With the rising cost of energy, efficiency in your home is more important than ever. A one time investment in increased efficiency can pay back all the cost and then some over time. And if the savings isn’t appealing enough, there are also feel-good environmental factors that come with any efficiency upgrade. Let’s explore some options.
A manual thermostat works by only activating heat when the air temperature around the thermostat falls below the set temperature, and only activating central air when the temperature around the thermostat rises above the set temperature. This system would work great if the temperature outside your house never changed, but of course it does change. The solution to this problem is a programmable thermostat. The console can be programmed with different set temperatures for different times of the day so that you only pay for the heating and cooling you actually use. Some models even “learn” their users preferences over time and program themselves. A top of the line programmable thermostat retails for about $250, but according to Energy Star programmable thermostats can save homeowners up to $180 per year in bills, with customers reporting an average of $140 per year. Either way, it pays for itself in 2 years, and that’s not even counting a potential rebate your energy company may offer for customers who upgrade. Just remember to keep up with cleaning or replacing your HVAC filters to get the most out of your thermostat.
Remember learning in elementary school that heat rises? Well it still does, and the simplest solution to achieve a consistent, comfortable temperature is still to circulate the hot air and reduce hot zones. Then in high school, you might’ve learned about the wind-chill effect, the rule that says that moving air feels cooler on your skin than stagnant air. And in college, a mechanical engineering class will teach your that the lowest-cost operation a motor can perform is to spin an object. Enter: the ceiling fan. These appliances are so valuable because the cost of running a fan is drastically, almost comically lower than the cost of running a central air system. They do need to be installed with some precision so as to avoid damage that wobbling can cause over time, and if there is no existing electrical connection in the place you would like the fan, then hiring an electrician to run the wire is essentially required.
The quickest way to see a savings when it comes to water is to simply lower the temperature on your water heater to a U.S. Department of Energy-approved 120 degrees. But that may not suit all needs and you still face the risk of running through all of the hot water your tank can hold at one time. Something really exciting to consider is a tankless water heater. The cost of constantly keeping a large tank of water at a boiling temperature accounts for at least 10% of a standard heating bill. A tankless heater instantly heats water as it’s used, so you won’t be paying to heat water you’re not using anymore, and you’ll never have to worry about running out of hot water in the middle of a task again.
Fully upgrading decades-old windows will most certainly result in an energy savings, but there are other smaller steps you can take that will maximize the efficiency of new windows or older windows. To start, a full home energy audit will professionally locate any and all leaks, or you can test yourself by going out on a hot day and feeling around your window frames for cool air drafting out. These leaks need to get sealed with caulk or weatherstripping unless you want to keep paying to cool the neighborhood. Also remember that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. That means east and west-facing windows have a lot of extra solar heat to deal with. Installing a solar screen or applying a window film will not only lower your bills but will also reclaim hot rooms you avoid in the morning or afternoon.
We’ve moved quite a long way since the days of asbestos insulation, but just because your insulation is no longer toxic there is no guarantee that it is operating at optimal energy efficiency. Newly built Energy Star homes are insulated to the highest standard, which can be checked against Department of Energy guidelines of how much insulation is recommended in different zones of the country. Insulating your walls and attic will keep heat from escaping and keep bills reasonable in the winter.
There are many factors to consider in a kitchen renovation, and though it might not be as obvious as design and function, energy efficiency is very important in the long run. Whether it’s a dishwasher that uses less water or a refrigerator that uses less electricity, these savings add up over time. Most importantly, these savings just might be enough to entice a potential buyer if you are ever looking to sell.