‘How do I make my home more energy efficient?’ We hear this question a lot. Here’s our answer:
‘Mindful living’ may get bantered around willy-nilly, but it’s true—energy efficiency begins with the little things you can do everyday. So start thinking of ways you can make better use of energy right now: use LED light bulbs; turn off lights when you’re not in the room; turn off electronic devices when not in use; adjust your heating/cooling thermostat when you’re not at home; open blinds/curtains during the day to heat via natural light; avoid doing laundry or running the dishwasher during peak power times.
Seal your leaks
Make sure your doors, windows, and other wall penetrations are properly sealed. Think of it this way: if you feel a draft, your carefully heated/cooled air is escaping outside—and taking your money right along with it.
You also want to keep from losing air through your walls or roof. You do this by making sure your home is properly insulated, something you’ll want to pay particular attention to if you own an older home. Here’s a trick for those of you living in snowy conditions: if there are places on your roof free from snow, your attic is not properly insulated (heat rises, you know–good insulation makes sure the heat doesn’t escape through the roof to melt the snow).
Install new windows
If you have old windows, consider replacing them with new, energy-efficient windows. Look for the NFRC rating label. It certifies five areas of performance. The U-Factor rating (how well the product keeps heat from escaping the home), for instance, should be 0.40 or less.
Upgrade your appliances, heating & cooling
An old appliance, hot water heater, or air conditioning system may work just fine, but it could be costing you a lot of money to do so. Simply replacing your old hot water heater with an Energy Star hot-water heater can save 25-35% on your utility bill. And when it comes to a new air conditioner, look for Energy Star systems with a Seasoning Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of 14.0 or higher.
Install solar PV panels
C’mon, you knew it was coming. Solar PV is the magnum opus, the piece de resistance, the tour de force of home efficiency. All of the steps above make a difference, but it’s installing a solar PV system that can bring you to net-zero—in other words, solar makes it possible for you to produce as much energy as you consume.
And since you can typically pay off the system in around ten years, it makes a good investment for both the planet and your bank account. But I suppose that’s another topic, for another day . . .