Energy.gov says the average home leaks air like you have a hole the size of a throw pillow in your wall. Imagine leaving your medium-sized double hung window open around the clock, every day of the year – not ideal! And not very efficient for your utility bills.
The changing of seasons is a perfect time to evaluate your home’s energy usage. Scheduling a home energy audit is a great way to obtain a professional reading on what energy your home is using. The information they provide can help you develop an action plan for solving issues around your home to use less energy. These audits are also eligible for a tax credit under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act when completed by a professional.
But it doesn’t take a professional to make small changes around the house that could add up to big changes in your utility bill at the end of the month.
Conserving Energy Every Day
Electricity prices continue to rise each year, and natural gas prices are expected to rise the second half of 2023. This makes now is as good a time as any to start reducing the amount of energy your household uses.
Whether it’s adjusting the programmable thermostat or replacing old appliances, these small tips can mean lower utility bills while maintaining comfort. Here are a few ways you can save energy.
Turn it Down
➡️ If you have an electric water heater, invest in a water heater timer. By turning the heat off during the time it is not in use, you will save money on your bill without compromise.
➡️ Turn your thermostat down while you’re away from home. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says you can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling with this tip. Simply turn your thermostat back 7° to 10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting. Many smart thermostats can recognize when you’ve left and change this for you automatically.
➡️ Turn your thermostat down while you are home. Put on an extra layer of warm clothes during the day. Buy fleece-lined sheets so you can turn temperatures down a little more at night and still be comfortable.
Seal It Up
➡️ Install new weather-stripping on your doors and windows, as well as caulking the interior edges. Air can leak through the tiniest of holes. This results in a larger impact to your utility bill than you may expect.
➡️ Add insulation in your attic. Check the R-Value requirements from ENERGY STAR for your location. If your home is older, it’s likely you no longer meet the minimum requirements. You may need to add more insulation to be up to code.
➡️ If your home is newer, the builder likely met minimum requirements for attic insulation. However, adding more insulation based on Energy Star recommendations can still bring benefits. Adding insulation can also be eligible for tax credits under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.
➡️ Seal additional air leaks in your attic. ENERGY STAR has a great resource for DIYers looking to insulate their entire attic space. This guide helps you find and solve unexpected leaks, for the most efficient reduction in air escaping out your roof.
➡️ Regularly turn off all lights in the home when you are not using them, inside and out. For nighttime, you can find solar powered indoor and outdoor lights. These help you reduce your energy usage without compromising on safety.
➡️ Unplug appliances when not in use. Many appliances continue to draw power even when off, wasting energy in the process. If you don’t want to unplug, use a smart plug!
➡️ If you’re not watching television, turn it off. It can be expensive background noise!
Clean and Maintain
➡️ Schedule a fall maintenance check for your heating system. Regular maintenance can keep your system debris-free and running more efficiently. Holes, cracks, and gaps in air ducts and registers can be another source of air leaks. Sealing these off can also improve efficiency.
➡️ Your HVAC company may offer a discount for scheduling an air conditioner maintenance check, along with your heating check. Be sure to ask about cooling systems checks when scheduling your fall maintenance.
➡️ Schedule your annual maintenance check for your home appliances. Regular maintenance can identify potential breakdowns currently causing your unit to use more energy than it would normally. Not maintaining your appliance can also lead to dirt and dust build up, negatively impacting energy-usage.
➡️ When purchasing new large appliances, always look for the ENERGY STAR certified stickers. Energy efficiency appliances typically use both less water and less energy.
➡️ Some small appliances are also ENERGY STAR certified. Kenmore’s air purifiers equate to the same energy consumption as a single light bulb. This gives you the clean air you need, both inside and outside of your home.
➡️ If that refrigerator in the garage has been out there for generations, sure, it’s still running strong. But it could be costing you even 33% more energy to operate than a replacement would. ENERGY STAR also reports replacing an old fridge with a new one can save you $230 over the 12-year life of the product.
➡️ Make the switch! Heat pumps can be an efficient alternative to traditional heating and cooling. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says today’s heat pumps can reduce your electricity use for heating by approximately 50%. This is comparing usage to electric resistance heating such as furnaces and baseboard heaters.
➡️ Use LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs throughout the house. Their energy-efficiency is unmatched by traditional incandescent or even CFLs (compact fluorescent lamp).
➡️ Install solar panels. Finding ways to integrate renewable energy sources into your home is a great way offset traditional electrical energy usage.
➡️ Dry clothes back to back. If the dryer is still warm from a previous load, it will use less energy for this load. What an easy way to save money and get your laundry done more quickly!
➡️ Lastly, call your utility company to find out if they have off-peak hours and when they are. Many companies charge less for electricity at night and more during the day. Doing your laundry or dishes during off-peak hours can be an easy way to save a few dollars.
Better for you, Better for the environment
No matter your energy source, using less of it can be good for you and the environment. It can lower your energy costs at home. And it can reduce the impact to the environment from greenhouse gas emissions linked to energy production.
Every small step you make to reduce energy usage can result in bit changes overall. What change will you make today?
Note: Always check with your tax professional on what tax credits you may or may not be eligible for.