Most people appreciate the opportunity to save more of their hard-earned money, and doing so while using less energy and having a smaller carbon footprint is a welcome bonus. Fortunately, even small changes can make a significant difference when you’re trying to make your home more energy-efficient. Use these 10 energy-saving tips to slash your utility bills and start minimizing your environmental impact.
1. Watch for “Energy Vampires”
Some appliances use more energy than others. Laptops, cellphone chargers, TVs, video game consoles and cable/satellite boxes are all examples of these “energy vampires.” When you leave these plugged into the wall outlet, they’ll continue using energy even when they’re not turned on.
If you own devices you don’t use very often — such as a second television set, receiver or DVD player — consider keeping them unplugged when you’re not using them. You could also invest in smart power strips that automatically cut off power when devices are not in use. When it’s time to replace old or broken appliances, look for new models that use energy more efficiently.
2. Install a Programmable Thermostat
Are you still relying on the thermostat the builders installed in your home 20 years ago? A lot has changed since then, and it may be time for you to consider an energy-efficient upgrade. One feature of smart thermostats everybody loves is that they save people money, especially in combination with newer, more efficient HVAC equipment.
Because a smart thermostat automatically adjusts the temperature for you when you aren’t home, you’ll feel confident that your system isn’t working overtime on cooling and heating an empty house. Not only will you see lower monthly utility bills, but you’ll also cut costs on maintenance and repairs due to less wear and tear on your unit. Many newer models also come with compatible apps that let you change your thermostat on the go.
3. Replace Your Lightbulbs
Traditional incandescent light bulbs consume an excessive amount of electricity and burn out more often than their energy-efficient alternatives. Halogen incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lights and LED bulbs use anywhere from 25 to 80% less electricity and last many times longer than traditional bulbs. While energy-efficient lightbulbs are more expensive, their economical use of energy and longer lifespans mean they cost less overall.
You may also want to install a dimmer switch for your indoor lights, and get a motion sensor for outdoor light fixtures such as your porch and garage lights so they don’t stay on for hours every night. Alternatively, solar-powered outdoor lights are an energy-free option.
4. Invest in Renewable Energy
If you live somewhere that gets a lot of sunlight, having solar panels installed on your property is one of the best energy-saving tips to reduce your monthly utility bills. In some cases, a solar panel array might even generate enough electricity that you can sell it back to your utility company for credit. Today’s solar panel designs are sleek, modern-looking and can even match your house’s existing roofing materials for a nearly seamless appearance.
Though solar panels represent a significant upfront investment, a professionally designed and installed solar panel array will eventually pay for itself over time. You may even be eligible for government incentives to help offset the cost of installing solar panels.
5. Upgrade Your Windows, Doors and Insulation
If you have older doors, windows and insulation on your home, you could be wasting a considerable amount of valuable money and energy through gaps, cracks and leaks. To prevent the loss of conditioned air, you can hire a professional to install brand-new windows and doors and insulate areas like your attic and crawl space. You might also want to invest in tinted window film to help keep unwanted heat and cold out of your home.
Energy-efficient home improvement projects can pay for themselves by saving you money on your heating, cooling and electrical bills and extending your HVAC system’s lifespan. You will also create a more comfortable living environment for your family and take steps toward energy independence. Plus, homes with smaller carbon footprints are more desirable, so you might be able to set a higher asking price when it’s time to put your house on the market.
6. Get an Energy Audit
During a home energy assessment, a certified professional energy adviser will assess your household’s energy use, determine where you are wasting energy and recommend which upgrades will save you the most money. They will account for how many people live in your household and identify areas for improvement, such as having your air ducts cleaned or updating your HVAC equipment. Once you correct any issues the inspector uncovered, you can look forward to smaller energy bills.
7. Understand SEER Ratings
If you’re shopping for a new Energy Star-rated HVAC system, you may see an unfamiliar acronym popping up: SEER. What do these four letters have to do with heating and cooling?
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It’s a standard first defined in 2008 by the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute. SEER ratings are essential to helping you figure out how energy-efficient your HVAC is and saving you money on your utility bills. Essentially, a SEER rating has the same concept as the MPG on a car: The higher the number, the more efficiently the heating or cooling unit will run.
When comparing HVAC units, it’s worth your time to look for higher SEER ratings and get the best one your budget allows. If your air conditioner is between 10 and 15 years old, it probably only has a SEER rating around 9 or 10. In contrast, new air conditioners can have SEER ratings in the 20s.
8. Harness the Power of Nature
Sometimes, the best way to save energy is to not use it whenever possible. For example, consider hanging wet clothes up on an old-fashioned clothesline to dry them in the sunshine. Sunlight is a natural disinfectant, and air-drying your clothes is more energy-efficient than relying on your clothes dryer. You can also air-dry your dishes by stopping your dishwasher after the rinse cycle and leaving the door open. You’ll save energy by keeping your kitchen several degrees cooler.
Maximize natural light by opening curtains and blinds on sunny days and letting the sun’s rays light your home. That way, you won’t need to use as much electricity during the day.
9. Use Less Water
Some simple lifestyle choices can add up to energy-saving benefits. For example, aim to take shorter showers — you can set a timer if necessary. If two people in your family reduce their shower time by only a minute each, that change could net you considerable savings. Get in the habit of turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth, instead of leaving it running the whole time.
If any fixtures in your home leak, fixing them might be a simple weekend DIY project that nets you an impressive amount of money over time. You can also install low-flow showerheads that reduce your hot water consumption. Consider reducing the temperature setting on your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough for everyday use.
10. Be Seasonally Smart
You can also save money by adjusting your heating and cooling habits based on the season. In winter, reverse your ceiling fan’s direction so it runs counterclockwise. Since warm air rises, this simple switch will push the heated air down and distribute it throughout your living area. In summer, turn your ceiling fan to spin clockwise, creating a cooling breeze.
During peak cooling season, you’ll also want to replace your HVAC filter more frequently to give your air conditioner an energy-efficient assist. When the weather is warm, cooking more meals outdoors on your grill is a delicious way to enjoy the season’s bountiful fresh produce while keeping your home cooler.
11. Try Strategic Landscaping
The U.S. Environmental Protection Association suggests planting trees that lose their leaves on the western and southern sides of your home. In the summer, the trees will provide shade and block UV radiation, keeping your house cooler. In the fall and winter, when the trees lose their leaves, they will allow more sunlight to reach the windows and warm your home.
12. Get New HVAC Equipment
If you’ve had your HVAC technician on speed dial because your equipment is subject to frequent breakdowns, it’s probably time to take the plunge and invest in new, energy-efficient equipment. At Pileiro Heating and Cooling, we can recommend solutions that meet your family’s needs and design an updated, Energy Star-certified HVAC system that’s right for your home. As a Trane Comfort Specialist™, we have committed to upholding Trane’s famously stringent standards and completing ongoing training to keep our fingers on the pulse of the latest technology.