15 Energy Saving Strategies for Your Home

When it comes to energy efficiency, it’s ideal to do more with less. Energy conservation means using less energy to lower costs and reduce your impact on the environment. This applies to using less electricity, gas or other forms of energy that you pay your utility for. Since our planet has finite energy resources available, it’s important to conserve energy to save the environment and help your wallet.

What’s the Difference Between Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency?

While energy conservation is the active practice of using less energy for cost and environmental benefits, energy efficiency means utilizing products that use less energy to get the same results. While both concepts are very similar, they involve different methods. 

For example, homes can conserve more energy by installing energy-efficient appliances and electronics while also using less energy to heat or cool the space. By using less electricity, you’re also increasing your home’s overall energy efficiency and reducing the electricity you pull from the grid.

Here are 15 ways to make your home more efficient to decrease your energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

  1. Adjust your daily habits
  2. Replace your light bulbs with energy efficient ones
  3. Utilize smart power strips
  4. Install a smart, programmable thermostat
  5. Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances
  6. Reduce your water heating expenses
  7. Upgrade to energy efficient windows
  8. Upgrade your HVAC system
  9. Weatherize your home
  10. Insulate your home
  11. Wash clothes in cold water
  12. Replace air filters
  13. Use natural light as much as possible
  14. Dress appropriately for indoor and outdoor weather
  15. Install solar panels

Let’s go into each of these energy conservation options in more detail:

  1. Adjust your daily habits
    You don’t have to go out and purchase energy efficient products in order to reduce your home’s energy consumption and increase your energy savings. Energy conservation can be as simple as turning off appliances and lights when you leave a room. You can also minimize the use of energy-intensive appliances by hang-drying clothes instead of putting them in the dryer or washing dishes by hand instead of running the dishwasher.One adjustment you can make that will have the highest potential for utility savings is turning down the heat in the winter and using your air conditioner less during the summer. According to EnergyStar.gov, the typical U.S. family spends an average of $2,060 annually for home utility bills. Heating and cooling costs account for nearly half of the average home’s utility bill, so any cooling and heating reductions can produce the greatest savings.
  2. Replace your light bulbs with energy efficient ones
    Incandescent light bulbs consume a large amount of electricity and have to be replaced more often than energy efficient bulbs. You can replace traditional incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, halogen incandescent bulbs and light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs). These energy efficient alternatives use anywhere from 25% to 80% less electricity and can last 3 to 25 times longer compared to conventional light bulbs.

