Most environmentally conscious individuals have a deep desire to live in an energy-efficient home. In their daydreams, they might imagine themselves living on a sustainable homestead that not only reduces their carbon footprint, but also saves money on utility bills. However, making this dream a reality is no easy feat. Sometimes, they don’t know what step one should be on their road to energy efficiency.
These days, everyone seems to have tips about green living. However, not all of them are practical. You might well wonder which quick steps you can take to make your home more energy efficient. Read on to discover practical strategies for making your energy-saving dreams a reality.
1. Install Solar Panels
If you’re dreaming of saving energy, generating your own can be a tempting strategy. When you’re walking around your neighborhood, you may be seeing more and more solar panels being erected. There’s a good reason for that. Solar is renewable and sustainable. Installing solar panels on your roof allows you to generate your own electricity, reducing your reliance on fossil fuels.
The price tag on going solar may seem eye-poppingly high, but some vendors offer leasing programs that make solar installation more accessible. And if you do buy your panels, you may be eligible for state and federal tax credits. Moreover, installing solar panels is an upgrade that can pay dividends when you sell your home. Studies show that installing solar panels can increase a home’s value by approximately $15,000.
2. Upgrade Your Appliances
Refrigerators, washing machines, and dishwashers are must-haves in any modern abode. But they also eat up a lot of energy. By upgrading to energy-efficient appliances, you’ll shell out more money upfront. However, what you’ll save in the long run will make the investment worthwhile.
Investigate appliances with the Energy Star label. These devices have been awarded the star for meeting the strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. When you select and install Energy Star appliances, you’ll significantly lower your energy consumption, which is good for both the planet and your pocketbook.
3. Stop Heating (and Cooling) the Outdoors
By far, the biggest source of energy consumption in your home is heating and cooling. Gaps around windows, doors, and ducts allow in outdoor air, making your HVAC system work overtime. Weather stripping or caulk can seal leaks around windows and door frames, while draft stoppers can block leakage at the bases of doors and windows. If you still have single-pane windows, now’s the time to upgrade to high-efficiency double- or triple-paned ones.
As important as it is to keep unconditioned air out of your home, it’s just as vital to keep conditioned air in. That’s where insulation comes into play. Without good insulation, you’ll experience heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. This, in turn, forces your HVAC system to overexert itself, ratcheting up your energy bills. According to the Department of Energy, installing sufficient insulation in your attic, walls, floors, and elsewhere can save you up to 20% on heating and cooling costs.
4. Take Advantage of Natural Light
Sources vary on this point, but the second largest consumer of energy is either water heating or lighting. Either way, artificial lighting accounts for a major portion of your home’s energy consumption. Make use of natural light during the day by opening curtains or blinds. This not only saves energy, but also improves your mood. After all, everybody likes feeling fresh, natural sunlight’s warming glow.
To take further advantage of the sun’s free light, place mirrors around your rooms and make sure furniture isn’t blocking your windows. Mirrors reflect natural light and brighten up your home without flicking that switch. Painting ceilings white and walls in light shades will further maximize the natural light in your home.
5. Unplug Electronics
Go on a hunting expedition in your home for electronic devices you use all the time. TVs, computers, and phone chargers gobble up energy like hungry hippos, even when they’re switched off. This is a phenomenon called “phantom power” or “standby power,” and it consumes more energy than you might realize.
Fortunately, you can easily avoid draining energy this way — and at no loss of comfort. It’s not like turning your heat down to 62 degrees or the AC up to 82. You just need to pull the plug on these devices when you’re not using them. Power strips are a handy tool that allow you to shut down a plethora of devices at the same time.
6. Look Into Smart Thermostats
Traditional thermostats are so last century. Say hello to the smart thermostat, where you can control your home’s temperature with just a tap on your smartphone. There’s no need to pay for energy you’re not using while you’re away from home — or to come back to a stuffy or chilly house. Your thermostat will be set at your desired temp before you even step through the door.
And if you go on vacation and forget to lower the furnace temp or raise the AC, you can do so remotely. Think of all the energy (and money) you’ll save by having a personal climate genie at your service. The Energy Star program reports that using a smart thermostat can save you up to $100 every year.
7. Adopt Energy-Saving Habits
Enough about your home. What can you do as an individual to realize your energy-saving dreams? The answer is to cultivate some super-simple habits to conserve power. Flip off the lights when you leave a room. Do your laundry in cold water instead of giving every load the steam treatment. Hop in and out of the shower as quickly as a ninja.
Get the whole family involved and make a game out of it. Create a shower playlist and challenge all family members to suds up and off in two songs’ time. Send the kids on a phone charger scavenger hunt, awarding them points for every unused device they unplug. By making energy saving fun, eco-conscious practices won’t feel like a sacrifice.
Making your energy-saving dreams a reality can involve everything from substantial investments to simple changes in habits. Whatever approach you take, the long-term benefits will be worth it. So start working your way down this list. Your wallet and the planet will thank you.