An energy-efficient home is attainable for everyone. Taking just a few simple steps to reduce the amount of energy your home consumes can have a lasting impact on the environment (not to mention your wallet!).
Let’s dig into some of the most effective changes you can make around your house to save energy. Some of these tips are simple adjustments, while others entail a little more time and elbow grease.
There’s a takeaway here for everyone — no matter what your budget looks like or how much time you have to spare.
1. Install window screens.
Did you know adding screens to your windows is one of the best ways to reduce your home’s energy consumption?
Simply by installing screens, you can lower your cooling and heating bills by hundreds of dollars.
Even though it’s a common mistake to open up your windows on a hot day, approximately 30% of all the heat generated in your home actually comes in through the windows.
Fortunately, exterior screens can block up to 90% of the sun’s rays.
Interior screens are helpful for blocking out heat as well, but they’re not quite as efficient as exterior screens.
You can also get specific types of window screens to suit different purposes and climates, like solar screens, storm screens, retractable screens, and more.
2. Practice smart water use.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the average American uses an estimated 82 gallons of water per day at home, and the average American family spends over $1,000 per year on home water costs.
You can lower these numbers significantly by remaining conscious of your water usage and taking practical steps to reduce it.
Even small steps like shutting off the faucet while brushing your teeth or taking baths instead of showers can make a surprising difference.
You can also save energy by washing your clothes in cold water instead of hot water.
In addition, the EPA recommends installing water-efficient appliances, like low-flow showerheads and toilets, that can reduce water consumption by 20% or more.
3. Turn off lights when you don’t need them.
Take full advantage of natural light whenever you can. There’s usually little reason to leave lights on during the day, either because no one is home or because there’s ample sunlight to illuminate the house.
In the evening, turn off the lights when you leave the room!
It’s easy to take your light fixtures for granted, but constantly leaving lights on throughout the whole house will put a substantial dent in your utility budget.
4. Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs.
You can light your home using even less energy by replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.
LED bulbs and compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs both consume a fraction of the energy incandescent bulbs do, and they last considerably longer.
You’ll probably pay a bit more upfront for an LED or CFL bulb, but you’ll ultimately save money on operating costs (your electric bill) and replacement bulbs.
Plus, it’s the perfect time to make the switch since the U.S. government is slowly phasing out incandescent bulbs anyway.
5. Turn off electronics when they aren’t in use.
Many of us are in the habit of leaving certain electronics on continuously. We keep semi-permanent appliances in our households, like desktop computers, printers, or televisions, at the ready at all times.
However, even when they aren’t experiencing intensive use, electronics like these draw power.
Turning off all electronics (or even better — unplugging them) when you aren’t using them can help lower your energy consumption and shave dollars off your energy bill.
6. Don’t charge your devices overnight.
Another energy-wasting habit nearly all of us are guilty of is leaving our cell phones or other mobile devices on the charger all night.
Let your phone charge overnight while you aren’t using it is convenient. However, even a phone that’s slow to charge doesn’t require more than two or three hours, and it will continue to draw power as long as it’s plugged in.
You can save energy by charging your phone for a couple of hours in the evening before bedtime, then unplugging it and turning it off as soon as it finishes.
It will still be fully charged when you turn it back on in the morning.
7. Upgrade your insulation.
Improving your home’s insulation is a fantastic energy-saving measure. If your home lacks adequate insulation, heat will pass in or out of the house more easily, making it harder to keep the house cool during summer and warm during winter.
The less insulation your home has, the harder your heating and cooling system has to work to keep the house at a stable temperature.
Most kinds of insulation will last your entire lifetime or longer. If you live in a very old house, or if you have a space like an attic that’s never been insulated, you should contact a professional to help you assess and possibly upgrade the insulation in your house.
8. Use your freezer efficiently.
Believe it or not, your freezer actually operates at its most energy-efficient when it’s full.
Running an empty or nearly-empty freezer is an enormous waste of electricity and money, so clean out and unplug any freezers you aren’t using.
If you have a lot of extra space in a freezer you are using, fill it up with placeholders like frozen water bottles — just be careful not to stuff it so full that you restrict the freezer’s airflow.
A freezer that’s packed extremely tight is just as inefficient as one that’s sitting empty.
Making your home more energy-efficient isn’t a straightforward, paint-by-numbers process. You can apply countless small changes to various aspects of your home and your own behavior to reduce your energy consumption.
Energy-efficiency best practices depend on a wide variety of factors, like climate, time of year, or how your house was constructed, which means the best changes for your home might look a bit different than the best changes for someone else’s.
Before you begin, assess your home’s needs and identify which changes might have the most significant impact. Investing in upgrades, like window screens, and making small adjustments to your daily habits, like conserving water or unplugging unused electronics, should be your top considerations.