Being energy-efficient simply means using less energy to do the same things you normally do like heating and cooling, turning on the lights, or cooking and refrigerating your food. But why is this so important? Conserving energy helps you reduce the amount of energy waste you produce, which has many benefits.
Becoming energy-conscious has a number of environmental benefits. You may not believe it, but even the smallest change can have a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions and other kinds of pollutants. This, in turn, can lead to a drop in water usage. But you'll also see a change to your bottom line—notably, a drop in your utility bills. That's because energy-efficient innovations are much cheaper to use. Since these tools require much less energy to use, utility service demand and usage drop, putting more money in your pocket.
So how much do you spend every month on your utility bills? If you're spending a lot of money to keep the lights on and the water running, maybe it’s time to look at different ways to help you save. Depending on your budget, you have plenty of options to cut energy costs at your disposal—from minor tweaks to major home renovations. Rather than continuing to throw money at the utility companies, consider these ways to lower your bills.
- Becoming energy-efficient reduces energy waste and utility bills.
- Replacing appliances and fixtures with energy-efficient options and using window treatments are two of the easiest ideas.
- Consider ceiling fans to reduce heating and cooling costs and smart landscaping to give your exterior a cost-saving boost.
- Insulation and flooring help keep heat in your home.
- If you can, try adding a skylight or even a cool roof to your home.
Lighting fixtures and kitchen appliances use a lot of energy, so it's only natural that they would be the first place to start. Consider replacing bulbs with their CFL and LED alternatives to increase efficiency. LED and CFL bulbs last longer and consume less energy than incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. They burn just as brightly and don’t give off as much heat or make a buzzing noise when they’re on. This is also the cheapest option on the list, so it definitely makes sense.
The kitchen is one of the most frequently used rooms in the home, so you should optimize its efficiency. If you have the budget, replace your kitchen appliances with Energy Star alternatives. Consider these facts:
- Energy Star refrigerators are 9% more efficient than those that meet minimum federal efficiency standards.
- Standard-sized Energy Star dishwashers cost roughly $35 to run each year
- Energy Star washing machines use 25% less energy and 33% less water than regular washers
You may also qualify for an Energy Star rebate from your state when you replace certain appliances. Be sure to check out the Energy Star website for more details.
Use Window Treatments
Here's another very easy and inexpensive option. While some of your window treatments may have been installed for decor, they also serve a functional purpose. They can help reduce energy costs in your home. Depending on the type of window treatments you have, you can use them to reduce how much air you losing or keep cool air inside your home. Window treatments also help prevent the sun from heating up rooms, allowing you to use the air conditioner less on sunny days. Consider installing blinds, shutters, curtains, or even drapes.
To optimize your energy cost reduction, go for hard window treatments like shutters and blinds over soft treatments. These are generally more effective at keeping heat and air inside than fabric curtains and drapes. Or double up and layer your window treatments—leaving blinds closed with a curtain to cover them can give you style and sustainability.
Hang Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans help cut utility costs by acting as an alternative to your HVAC system. While running the fan still requires electricity, it’s far less expensive than using a heating or cooling system.
Fans are more economical and use about the same amount of energy as a light bulb. They push all the hot air to the ceiling in the summer and if you change the rotation in the winter, all the cool air goes towards the ceiling while warm air is pushed downward.
This can help you save around 40% on your cooling bill in the summer and about 10% on your heating costs in the winter. The cost to install a ceiling fan is around $140 to $355, according to Home Advisor. This, of course, depends on how many you install and the electrical wiring involved.
You can also save energy with smart landscaping. This involves techniques to make your yard look great while helping you save money. Consider:
- planting native, low-maintenance plants that you don't have to overwater
- planting trees on the side of your home that faces the sun to cut down on cooling costs
- maintaining your yard so it doesn’t become a liability in the winter
Hiring a licensed contractor ensures any energy-efficient upgrades you can't do on your own are installed properly.
Check Your Insulation
Proper insulation is essential for maintaining your home’s temperature during the summer and winter when the HVAC system is running. If your attic or wall insulation is inadequate, has holes, or is missing entirely, you must replace it.
There are various types of insulation available to trap air and prevent it from leaking out. The right kind for your home depends on your budget. You’ll need to consult with an insulation contractor to do the installation since some types of insulation—blown-in insulation in particular—can be harmful to the lungs.
Install New Flooring
Flooring also helps maintain your home’s temperature and cut energy costs. Carpeting and rugs trap heat and keep your home warm during the winter. Consult a flooring professional who can help you choose options to reduce your energy costs. It’s an inexpensive way to cut costs compared to projects like gutting your siding and replacing it with an energy-efficient alternative.
Add a Skylight
Skylights are a great focal point for any home. But there's also an economic benefit by adding one. They increase the efficiency of your home, improve your heating, interior lighting, and air ventilation.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends that a skylight be:
- No bigger than 5%t of the floor area in a room with many windows.
- No bigger than 15% of the floor area in a room with almost no windows.
But skylights aren't for everyone. You'll have to make sure the existing design of your home can accommodate one. Consult with a professional before you think about cutting out a piece of your ceiling and putting in a new window.
Install a Cool Roof
This doesn't mean you'll have the most talked-about roof on the block. A cool roof reflects more sunlight, allowing less heat to be absorbed than a regular roof. They work the same way clothing does—if you wear darker clothing, you'll absorb more light, which makes you hotter. Wearing brighter clothing deflects more light and can keep you much cooler. This principle helps keep the temperature of your roof down, which lowers the overall temperature of your home. So you can keep that air conditioner down, too. You'll also be able to cool areas of your home that tend to get hot like your garage.
Manufacturers generally design and construct material from paint that is highly reflective . Alternatively, these roofs can also be manufactured with a very reflective tile, shingle, or sheet covering. Roofing installers use certain types of materials when installing a cool roof.
You can install a cool material on just about any style of roof. And a cool roof isn't more expensive than a standard roof. If it is, it will pay back quickly. In fact, the Department of Energy estimates that you may save as much as 65 cents per square foot over the life of the roof when you buy an Energy Star-rated cool roof. Just keep your location in mind—make sure it makes sense to have one. If you live in a place with tough winters, this may not be the option for you. Or check out the Cool Roof Calculator through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website to find out how much you can save.
The Bottom Line
You can help the environment by becoming more energy-efficient. Replacing bulbs and appliances, doing smart landscaping, and installing a cool roof can help keep greenhouse gas emissions low. But if that isn't incentive enough, think about the money you'll save in utility bills over the long run. Just a few extra dollars now mean big savings in the future.
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