Did you know the average U.S. family spends around $2,200 a year on utility bills? We’re willing to bet that most folks wouldn’t mind reducing those expenses and keeping more of their hard-earned money for themselves.
Fortunately, reducing your home’s energy consumption doesn’t have to be time consuming or over-the-top expensive. With planning, patience, persistence, and in some cases a reasonable financial investment, most homeowners can cut their energy costs by up to 50 percent.
Here are some tips to help you get started on making your home more energy efficient:
Conduct a Home Energy Assessment
Before you make any changes to your home, conduct a do-it-yourself energy assessment. Start by asking yourself the following questions: How much do you spend annually on energy bills? What makes up the biggest portion of your energy bills? What are the biggest sources of energy loss in your home? This step will help you identify the areas of your home with the greatest potential for energy savings.
Next, walk through your house and around the outside of it and check for any potential problems, such as air leaks around windows and doors. While old windows are obvious culprits for drafts, other air leaks might be more difficult to detect. Closely inspect all your windows and doors—even if they’re new. “See if you can rattle them, since movement means possible air leaks,” recommends the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). “If you can see daylight around a door or window frame, then the door or window leaks.”
Continue your assessment by checking your HVAC equipment, including ductwork, as well as lights and appliances. Once you have a complete view of your home’s current energy usage, you can analyze your findings and create a plan to start saving energy.
For the most thorough home energy assessment, you also may want to consider hiring a professional home energy consultant to inspect your house.
Take a Whole-House Approach
The key to long-term energy savings is taking a whole-house approach—“viewing your home as an energy system with independent parts,” advises the DOE. “Your heating system is not just a furnace—it’s a heat-delivery system that starts at the furnace and delivers heat throughout your home using a network of ducts.” To maximize energy savings, consider all the parts of your home and how they interact with each other. Don’t purchase a high-efficiency furnace for an old, drafty house and expect a miracle. “Even a top-of-the-line, energy-efficient furnace will waste a lot of fuel if the ducts, walls, attic, windows, and doors are leaky or poorly insulated,” the DOE says. It will likely take some additional work, such as sealing air leaks, to bring a home like that up to snuff.
Properly Maintain Your HVAC System
Because heating and cooling account for nearly half of most people’s energy bills, HVAC systems often offer the biggest potential for savings. Routine maintenance will help keep your HVAC system running at maximum efficiency, which will save you money in the long run. “By combining proper equipment maintenance and upgrades with recommended insulation, air sealing, and thermostat settings, you can save about 30 percent on your energy bill while reducing environmental emissions,” according to the DOE.
You can perform some maintenance tasks, such as replacing your furnace or heat pump’s air filter at least once a month, yourself. Other tasks should be handled by an HVAC professional during an annual inspection and tune-up of your HVAC system. Call Sunfire at 304-267-3029 to schedule a visit from one of our expert HVAC technicians.
Be Frugal with Heating and Air Conditioning
To save even more money on heating and cooling costs, set your home’s thermostat to the lowest comfortable temperature during colder months and as high as possible during warmer months. Around 68 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for most people in winter. Aim to keep your thermostat at 78 degrees or so during spring and summer. “Running your air conditioning at 78 degrees instead of 72 degrees can save between 6 and 18 percent on your cooling bill,” according to the DOE.
Use ceiling fans throughout the year to increase your energy savings and make the temperature in your home feel more comfortable. To get the most out of your ceiling fans, make sure you use them correctly: “During the summer, a ceiling fan increases comfort by blowing air downward on room occupants,” advises Home Energy Magazine. “But that same windchill can actually feel like a draft in winter, which is why ceiling fan motors should be reversed to blow air upward in winter. This helps disperse the warm air that tends to gather near ceilings, distributing it more evenly throughout the room.”
Install a Programmable Thermostat
This high-tech piece of equipment makes it easy to schedule automatic adjustments to the temperature of your home, saving you energy as well as the hassle of having to turn the heat down each time you leave the house or go to bed.
Using a programmable thermostat can save as much as 30 percent on your heating and cooling costs, according to an article for DIY Network. “In the winter, program the thermostat so that the house is cooler when no one is home during the day and when everyone is in bed at night,” advises the home improvement network. “When the weather warms up, set the temperatures higher during the day.”
Turn Down Your Water Heater
Water heating is the second largest energy expense in most homes after heating and cooling, according to the DOE. Lowering the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit reduces your water heating costs while still providing you with water that’s hot enough for most uses. Most people don’t need water hotter than 120 degrees. In fact, it could potentially scald you.
Upgrade Your Appliances
To reduce your overall energy consumption and save some serious money on your utility bills, replace outdated appliances with Energy Star rated models. All Energy Star products meet strict efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the DOE. “Energy Star refrigerators, dishwashers, and heating and cooling systems run more efficiently than older models and can reduce your home energy use by up to 50 percent,” according to an article by U.S. News and World Report. At Sunfire Energy Solutions, we carry the best high-performance HVAC products by top brands including Trane, Luxaire, Olsen, and more.
If you’re still using an old tank water heater, you may want to switch to a more energy efficient tankless model. Tankless water heaters heat water directly rather than using a storage tank to keep water hot all the time. The DOE says an average family can save $100 or more each year by switching to a tankless water heater. Shop for water heaters by at Sunfire.
Switch to CFL or LED Light Bulbs
Lighting accounts for 10 percent of a home’s energy costs, according to the DOE, and you can save a significant portion of that energy by replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). CFLs use approximately 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, and they last 10 times longer. LEDs use even less energy than CFLs while lasting 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
While CFLs and LEDs may cost more initially than incandescent light bulbs, you’ll save more money in the long run. “Replacing 15 inefficient incandescent bulbs in your home with energy-saving bulbs could save you about $50 per year,” advises the DOE.
During spring and summer, avoid using your stovetop and oven as much as possible to save money on cooling your home. “When you cook with a stovetop or oven, you can end up heating up your kitchen and adjacent rooms by several degrees,” according to U.S. News and World Report. “Save your AC from having to work overtime by cooking with a microwave or grilling outdoors whenever possible.”
If you like to grill with charcoal, consider upgrading to a Big Green Egg grill. This kamado-style grill is far more efficient than the standard metal charcoal grill; it’s also easier to use and has more burning power. “Its thick ceramic walls hold in heat, making it amazingly fuel-efficient, while its unique venting system allows it to go from 225 to 700 degrees with the twist of a dial,” says Steven Raichlen, author of The Barbecue Bible, in an article for Food & Wine magazine.
For more tips on boosting your home’s energy efficiency, call Sunfire Energy Solutions at 304-267-3029.
Visit our showroom at 301 E. Stephen Street in downtown Martinsburg to browse our selection of high-efficiency products.
Sunfire Energy Solutions is a one-stop shop for HVAC products and installation, hearth appliances, grills, outdoor furniture, and hot tubs. We serve customers in Martinsburg, Shepherdstown, Charles Town, Ranson, Hedgesville, and Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, as well as the surrounding region, including parts of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Learn more at www.sunfireenergysolutions.com.