If you make your home energy-efficient, you can cut down on electricity bills, help the environment and improve your family members’ quality of life. There are a number of ways you can improve your home’s energy efficiency, ranging from improving insulation to purchasing green appliances.
Areas to consider when trying to make your home energy-efficient include:
Home Energy Audit
The first step is to conduct a home energy audit. The audit assesses your home’s energy consumption and helps steer the homeowner to measures that can improve efficiency. Generally, an energy auditor will come to the home and look at a number of things, ranging from insulation to furnace to ductwork. They will conduct a blower door test, which will measure the airtightness in the home. Locating air-leakage sites with this method is one of the first steps in eliminating points that can drain energy usage.
An energy audit generally costs between $300 and $500 depending on the home’s size, though with an energy-efficient home you can recoup that cost and more with savings on energy bills.
Weather-Stripping Doors and Windows
Weather-stripping around doors and windows can help keep your climate-controlled air indoors. Proper weather-stripping can save 10 to 15 percent on energy bills, which is great considering the installation cost is fairly affordable. Weather-stripping a two-story building costs a little over $200. The cost will vary per home based on the optimal materials, with varying sizes in windows and doors. Generally, though, it’s an economical and effective way to make your home more comfortable and energy-efficient.
A smart thermostat is one that adapts to your usage and can provide analytical data based on energy consumption. You can also set its usage based on the time of day, so you can make it automatically turn on an hour before you get home from work. This way your home is either nice and toasty in the winter or cool and refreshing in the summer. In addition to being convenient, it saves on energy bills since it won’t be in use when it isn’t necessary.
Some smart thermostats even are accompanied by mobile apps, where you can adjust the thermostat remotely in case you forget to turn it off and are out.
Energy Star Appliances
Using Energy Star appliances can help you save up to 30 percent on electricity bills. They’re often designed with energy efficiency in mind, the Energy Star label being an international standard for various appliances and products. They undergo strict testing to qualify, so you can be assured when purchasing a product with an Energy Star label that you’re getting one with efficiency in mind. Combined with the tips above, Energy Star appliances can cut down energy costs big time.
Vampire Energy and Insulation
Energy usage can sometimes be obvious, like leaving your television on overnight or using an air conditioner in a poorly insulated room. Other times, it can be easy to overlook. Leaving a hairdryer plugged in, a kitchen appliance turned on, a cable box without a power-saving mode or a computer on overnight are all examples of vampire energy, which can gradually add up to costly electricity bills.
If you’re not using something in the next few minutes, unplug it or turn it off. When going to sleep, check to make sure everything is turned off.
Are Solar Panels Right for You?
Solar panels can provide energy in an efficient way, though some pros and cons exist. In reality, solar panels are a wonderful solution for some, while for others they may be too costly and unnecessary. Regardless, you should use a solar system cost calculator to analyze projected costs and compare them to your current format.
When evaluating whether solar panels are right for you, consider the following:
- Solar energy is a highly abundant energy. Coming from the sun, there’s no fear of depletion, unlike conventional energies.
- Solar energy is sustainable, since it’s impossible to overconsume.
- Solar energy does not cause pollution. Whatever emissions are produced pale in comparison to most conventional energies.
- Depending on your state, solar panels can save more than $100 each month in energy costs.
- Solar panels produce no noise.
- Many solar panels come with extensive warranties. Maintenance is often minimal.
- Access to sunlight can vary, making solar energy less reliable on a whim.
- Storing solar energy can be costly, with certain solar cells requiring expensive materials, such as those based on cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS).
- Solar energy requires more space than the majority of energy sources, with panels and the need for sunlight access requiring ample space. In some home designs, solar panels are not even feasible.
- Some solar panels have been found to produce harmful pollutants like sulfur hexafluoride, even if they still pale in comparison to fossil fuels.
Solar panels are worth evaluating in every instance. Beyond that, several economic fixes ranging from weather-stripping and smart thermostats to an energy audit can potentially save hundreds each month on energy costs.
Guest Author Bio: Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance writer and the editor of Schooled By Science. She enjoys discussing alternative energies and other environmental issues on Twitter. When she isn’t writing, Megan enjoys hiking, canoeing, and reading.