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How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

Closeup of a person using a tablet to detect heat loss from a home

According to a U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) study, the average U.S. home consumes over 11,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually. This number can fluctuate depending on your geographical location (specifically regarding the weather), the size of the home, the number of household members, and energy consumption habits. The study explains that heating and cooling systems, lighting, home electronics, appliances, and plumbing systems are some of the biggest contributors to energy consumption. There are numerous reasons to try and save energy. Reducing energy in a home can help: 

  • Protect the environment. 

  • Reduce the pollution created by energy usage. 

  • Improve our energy security. 

  • Save the homeowner money.  

While many automatically assume this only consists of renewable energy systems, there are numerous simple ways to cut energy costs and work towards creating an energy-efficient home. The information below is meant to provide insight into different home energy efficiency maintenance, upgrades, renovations, and general energy consumption considerations and best practices. 

Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors 

As your windows and doors age, they become less effective. They often let in drafts, and the hot and cold air from your heating and air systems can get let out. There are two primary ways to get more energy-efficient windows and doors: 

  1. Updating your windows and doors. 

  1. Replacing your windows and doors. 

You don’t always need to jump straight into replacing your windows — especially if you have a tight budget. There are several updates that you can do to make your windows and doors more energy-efficient: 

  • Seal windows and doors: Locate any drafts coming through windows or doors and seal them. You can seal windows and doors with weather stripping foam, door/window sweeps, or caulk. 

  • Install thermal curtains when it gets cold: Thermal curtains are made of an insulating material that helps keep heat in — which lowers utility bills, decreases window condensation, and provides privacy. 

  • Insulate and clean sliding glass doors: Sliding glass doors are a great way to let in natural light, but more energy escapes in the wintertime, so insulate your sliding glass doors during the cold season. You can do this by using weather stripping, caulking, or window film. You should also always clean your sliding glass door tracks because when debris gets in, it can cause the door not to seal properly. 

  • Utilize tint: Sun comes through windows and glass doors, and this can raise temperatures (requiring more heat) and increase exposure to UV rays. You can tint your windows to help reduce energy costs and protect you from UV ray exposure. 

  • Install storm windows or doors: If you are in an area that is prone to storms or severe weather, you may want to look into storm windows or storm doors. They help reinforce your doors and windows to protect your glass from storms. They also reduce energy usage. 

In some cases, it may be time to look into replacing your windows or doors — like if you have single-pane glass instead of double-pane or if your door has too much wear. There are tests you can do on your own to determine if you need new windows or doors. You can also call a professional to come to help you decide if door or window replacements are worth the cost. Consider the following while shopping around for energy-efficient windows and doors: 

  • Do your research on the weather/climate in your area and choose windows and doors with appropriate energy performance ratings. 

  • Look for vinyl or fiberglass materials instead of wood. They have lower levels of conductivity, and this allows less heat/cool air to travel through the window or door frame.  

  • Choose windows or doors with low-emissivity glass. The glass is treated with an invisible metal oxide that reflects heat away from the glass. This saves energy by maintaining temperature better. 

Natural light is a great way to cut back on electricity. If you don’t have much natural light in your home and rely solely on lightbulbs, you may want to consider installing additional windows or skylights.   

Energy-Efficient Lighting 

Take a second to think about all of the lights you use in your home. Between overhead lighting in every room, lamps, exterior lights, lighting in appliances, and various aesthetic ambiance — the lights in your home can create a lot of energy usage. According to an EIA study, U.S. households average around 1,105 kWh of electricity for lighting annually. This comes out to around 10% of the electricity consumed in U.S. households. Here are some changes you can make to your lighting to improve energy efficiency. 

  • Switching to energy-efficient bulbs: The Department of Energy explains how halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light-emitting diodes are the most energy-efficient lighting choices. Be conscious of the bulbs you choose to use around your house. 

  • Utilizing lighting controls: Homeowners can use lighting controls to control all lighting from one specific area. You can set light timers, install motion sensors, and take advantage of dimmers. 

  • Upgrading your light fixtures: Old and outdated lighting features are often less energy-efficient than newer options. Consider upgrading them to more energy-efficient options. 

  • Install a skylight: As mentioned above, a great way to light an area without using electricity is to take advantage of natural light. During the day, skylights could potentially eliminate the need for any non-natural lights. 

  • Clean your light bulbs: When your bulbs are covered in dust and cobwebs, they aren’t performing as effectively as they should be. You can get the most out of your lighting by cleaning or dusting them. 

You can upgrade your lighting fixtures and bulbs to more efficient options, but you also need to create good lighting habits — be sure to turn off lights when no one is in the room, open up shades/blinds, and take advantage of natural light whenever you can. 

Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling 

Around half of the energy used in homes is heating and cooling related. The amount of energy you use can vary between homes based on the type of heating and cooling systems, the size of the home, the amount of use/resident preferences, and where the home is located. There are several maintenance and renovation tips for heating and cooling in an energy-efficient manner: 

  • Perform regular maintenance: Your heating and cooling systems need regular maintenance to run properly and be energy efficient. The specifics for what you need to do will fluctuate between heating and cooling systems. However, you will still need to clean condenser coils, replace air or oil filters, remove any brush/debris, lubricate motors/bearings, clear out ducts, and test water temperature/pressure on a regular basis.  

  • Upgrade to programmable thermostats: Programmable smart thermostats can help save you money by reducing energy usage. Smart thermostats track your settings to optimize your heating and cooling most efficiently. They also provide you with data that can help point you in the right direction for additional savings. 

  • Install or utilize ceiling fans: Ceiling fans can be a great tool for giving your AC or heating unit some help and saving on energy — but you need to do it correctly. During the colder months, ceiling fans should rotate clockwise to pull cool air up. During warmer months, set fans to rotate counterclockwise to push cool air down. 

  • Open windows overnight: If you are in an area where it cools off at night, open the windows to let fresh, cool air into the home. This will help improve air quality and reduce energy usage. You can also use a fan to help pull air from outside into the home.  

  • Insulate: You can reduce the strain on your heating systems and the amount of energy used to maintain temperature by using insulation. Adding the proper amount, in the right places, with the right type can make a world of difference.  

  • Seal ducts: If your ducts aren’t sealed properly, air can get in and out of the home, and this will reduce energy efficiency. Be sure to seal all ducts and check them from time to time. 

  • Upgrade your system: Outdated heating and cooling systems are often less efficient than newer ones. If your system is 10 to 15 years old and you notice that your energy bill is going up, or you can’t maintain a temperature; it may be time to upgrade to a newer, more energy-efficient system. 

  • Choose the right system: You want to be sure to pick heating and cooling systems that are appropriate for where you live, the size of your house, and your temperature preferences. Some houses can get through an entire summer just opening windows or using a window unit to keep things cool. Other houses may need more help keeping a comfortable temperature. 

You also need to be smart about heating and cooling your home. Create good heating and cooling habits like using shades/curtains to block out the sunlight on hot days, turning off portable units when there’s no one in the room, and setting the thermostat when you are away from home or sleeping.  

Energy Efficient Plumbing 

Plumbing is also a large contributor to energy usage. Plumbing systems use pipes, valves, fixtures, tanks, and water heaters that consume energy to function. Here are specific plumbing maintenance or upgrades that homeowners should consider to help make their homes more energy-efficient:  

  • Fix any leaks: A leaking or damaged pipe means your system must work harder to do the same job. Fixing leaks immediately is important to ensure your system is operating properly. If your water bill seems to be increasing each month, it could mean you have a leak in your system. Calling a plumber to inspect your system and repair any leaks will help reduce water consumption, and your bill.  

  • Unclog drains and pipes: If your drains and pipes are clogged, they aren’t working efficiently. Use screens to catch debris (like hair and food) from going down drains to help prevent clogs. 

  • Insulate: Pipes lose heat as they supply hot water to the different areas of a home. If you insulate the pipes, you can reduce the amount of heat lost to the surrounding air. Insulating pipes also helps keep them from freezing and potentially bursting.  

  • Upgrade plumbing: If your plumbing is outdated — consider upgrading. There are energy-efficient options like condenser boilers, tankless water heaters, or solar water heaters. Also, plumbing pipes and lines need to be replaced from time to time. If you continually have plumbing issues; it may be time to upgrade the entire system. 

  • Upgrade features and features: There are low-flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets that can help reduce the amount of water usage. There are toilets with dual-flush settings so that you can avoid having to over-flush for liquids, or under-flush for solids. 

Making conservative water choices is a great way to cut down on energy use as well — examples include shutting off the water while you are brushing your teeth or washing a dish by hand, not over-watering your lawn, or taking showers instead of baths. 

Energy-Efficient Appliances and Electronics

Refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers/dryers, ovens, microwaves, computers, televisions, DVD/Blu-Ray players, and other household appliances and electronics all contribute to household energy usage in different amounts. There are certain things you can do to reduce your home appliance and electronic energy use: 

  • Unplug appliances and electronics: Some appliances pull energy even when they are not in use — otherwise known as phantom energy. Unplug appliances that are not in use to avoid unnecessary energy consumption. You can also utilize power strips to turn multiple appliances or electronics off with one button. 

  • Clean and maintain appliances and electronics: This could be simple as cleaning your microwave or stovetop or blowing out your laundry exhaust vent. Be sure to perform regular maintenance and cleaning of all your appliances

  • Upgrade appliances: Getting a retro appliance may look cool, but they are often outdated, impractical, and inefficient. Major appliances like a dishwasher should be replaced every 10 to 15 years and washers and dryers every 8-10 years. 