    While energy efficient bulbs are more expensive on the front end, their energy efficiency and longer lifespan means they’ll cost you less money over time.
  3. Utilize smart power strips
    The electricity your electronics use when they’re turned off or in standby mode is a major source of energy waste. Known as “phantom loads,” it’s estimated that 75% of the energy that powers household electronics is consumed when they’re turned off and can cost you up to $200 per year. Smart power strips can eliminate phantom loads by shutting off the power when you’re not using your electronics. Smart power strips are a great way to turn off appliances at a designated time, during periods of inactivity, through remote switches or based on the status of the “master” device.
  4. Install a smart, programmable thermostat
    Programmable thermostats are a great way to save energy because they can be set to automatically turn off or reduce heating and cooling use when you’re asleep, at work or away from home. Installing a programmable thermostat allows you to eliminate energy waste from heating and cooling without having to upgrade your HVAC system.On average, you can save $180 a year with a programmable thermostat and they come in various models that can be set to fit your busy schedule. Additional features can include indicators to replace air filters or HVAC system issues, which also improves your heating and cooling system’s efficiency.
  5. Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances
    Home appliances account for roughly 13% of your total home energy use. When you buy new appliances, pay attention to the initial purchase price and the appliance’s annual operating cost. While energy efficient appliances may cost more in the store, they’ll save you money over time with operating costs that are 9% to 25% lower than conventional appliances.Appliances with an ENERGY STAR label are certified to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) energy efficiency requirements during use and while on standby compared to standard models. The overall energy savings will differ based on each appliance. For example, clothes washers with the ENERGY STAR label consume 25% less energy and 45% less water compared to conventional ones and ENERGY STAR refrigerators only use 9% less energy.
  6. Reduce your water heating expenses
    Water heating is a big contributor to your overall home energy consumption. If you don’t want to purchase an energy efficient water heater, there are three ways to reduce your water heating expenses. You can either use less hot water, turn down your water heater’s thermostat, or insulate your water heater along with the first six feet of hot and cold water pipes.If you want to replace your water heater with a more efficient model, you’ll want to select a water heater that meets all your needs and also keep in mind the type of duel it will use. For example, while tankless water heaters are efficient, they’re not ideal for big families since they can’t handle simultaneous uses of hot water. However, efficient water heaters can range from 8% to 300% more efficient compared to a conventional storage water heater.
  7. Upgrade to energy efficient windows
    Windows are a big source of energy waste and can contribute to 10% to 25% of your overall heating bill. To prevent heat loss, you can replace standard single-pane windows with double-pane ones. Energy-efficient windows are designed to maximize your energy savings and usually have multiple glass panes separated by gas fills. Additionally, interior and exterior storm windows can reduce your heat loss by 10% to 20%. If you live in an area where extreme weather events are frequent, storm windows can make a big difference.In areas with warmer climates, heat gain through windows is more common. Along with reducing heat loss, the low-e coating can reflect more light and lower the total thermal energy that comes into your home. Depending on your location, ENERGY STAR windows can save you $20 to $95 a year on utility bills. You can also add extra layers between your home and outdoor temperatures to conserve energy with window shades, shutters, screens and awnings.
  8. Upgrade your HVAC system
    HVAC systems are heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment. Heating is responsible for more than 40% of overall home energy use. Homes in the Northern regions of the country experience colder temperatures more often during the year, so ENERGY STAR gas furnaces come with different specifications for the north and south U.S. regions.If you upgraded to a “U.S. South” ENERGY STAR appliance could save you up to 12% on your heating bill (an average of $36 a year). ENERGY STAR furnaces in the north have the standard logo and can be up to 16% more efficient compared to baseline models, which averages out to $94 in savings per year on heating bills in the north.Air conditioning isn’t a big contributor to energy bills with only 6% of a home’s total energy use on average. ENERGY STAR AC units are 8% more efficient compared to conventional systems and are usually integrated with heating systems. Purchasing your new furnace and AC simultaneously ensures your air conditioner performances at the maximum rated energy efficiency.Upgrading your ventilation (the third HVAC system component) can also improve your energy efficiency. Ventilation systems consist of network ducts that distribute hot and cold air in your home. When these ducts aren’t sealed or insulated correctly, it could add up to hundreds of dollars in energy waste to your utility bills. You could reduce heating and cooling expenses by up to 20% with proper insulation and maintenance on your ventilation system.
  9. Weatherize your home
    Sealing any air leaks in your home (also known as weatherizing) can also reduce your heating and cooling energy waste and expenses. With the most common sources of air leaks from vents, windows and doors, it’s important to make sure there aren’t any openings or cracks between the wall and window, vent or door frames.Caulking can be applied to seal any leaks between stationary objects like walls and window frames. Weather stripping can be applied to non-stationary objects like windows and doors. Both of these simple air sealing options offer a return on your investment in less than a year.Air leaks can also happen through any openings in the walls, floor or ceiling from electrical wiring, plumbing or ducting. These air leaks often come from your home’s interior into your attic through small openings like light fixtures, ducts or the attic access door. Heat naturally flows from warm to cool areas, so these small openings could make your heating bill even higher without proper insulation. To maximize your savings from weatherization, consider fully insulating your home.
  10. Insulate your home
    By retaining heat in the winter and keeping the heat out during the summer, insulation plays an important role when it comes to lowering your utility bills. How much insulation your home needs will depend on the area of your home. The five main areas to add insulation to are your attic, floors, walls, basement and crawl spaces. You can find regional recommendations for insulation on the Department of Energy’s website.
  11. Wash clothes in cold water
    Washing clothes is a routine and energy-intensive chore, especially if you wash with warm water because the majority of energy during the process goes towards warming the water. In addition to conserving energy, there are economic benefits to washing in cold water as well. You could save more than $50 a year by reducing your washing water temperature by 15 degrees and there’s even reports that washing clothes in cold water increases their lifespan.
  12. Replace air filters
    Many of your home’s devices, including your HVAC system, use filters and usually come with reminders to replace your air filters regularly. This helps you avoid costly repairs to your air conditioner and could also save you money. A report from the Department of Energy shows that replacing dirty air filters regularly can reduce your home’s total energy consumption by up to 15%. Because clean filters are more efficient, they simply put less strain on your system to save you energy and money.
  13. Use natural light as much as possible
    Lighting contributes to a large portion of energy costs, so utilizing sunlight is a great way to reduce your overall energy consumption. Ideally, it’s better to have north and south-facing windows compared to east and west. This allows for more natural light to produce heat in the winter compared to east and west-facing windows that allow more direct sunlight and don’t let heat in as effectively.
  14. Use your microwave instead of your stove
    Reheating your food is a necessary and energy-taxing process. While a stove may preserve the food flavor a little better, evidence suggests that microwaving your meal is more energy efficient. Stoves are prone to losing energy while microwaves, in comparison, use a lot of electricity in short power bursts for smaller amounts of time.
  15. Install solar panels
    While it’s not technically an energy efficiency upgrade, installing solar panels to your rooftop is the best way to make your home green and give you the most utility bill savings out of any of the previous tips. By converting sunlight into electricity, solar panels efficiently power your home and reduce your reliance on fossil fuels and the grid. With the average Bay Area household paying nearly $250 a month on utility costs, making the switch to solar power can lock in your electricity rate and save you money, along with plenty of other benefits.Bonus tip: pairing your solar energy system with a home battery  can store the excess energy your solar panels produce to use when the sun isn’t shining (at night, during cloudy days, etc). It can also give you peace of mind protection against power outages and blackouts by powering your home and appliances when the power goes out.

Conclusion

Conserving energy is beneficial for many reasons – it can save you money, increase your home value and help protect the environment for future generations. While making energy-efficient improvements and upgrades to your home can take some work and has upfront costs, it’s a more cost-effective investment in the long run for your wallet and the environment.

If you’re ready to save money (and the environment) with solar, contact us today for a free customized quote.

Shannon Hughes