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Household Energy Efficiencies

Updated: May 2


You can save money and lower your utility bills with these tips for energy efficiency.


1. Minimize Phantom Loads

The term “phantom load” refers to the energy that an appliance or electronic device consumes when it is not actually turned on. According to the US Dept. of Energy  (DOE), “In the average home, 75 percent of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off.” which can cost you up to $200 per year A report from the University of California Berkeley says that phantom loads account for about 6 percent of all national residential electricity consumption. You can eliminate phantom loads by unplugging appliances and electronics when you are not using them, or by plugging them into Smart power strips, also known as advanced power strips, eliminate the problem of phantom loads by shutting off the power to electronics when they are not in use. Smart power strips can be set to turn off at an assigned time, during a period of inactivity, through remote switches, or based on the status of a “master” device.

2. Use More Energy-efficient Appliances

On average, appliances are responsible for roughly 13% of your total household energy use. When purchasing an appliance, you should pay attention to two numbers: the initial purchase price and the annual operating cost. Although energy efficient appliances usually have higher purchase prices, their operating costs are 9-25% lower than conventional models.

When purchasing an energy efficient appliance, you should look for appliances with the ENERGY STAR label, which is a federal guarantee that the appliance will consume less energy during use and when on standby than standard non-energy efficient models. Energy savings differ based on the specific appliance. For example, ENERGY STAR certified clothes washers consume 25% less energy and 45% less water than conventional ones, whereas ENERGY STAR refrigerators use only 9% less energy.

3. Change Your Light Bulbs

One of the least expensive and most effective changes you can make in your home is replacing your light bulbs. According to Energy Star, one of its qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), which cost just a few dollars, “will save about $30 over its lifetime and pay for itself in about 6 months. It uses 75 percent less energy and lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb.” Although some people are concerned because CFLs contain mercury, Energy Star says that CFLs do not release any mercury when in use, and actually reduce mercury emissions because they lessen the need for electricity from power plants that emit mercury. Halogen incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), and light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs) use anywhere from 25-80% less electricity and last three to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs.Although energy efficient bulbs are more expensive off the shelf, their efficient energy use and longer service lives mean that they cost less in the long run. 

4. Install a Programmable Thermostat

A programmable or smart thermostat can be set to automatically turn off or reduce heating and cooling during the times when you are asleep or away. When you install a programmable thermostat, you eliminate wasteful energy use from heating and cooling without upgrading your HVAC system or sacrificing any comfort.

On average, a programmable thermostat can save you $180 per year. Programmable thermostats come in different models that can be set to fit your weekly schedule. Additional features of programmable thermostats can include indicators for when to replace air filters or HVAC system problems, which also improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system.

5. Use Fans for Cooling

In the summer, use stationary, ceiling and whole-house fans to cool your home, reducing the need for air conditioning, for every degree you raise your thermostat, you reduce your cooling costs between 7 and 10 percent.

6. Seal Air Leaks

Weatherizing, or sealing air leaks around your home, is a great way to reduce your heating and cooling expenses. The most common sources of air leaks into your home are vents, windows, and doors. To prevent these leaks, you should ensure that there are no cracks or openings between the wall and vent, window, or doorframe.

To seal air leaks between stationary objects, such as the wall and window frame, you can apply caulk. For cracks between moving objects, such as operable windows and doors, you can apply weather stripping. Weather stripping and caulking are simple air sealing techniques that typically offer a return on investment in less than a year. Air leaks can also occur through openings in the wall, floor, and ceiling from plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring.

Air leaking out of your home is most often from the home interior into your attic through small openings. Whether it is through ducts, light fixtures, or the attic hatch, hot air will rise and escape through small openings. As the natural flow of heat is from warmer to cooler areas, these small openings can make your heating bill even higher if your attic is not sufficiently insulated. To reap the full amount of savings from weatherization, you should consider fully insulating your home.

7. Make Windows More Efficient

Windows are significant source of energy waste, which can amount to 10-25% of your total heating bill. To prevent heat loss through your windows, you can replace single-pane windows with double-pane ones.

For homes in cold regions, gas-filled windows with “low-e” coatings can significantly reduce your heating expenses. In addition, interior or exterior storm windows can reduce unnecessary heat loss by ten to 20 percent. You should especially consider storm windows if your region experiences frequent extreme weather events.

In addition to minimizing heat loss, low-e coatings on windows can reduce heat gain by reflecting more light and lowering the amount of thermal energy diffused into your home. ENERGY STAR windows can save you $20-$95 each year on your utility bills. Window shades, shutters, screens, and awnings can also provide an extra layer of insulation between your home and external temperatures.

8. Improve Insulation

The Energy Star program estimates that more than 50 percent of a home’s energy use goes toward heating and cooling. Beefing up the insulation in your house’s attic, walls, floors and ceilings slows the flow of air between inside and outside, making it easier to control your home’s temperature. The easiest place to add insulation in your home is the attic.

Insulation plays a key role in lowering your utility bills through retaining heat during the winter and keeping heat out of your home during the summer..

Your attic, walls, floors, basement, and crawlspace are the five main areas where you should consider adding insulation.

9. Conserve Water - Reduce your water heating expenses

Using less water will lower your water bill. And when you use less hot water, you’ll also see savings in your gas bill, or your electric bill if you have an electric water heater. According to DOE, water heating is the third most energy consuming function in the home. To cut down on water use, take faster showers and be conscious of the water you use when washing dishes and clothes and preparing food. You can also save energy by lowering your hot water temperature. A water thermostat setting of 120 degrees is sufficient for most uses. There are more water-efficient fixtures and appliances, so look for these when buying a new faucet or shower head..

insulate your water heater and the first six feet of hot and cold water pipes.

If you are considering replacing your water heater with an efficient model, you should keep in mind two factors: the type of water heater that meets your needs and the type of fuel it will use. For example, tankless water heaters are energy efficient, but they are also a poor choice for large families as they cannot handle multiple and simultaneous uses of hot water. Efficient water heaters can be anywhere between 8% and 300% more energy efficient than a conventional storage water heater. Also, be sure to account for its lengthy service life of 10 to 15 years in which water-heating savings can accumulate.

10. Plant Trees and Shrubs

Planting shade trees around your home can lower your summer energy bill by reducing your home’s exposure to the sun. Properly placed tress can cut your summer electric bill by up to 40 percent. Energy savings from a tree varies greatly depending on its size and location in relation to your house. Planting shrubs and bushes around your home can improve insulation in the summer and winter. Learn more about using trees for shade from Money Does Grow on Trees.

© 2020 Powell Team a division of Fred Real Estate Group

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