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10 Home Improvements That Will Increase Your Energy Efficiency

10 Home Improvements That Will Increase Your Energy Efficiency
Image Credit: Our Old House

Improving your home’s energy efficiency can help you save money on utility bills and increase the comfort of your living space. Energy-efficient upgrades are a smart investment that can also boost the value of your home.

Are you curious about how to make your home more energy-efficient? Whether you’re dealing with drafty windows or an old heating system, there are several practical improvements you can make to reduce energy consumption and create a more sustainable living environment.

1) Install Energy-Efficient Windows

Installing energy-efficient windows can significantly reduce your heating and cooling bills. These windows minimize heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter. They make your home more comfortable and help you save money.

Energy-efficient windows have multiple panes of glass, low-E coatings, and gas fills between panes. These features reduce heat transfer, keeping the inside temperature stable.

Look for windows with the ENERGY STAR label. This tells you the window meets strict energy efficiency guidelines. ENERGY STAR windows are tested and proven to reduce energy use.

Another great feature is window framing. Frames made from materials like vinyl, wood, or fiberglass provide better insulation. They are more effective than traditional aluminum frames.

Replacing old windows can be a big investment, but it pays off. Homes with energy-efficient windows often see a 25%-30% reduction in heating and cooling energy use.

You can find a variety of options based on your budget at stores or you can consult professional installers for advice. For more information, visit Department of Energy’s guide.

2) Add Solar Panels

Adding solar panels to your home is a great way to boost energy efficiency. Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, reducing your reliance on traditional power sources. This can lead to significant savings on your energy bills.

In most cases, solar panels increase the value of your home. Homes with solar energy systems often sell at a premium. Some buyers see them as valuable upgrades, much like a renovated kitchen or a finished basement.

You can pair solar panels with a battery storage system to store excess energy. This stored energy can be used at night or during power outages, keeping your home powered even when the sun isn’t shining.

Solar panels also have environmental benefits. By using clean, renewable energy, you’re reducing your carbon footprint and helping to combat climate change.

The initial cost of installing solar panels can be high. However, federal tax credits can help reduce this cost. Recent estimates suggest that the average installation cost, after a 30 percent tax credit, is around $22,000.

Using solar panels for specific tasks, like heating water, is another good option. Heating water is a major energy expense in many homes. Solar water heaters can help cut these costs significantly.

Overall, adding solar panels is a smart investment for both your wallet and the environment.

For more information, you can read about solar power and energy efficiency.

3) Upgrade to LED Lighting

Switching to LED lighting is one of the easiest ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency. LED lights use at least 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. They last up to 25 times longer too.

You can find LEDs in many different colors and brightness levels. This variety makes it easy to match the lighting in every room of your home.

By using LED bulbs, you can cut down on your electricity bill. It’s a simple change with big results. Plus, LED lights produce less heat, which can help keep your home cooler in the summer.

LED lighting is also great for the environment. It reduces your carbon footprint because you consume less energy. You can feel good about making an eco-friendly choice.

Many ENERGY STAR-rated LED products meet high standards for energy efficiency. These products are often recommended for people looking to make their homes more sustainable.

Upgrading to LED lighting is a smart investment for any homeowner. From lower energy bills to a smaller carbon footprint, the benefits are clear. For more information, you can visit the Department of Energy’s LED Lighting page.

4) Use Smart Thermostats

Smart thermostats are a great way to make your home more energy-efficient. These devices let you control your heating and cooling systems through your smartphone, tablet, or computer. This means you can adjust your home’s temperature even when you’re not there.

A smart thermostat learns your schedule and preferences. It can automatically set the temperature to save energy when you’re away. This can lead to significant savings on your energy bills.

Installing a smart thermostat is usually straightforward. Most models cost between $75 and $300. While this might seem like a lot, they can quickly pay for themselves through the energy savings they offer.

Research shows that homes with smart thermostats use between 5% and 10% less energy. This is because they optimize heating and cooling based on real-time data. Some models are even certified by Energy Star for their efficiency.

If you want to take control of your home’s energy use, consider a smart thermostat. Not only will it make your life easier, but it will also help reduce your carbon footprint. It’s a small investment that can make a big difference.

5) Insulate Your Attic

Insulating your attic is one of the best ways to save energy at home. It helps keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A well-insulated attic can lead to more comfortable living spaces and even reduce your energy bills.