  • Update or upgrade electronics: It’s a good idea to keep your electronics up to date to help them run efficiently. For example, Apple comes out with IOS software updates frequently to improve efficiency and preserve batteries. Over time electronics like phone batteries lose their ability to effectively maintain a charge, which means is takes more energy to keep them working.  

  • Use eco-settings: Many appliances are used with eco-settings. Utilize these if your appliances are equipped with them. If they are not, think about upgrading appliances with eco-settings. Electronics often have power-savings modes as well, like reducing your screen brightness or killing apps to save battery. 

  • Only run full loads: When you are cleaning dishes or doing laundry, avoid running loads that aren’t full. When you wait till you have a full load, you can save the amount of energy used by reducing loads. 

  • Avoid using appliances and electronics whenever possible: If it’s a hot day outside and you’re doing laundry, avoid throwing your laundry in the dryer and hang them up outside to dry in the sun. If your dishwasher has a heat drying option, choose to dry dishes by hand or let them air dry instead.  

  • Keep refrigerator/freezer full: When your fridge or freezer is stocked with refrigerated or frozen items, it helps your fridge/freezer maintain its temperature settings. 

Making sure to unplug or turn off electronics and appliances can make a world of difference in your energy consumption. Additionally, if you are looking for new and energy-efficient appliances and electronics, look for the Energy Star label. 

Additional Energy Efficiency Tips and Considerations 

As much as it is helpful to perform energy maintenance or renovate different aspects of your home, it is just as important to create a clearly defined energy reduction plan for your household — especially if you have roommates, family members, or children all under one roof. 

  • Focus on one thing at a time: It can be overwhelming to try and fix all energy-inefficiency issues at once. Focus on one particular thing at a time, then move on to the next. 

  • Write out your specific plans: Whether it’s adding solar panels on your roof or simply creating a home maintenance schedule, it is important to clearly define your plans, how you are going to execute them, and how to measure success. 

  • Communicate your plans: Once you have determined your plans, talk about them with other home residents. Working together instead of against one another makes achieving your energy efficient goals easier. It also keeps you and the other home residents accountable. 

  • Perform ongoing research for new ideas: Be sure to look for additional energy-efficiency technology, tips, and considerations as time goes on. 

Financial Incentives for Home Energy-Efficiency Improvements 

Homeowners can often find tax credits, state incentives, rebates, savings, grants, and other financial incentives for home energy-efficiency renovations or improvements — some examples to look into include: 

  • Renewable energy tax credits: The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 created incentives for energy-efficient systems. There are tax credits available for homes with geothermal heat pumps, residential wind turbines, solar energy systems, residential fuel cell microturbine systems, or biomass fuel stoves. You can receive anywhere between 22% to 30% off depending on the date the systems were installed. 

  • Equipment tax credits: There are non-business, non-rental energy property tax credits available for residential energy-efficiency equipment. The equipment must be Energy Star certified to receive 10% of the equipment costs up to $500, or a specific amount from $50 to $300. The tax credit is available for energy-efficient insulation, roofs, windows, doors, and skylights, but the specific equipment that qualifies for this tax credit are: 

    • Air source heat pumps. 

    • Central air conditioning. 

    • Gas, propane, or oil hot water boiler/furnace. 

    • Non-solar water heaters. 

    • Advanced main air circulating fan. 

    • Biomass stoves. 

  • New construction tax credits: There are tax credits available for the builders of energy-efficient homes. There is a $2,000 credit for homes that have 50% heating and cooling energy savings and a $1,000 tax credit for homes that have 30% heating and cooling energy savings. 

  • Rebates: You can find numerous rebates for Energy Star-certified products. Energy Star has a rebate finder tool on their site to help you find rebates and special offers near you. 

  • State incentives and policies: Each state has different individual policies, grants, and incentives regarding energy-efficient renovations, construction, and equipment/appliances. There are online databases to find policies and incentives by state. Be sure to check out what options are available to you in your area. 

  • Energy-efficient mortgages: There are energy-efficient mortgages (EEMs) available for borrowers to build, renovate, or buy an already energy-efficient home. These programs exist to help borrowers get better financing terms based on the cost savings that stem from lower utility bills. There are three types of EEMs available: 

    • Conventional energy-efficient mortgage. 

    • Federal housing administration (FHA) energy-efficient mortgage. 

    • Veterans' affairs energy-efficient mortgage. 

    Be Energy Conscious and Energy Efficient

    Creating a more energy efficient home starts with being conscious about your energy consumption. Everything from your plumbing and electrical system to appliances and electronics can make a difference in how much energy you use. And when it comes to energy consumption, it all adds up. To learn more about how replacing your old windows can improve your home’s energy efficiency, contact the professionals at your local Glass Doctor. Call 833-974-0209 or schedule an appointment online today.