There’s a lot of information out there on how to make your home more energy efficient. While it’s all meant to be helpful, some of the advice is not the most practical. Not all of us can afford to install solar panels or to buy all new appliances. With that in mind, we’ve brought you a few budget-friendly ways to save on energy. Read on to learn how to start lowering your utility bills.
Get an energy audit
If you’re unsure of where to start with making your home more energy efficient, having an energy audit done is a great first step. Also known as an energy assessment, these audits are designed to take stock of how much energy your home is currently using, to identify problem areas where energy might be being wasted and to offer suggestions on how to solve those issues.
As for how to get an auditor out to your home, calling your electric or gas utility company may be your best bet. There’s a good chance they’ll either conduct assessments themselves or be able to recommend local auditors. However, if not, the Residential Energy Services Network offers a search directory for qualified professionals. Just remember to always do your research before hiring any service provider to come into your home.
Insulate your attic
Your attic isn’t just a place to store your excess belongings. It’s also one of the places in your home that’s most likely to let cool air out. This, in turn, causes your HVAC systems to have to work harder, using more energy overall. However, by adding some extra insulation, you can go a long way towards keeping your temperature-controlled air where it belongs.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs — and an average of 11% on total energy costs — by taking the time to properly insulate your home. Here, they especially recommend insulating attics, crawl spaces and floors.
Seal drafty doors and windows
In addition to insulating the attic, you can also take care of any drafty doors and windows that might be allowing cool air to escape your home. While an energy auditor will be able to identify these “cold spots” during your assessment, you can DIY this task just by paying attention to where you can feel drafts coming through on windy days.
As far as how to do the sealing, this is definitely one home maintenance task where you won’t need to call in a professional. Adhesive sealing strips are sold at nearly every home improvement store. Once you have the strips in hand, it’s simply a matter of measuring the area you need to seal, cutting the strip to size and applying it securely.
Change your light bulbs
If you can’t afford to splurge on a new energy-efficient appliance package or to upgrade to solar panels, replacing the light bulbs in your home is one of the fastest and most affordable ways to make a difference in your energy usage. This move can help you save around 5% on your total energy bills.
In terms of which lighting options offer the biggest savings, you have three choices:
- Halogen incandescents: Halogen incandescents are popular bulbs because they come in a wide range of shapes and colors. In addition, they tend to work well with dimmer switches. However, while they do meet the minimum energy-efficiency standard, they are not the most efficient option that’s currently available on the market.
- Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs): CFLs are where you really start to see energy savings. These bulbs use about one-fourth the energy of traditional incandescent options. They also are said to last up to ten times as long. While these bulbs did not offer a lot of variety when they first came out, they are starting to become available in more shades and colors.
- Light emitting diodes (LEDs): Though LED lights have been traditionally used in outdoor applications, they are becoming more commonplace in indoor settings. LEDs use only 20% to 25% of the energy and last 15 to 25 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs they replace. They also use 25% to 30% of the energy and last 8 to 25 times longer than halogen incandescents.
Unplug energy vampires
This last tip is more of an ongoing effort than a one-time task. Though it may be convenient to leave electronics plugged in even when you’re not using them, the reality is that unless they are certified as energy-saving, they are likely wasting energy. Directenergy.com estimates that you can save $100 to $200 per year simply by unplugging these devices when they’re not in use.