The recommended insulation level for most attics is R-38, which equals about 10 to 14 inches of insulation, depending on the type. You don’t need to stick to the same kind of insulation that is already there.

Insulating your attic can also help prevent ice dams in the winter. Ice dams form when heat from your home escapes through the roof, melts the snow, and then refreezes. Proper insulation keeps the heat inside and reduces this risk.

By making sure your attic is well-insulated, you’ll be taking a big step towards a more energy-efficient home. For more details on attic insulation, check out this guide by ENERGY STAR.

If you’re not sure where to start, a good tip is to look around electrical outlets or light fixtures in your attic to get an idea of the existing insulation. Adding more insulation can be a DIY project or you can hire a professional for more complex jobs.

6) Seal Air Leaks

Sealing air leaks is one of the best ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency. By closing gaps and cracks around windows, doors, and other openings, you can prevent cold air from entering in the winter and keep cool air inside during the summer.

It’s easy to start. Use weather stripping on doors and caulk around windows. You might be surprised how much more comfortable your home feels after these simple fixes.

Don’t forget about hidden leaks. Check spaces around vents, chimneys, and pipes. Sealing these areas can not only save energy but also make your home safer by preventing harmful gases from entering.

If you want to go a step further, consider adding insulation. Many homes in the U.S. are under-insulated, which means they lose a lot of energy. Proper insulation can save you up to 10% on your annual energy bills.

To learn more about sealing air leaks, visit the Department of Energy for detailed guides and tips. Sealing air leaks is an affordable and effective way to make your home more energy-efficient and comfortable all year round.

7) Install Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are a great way to boost your home’s energy efficiency. By installing them in key rooms, you can help cool your home without relying solely on air conditioning. This can lead to lower energy bills in the summer.

Make sure your ceiling fans rotate in the counterclockwise direction during the summer. This helps create a breeze that makes you feel cooler. When you feel cooler, you can turn up your thermostat by up to 4°F, saving energy and money.

Choose the right size ceiling fan for each room. For optimal performance, install fans with blades 7-9 feet from the floor. Ensure the ceiling is at least eight feet high for safety. If the room is empty, turn off the fan to avoid wasting energy.

Ceiling fans are a simple way to improve air circulation. They help distribute cool air more evenly, reducing the need for constant air conditioning. For more effectiveness, check out these tips from Hunter Fan and ENERGY STAR.

If you want more ideas to keep energy costs low, you can explore advanced suggestions, like using a smart thermostat.

8) Use Energy Star Appliances

Switching to ENERGY STAR appliances can make a big difference in your home’s energy efficiency. These appliances use less energy because they meet strict guidelines set by the government.

ENERGY STAR refrigerators, for example, use about 15% less energy than non-certified models. This means you’ll save money on your energy bills and reduce your carbon footprint.

Installing ENERGY STAR dishwashers can save water and energy. These dishwashers are designed to be more efficient while still getting your dishes clean.

Another great option is an ENERGY STAR heat pump water heater. These heaters use up to 70% less energy compared to standard electric water heaters. This can result in saving over $550 a year for a family of four.

Consider replacing your old windows with ENERGY STAR certified windows. These windows are made to reduce heat loss, keeping your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

Upgrading to ENERGY STAR appliances not only improves energy efficiency but also increases the comfort of your home. Small changes like these can lead to big savings and a healthier environment.

9) Upgrade Your HVAC System

Upgrading your HVAC system can lead to big energy savings. Older systems often use much more power than newer, more efficient models. A modern HVAC system can keep your home comfortable while costing less to run.

One important factor to look for is the SEER rating. Higher SEER numbers mean better efficiency. A new HVAC unit with a high SEER rating will lower your energy bills.

Regular maintenance is also key. A dirty air filter forces your system to work harder, increasing energy costs. Make sure to change or clean the filters regularly to keep everything running smoothly.

Setting your thermostat can make a big difference too. If you set it closer to the temperature outside, you won’t use as much energy. For example, setting your thermostat at 78 degrees rather than 72 degrees can save a surprising amount.

When it’s time to upgrade, consider a high-efficiency unit. These units might cost more upfront, but they pay off through lower energy bills and fewer repairs.

