. Check out this article comparing two of the most popular PACE programs: Ygrene Energy Fund and the Hero Program.
Many utilities offer on-bill financing for energy efficient improvements. Through on-bill financing, homeowners will repay their energy efficiency loan by making additional payments on their utility bills.
On-bill financing can be funded by the utility or by a third party. If the on-bill financing program at your utility is funded by a third party, you can still repay your loan through your utility bill.
Check your utility’s website to see if they offer on-bill financing. You can also find more details through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Energy efficiency incentives and rebates
There are many opportunities for you to save money when you make energy efficient upgrades to your home. Many utilities and government programs provide rebates when you install Energy Star appliances.
For example, when I upgraded my clothing dryer last year to one that was Energy Star-rated, I got a $300 rebate through my state’s clean energy program!
These types of energy efficiency rebate programs are available throughout the United States. To find out what energy efficiency rebates you qualify for, check Energy Star’s website.
There are also many incentives for installing solar panel systems on your home, as well. Solar incentives are offered by utilities, state governments, local governments, and the federal government.
The federal tax credit alone can save you thousands on the cost of installing a solar panel system.
Get more bang for your buck in an energy efficient home
Making energy efficient upgrades takes some work and incurring upfront costs, but in the end it’ll be a profitable investment. By making your home energy efficient you decrease your electricity usage, save money, and help in the fight against climate change.
Thanks to the incentives and financing options available, you won’t have to worry about breaking the bank to make energy efficient upgrades to your home. Whether you choose to follow some or all of our energy efficiency tips, you’ll be making a positive change to both your wallet and the environment.
Author: 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.