How To Optimize Your Home For Energy Efficiency
As your home ages, it becomes less efficient. Your insulation starts to settle. Cracks widen. And siding wears thinner. These aging effects are inevitable. And they're why exterior home maintenance is so critical to keeping your energy costs low.
But energy efficiency is also about what’s inside your home. Today’s dishwashers and clothes dryers use much fewer watts than older models. That’s why smart homeowners are replacing older resource-hogging appliances with energy efficient water heaters, furnaces, and lightbulbs.
Home maintenance also means keeping up with current technology. Here are some guaranteed ways to keep your home energy efficient and up-to-date.
Get a Smart Thermostat
While having an updated HVAC system saves you money, it’s also important to have the most efficient thermostat. In fact, you can save 10% on your annual heating and cooling costs by adjusting your thermostat 4 to 6 C°(7 F° to 10 F°) from its usual setting. But it’s hard remembering to lower temps at night or when you’re away. That’s where a programmable thermostat can help: They remember for you.
These “smart” thermostats can automatically turn on your furnace before you get home, or you can adjust temperatures remotely from your smartphone. You can even connect smart thermostats to control “hubs” like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant for voice control. Some thermostat models can monitor different areas of your home, keeping a more even temperature throughout.
Install Double Pane Windows
The Canadian Window Standards Subcommittee estimates double pane windows can reduce your energy use by 24% in the winter and 18% in the summer. That's a drastic difference. This is because your windows make up about 15% to 20% of your home’s surface.
Double pane windows work like the insulation in your walls — forming a pocket of air that’s resistant to heat transfer. And some windows are filled with gas like argon to increase their thermal efficiency even more.
One downside to double pane windows is their cost. High-quality double pane windows are more expensive than standard ones. Replacing only one or two windows won’t get you the return on your investment you're looking for, so you need to replace all your windows. Although installing double pane windows is a big investment, the 24% annual savings on energy costs add up fast.
Swap Incandescent Bulbs with CFLs
If you are still using incandescent bulbs in your home, don’t replace them when they burn out. Instead, switch them out for more efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). These lights are essentially fluorescent tubes twirled into a compact bulb. Proponents of CFLs estimate these modern bulbs only consume about 25% of the energy of an incandescent bulb.
CFLs bring the biggest savings to people who live in relatively milder climates. While CFLs use less energy, they also produce less heat for the home. Therefore, if you live in a place where heating oil is expensive, you may end up spending more money. But installing CFLs is a good way to save money for the majority of homeowners.
Start Monitoring Your Energy Use
The best way to cut energy use is to see it at work. It’s easy to forget how much more energy the oven uses than the microwave — it all seems like the same power. But with energy monitoring systems, those intangible watts become real dollars.
Energy monitoring systems let you see how much power is being used by every device in your home. You can track electrical usage from your smartphone or connect the system to your smart home hub. You can even check when and how long your teenager is on their computer.
Most monitoring systems let you run monthly usage reports. These help you identifying peak usage times that cost you more per kilowatt. Monitoring systems are pricey and take professional installation, so if they’re too much of an investment, try a smart plug on one or two of your bigger energy users.
Replace Your Old Furnace
If your furnace or HVAC system is more than 17 years old, it’s time to trade up for a new model. Newer systems save you money because they use less energy. Traditional heat pumps are inexpensive and efficient, but they struggle in colder climates. However, the technology has come a long way. If you're looking to replace your older furnace, ask about cold-climate, air-source heat pumps.