It’s not just about the unit itself; the installation is important too. A well-installed system will operate at peak efficiency, keeping your home comfortable and your energy bills down. Hiring a knowledgeable contractor can make sure the job is done right.

10) Plant Shade Trees

Planting shade trees can significantly reduce your energy bills. By positioning trees strategically around your home, you can keep it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

Deciduous trees are a great choice for shading your home in the summer. Plant them on the east, west, and northwest sides of your house. These trees lose their leaves in the winter, allowing sunlight to warm your home.

In just 5 to 10 years, a well-placed tree can start shading your roof, reducing the need for air conditioning. Make sure to consider the mature size of the tree to avoid shading your solar panels if you have them.

Trees can also shade the ground and pavement around your home. This reduces the amount of heat that gets absorbed by these surfaces and keeps the area cooler.

A shaded air conditioner runs more efficiently, using less energy to keep your home comfortable. Trees like maples, oaks, and elms work well for this purpose.

For more details on tree placement and energy efficiency, you can check out the advice from the Department of Energy.

Benefits of Energy-Efficient Home Improvements

Enhancing your home’s energy efficiency can bring significant environmental and financial benefits. You’ll experience a smaller carbon footprint and save money on your utility bills. Below, we explore these advantages in detail.

Environmental Impact

Energy-efficient home improvements help reduce the amount of energy your home consumes. By using less energy, you can lower greenhouse gas emissions, which contributes to fighting climate change.

Adding proper insulation and energy-efficient windows can significantly cut down on the energy needed to heat and cool your home. This means fewer fossil fuels are burned in power plants. Upgrading to ENERGY STAR appliances also plays a role in minimizing your environmental impact. These appliances use less energy to operate, which lowers your dependency on non-renewable sources of energy.

Small changes can make a big difference. For example, using LED light bulbs instead of traditional incandescent ones can save a substantial amount of energy over time. This not only reduces your electricity use but also decreases the frequency of bulb replacements, further reducing waste.

Cost Savings

Switching to energy-efficient home improvements can lead to substantial cost savings on your utility bills. By minimizing energy waste, you pay less for heating, cooling, and electricity. For instance, properly sealing leaks around doors and windows can prevent heated or cooled air from escaping, making your HVAC system work less, which directly lowers your energy bills.

Investing in energy-efficient appliances, such as refrigerators, washers, and dryers, can also save a lot of money. These appliances often come with significant rebates and tax incentives. Over their lifetime, they consume less energy compared to standard models, translating to ongoing savings.

Additionally, attic insulation is another way to cut down costs. Proper insulation helps to maintain your home’s internal temperature, reducing the need for high energy consumption, and ensuring that your heating and cooling systems are not overworked.

How to Finance Your Energy-Efficient Upgrades

Making your home more energy-efficient can save you money in the long run, but the upfront costs can be a hurdle. Luckily, there are various ways to finance these upgrades, including government programs and private loans with incentives.

Government Programs

The government offers several programs to help homeowners finance energy-efficient upgrades. One option is the Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) which allows you to finance energy-efficient improvements into your mortgage. This requires a home energy rating to show the expected savings.

Another program is the federal tax credit for energy-efficient home improvements. This credit is available for qualifying upgrades made from 2023 to 2032, with a maximum credit amount of $1,200. This can cover smaller improvements that enhance your home’s energy efficiency.

You can also check for state and local programs that offer rebates or incentives. Many states provide financial assistance for renewable energy installations like solar panels or energy-efficient appliances.

Private Loans and Incentives

Private loans are another option for financing energy-efficient upgrades. Many banks and credit unions offer special loans aimed at home improvement projects. These loans often have competitive interest rates and favorable terms to make it easier to manage your budget.

Additionally, some utility companies offer rebates or zero-interest loans to encourage energy-efficient home improvements. Programs like these can significantly lower your out-of-pocket costs.

Retailers and manufacturers may also offer financing options or rebates on energy-efficient products, such as appliances and windows. Checking with your local utility company and looking for promotions from major brands can help you find additional savings and financing options.

By exploring both government programs and private loan options, you can find the right financing plan for your energy-efficient home improvements.

Conor Jameson
Written By

Conor Jameson was born and raised in Ireland where he was an accomplished carpenter by trade. He moved to the United States after meeting his now wife Sarah, while she was studying abroad. Conor and Sarah currently live in the New England area and love buying, renovating and selling old homes.

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