How to Make a Residential Property More Energy Efficient

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High energy costs can be a huge financial burden. The average electricity bill across the country was $110.21 in 2013, though that has risen since and will vary depending on the state you live in. Further, reducing your electricity bill is one of the primary ways that you can reduce your impact on the environment. 

While you can change your habits to make your lifestyle more energy-efficient, it is much more effective to upgrade your home. This way, you'll be able to enjoy the benefits of energy efficiency without having to worry about it throughout your day. 

Read on for a few of the most effective ways you can make your home more energy-efficient!

Thermostat Changes

One of the easiest ways you can reduce the amount of energy that your home uses is by changing the thermostat. You can set it at a lower temperature in the winter, and a higher one during the summer, to reduce its run-time.

However, doing this will reduce the comfort levels within your home. A much better upgrade would be to invest in a smart thermostat.

 You can set them up on a schedule so that your HVAC system only starts at specific times, like an hour before you get out of bed or before you get home. These digital models are able to connect to the internet, and you can control them from your smartphone. This means that you can check the settings if you at work to make sure that you've shut off the furnace (and turn it off remotely if you didn't remember!)

HVAC Maintenance

Beyond your thermostat, you should also make sure that your HVAC system is up-to-date on its maintenance schedule. Things like clogged air filters and dirty ducts can restrict airflow and force your system to work longer to heat or cool your home.

Additionally, regular maintenance by HVAC professionals will alert you to mechanical issues that may be developing. A broken fan, heating element, or a refrigerant leak can cause your entire system to stop working, or at least to operate at a much-reduced capacity while using the same amount of energy. 

In some cases, it may be worth it for you to replace your HVAC system. Older furnaces and air conditioners are simply not as energy efficient as newer models, and this is especially true if your units are worn down and not properly maintained. 

A properly functioning central HVAC system will also eliminate the need for space heaters and portable AC units in individual rooms. Space heaters and standalone AC units are a proportionally a large energy drain since they are constantly one but only provide climate control to a single room. 

Upgrade Your Appliances

In a related vein to the above point, you should also consider replacing older appliances. Old dishwashers and electric stoves are not energy efficient, and their age can make them even less effective at their functions.

Choosing a high-efficiency replacement, especially those that meet Energy Star requirements by the Environmental Protection Agency, will use much less electricity to perform the same function.  

Make the Windows Energy Efficient

Your home's windows represent a massive amount of surface area that is exposed to the outdoors. As such, they are the primary place where internal temperature can leak out. Windows that are not properly sealed can cause your HVAC system to work overtime to maintain a moderate temperature, driving your energy bills up and creating drafts.

You have a few options. If your windows are newer, you can inspect the frame for gaps. Sometimes, the solution is as simple as using caulk to seal the frame.

In other cases, if your windows or frames are substantially damaged or are quite old, replacement is the better option. You can look for triple-pane and other energy-efficient windows that do a better job of sealing out the weather. 

Inspect and Replace Your Insulation

Beyond your windows, your home could be exchanging heat with the outdoors in areas that are not properly insulated. A great way to determine where heat is leaking out of your home is to do an energy audit. By using an infrared camera, a professional will be able to determine where issue areas lie.

The results from an infrared camera inspection are used to replace damaged or old insulation. This will limit how much work you'll have to do since you won't necessarily have to rip out and replace every single section of insulation in an area. 

Install New Lightbulbs

Though individually small, the lightbulbs in your home are one of the largest energy consumers. Older incandescent light bulbs can waste most of the energy through heat instead of light. Further, incandescent bulbs burn out much faster than newer energy-efficient models, which increases long-run costs and environmental impact even further.

Instead, look into fluorescent lights, which are affordable and much more energy efficient. Alternatively, for extremely long-lasting and energy-efficient lights, consider LED bulbs. 

Most LEDs are rated for 50,000 hours of straight use before they burn out and need to be replaced. This is the same as 12 hours a day for 11 years. The downside of LEDs is that they are more expensive than fluorescent lights, which can make installing them throughout your home prohibitively costly. 

Of course, the best way to reduce the amount of energy that your lights use is to turn them off when you don't need them. Make use of as much natural light as you can. Further, you should always make sure that no lights are burning when you leave a room (or the house entirely!)

Run Cold Water Loads

Did you know that 75 percent of the energy used to wash a load of laundry comes from warming the water up? Switching to cold water loads (and cold water detergent) can reduce the amount of electricity that your washing machine uses, and the amount you have to pay for at the end of the month. 

In a similar vein, you need to make sure that you're filling each laundry load up as much as possible. Running a half-empty load means that you're not maximizing your efficiency and will have to run more loads over the long run. 

Install Solar Panels

If you're looking to make your home extremely energy efficient, and even make some money in the long-run, consider installing solar panels on your roof or in your yard. They will generate energy for you, and if you generate excess energy, your power company may actually pay you for it. 

Of course, this will depend on how much energy you generate and whether your state allows for energy to be sold back to the grid. At the very least, check with your state to see if tax breaks or subsidies exist that can help pay down the initial cost of installation. Solar panels are heavily dependent on the local climate and will provide much better returns in more tropical and sunny areas. 

Installing Solar Panels Los Angeles, for instance, is a great idea because of the sunny climate. In fact, in California, all new homes made after January 1st, 2020, will have to have solar panels installed on them.  

Don't Leave Chargers Plugged In

This is a more general tip, but you should never leave plugs plugged in if nothing is connected. This applies specifically to consumer electronics, like phone and computer chargers. Leaving them sitting in an outlet means that they are constantly drawing power, even if that power isn't going anywhere. 

Of course, a single charger is not likely to be an issue, but several chargers throughout your home would be. 

The same thing goes with desktop computers. While it may be extremely convenient to have your computer constantly in sleep mode, this still draws energy. Shutting it down gets rid of that power use, and will reduce the amount of strain that is placed on your computer's internal components as well. 

If you need to keep your computer on to act as a server or for convenience, at least turn the monitor off to reduce the computer's energy consumption.

Applying as Many Tips as Possible Can Save You Substantially

All of the tips above, when implemented individually, are all effective at improving the energy efficiency of your home. However, when taken together, they can slash your bills to generate substantial savings. In fact, over time, these tips and upgrades can even pay for their costs entirely. 

Want more tips on home improvement and how to make your property energy efficient?  Check out the rest of our site!


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David Jackson, MBA

Financial lending analyst
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