For homeowners and their families on a tight budget, an unexpectedly high electric bill in the summer or gas bill in the winter can be a major headache. In fact, according to a recent report from the Energy Information Administration, 31% of Americans have difficulty paying their energy bills. If your family dreads the arrival of the utility bill in the mail, you’re not alone.
The good news is that there are many different ways to reduce your home’s energy use and cut those bills down in size. In this article, we will discuss a few of these upgrades and changes and what you should prioritize when upgrading your home.
A quick note before we dive in: if you are facing high energy bills, be sure to check what programs are offered by your local utility or city government. In many cases, there are incentives for homeowners who proactively work to conserve energy in their homes.
Start by boosting the efficiency of your air conditioner and furnace
Most Americans spend about half (47%) of their year-round energy bills cooling and heating your home. That’s more energy spent on comfort than the next three categories of energy use combined! Any energy-efficiency improvements made to either the HVAC system itself or the way your home conserves heating and cooling is going to have a major impact on your energy bills, no matter what time of year it is.
Adjust or upgrade your water heater
Even though both are considered “utilities,” many homeowners do not draw a connection between their water use and their energy use. However, there are changes you can make to your home’s plumbing that will help you save energy.
Many water heaters are actually set to a much higher temperature than they need to be. In addition to increasing the overall stress on the tank (more heat means more pressure), this results in energy being wasted keeping the water hotter than it needs to be. By lowering the temperature setting by 10 degrees or more, you can reduce your electric or gas energy costs by up to 5%—all without a noticeable difference in your showers, laundry, or dishwasher performance.
To save even more, you may want to consider upgrading to a tankless water heater. Instead of holding hot water in a tank, these systems heat water as its needed, greatly reducing the energy they use.
Your HVAC system
No matter what type or brand of air conditioner, furnace, or heat pump you have in your home, annual maintenance from a professional HVAC technician can be a gamechanger for your energy-efficiency. We recommend that you call a locally trusted cooling and heating company twice per-year: first in the spring for an AC tune-up, and then again in the fall to have them out to look at your heating system.
By addressing potential energy-sapping issues and optimizing your comfort settings, a tune-up can help your system perform better while using less energy. That’s a win-win scenario for any homeowner!
There are a number of upgrades you can make to your home to cut down on energy waste in the form of lost cooled or heated air. Here are three of the best places to start:
- Insulation: Adding additional attic insulation can help reduce energy loss. Putting in 3-12 more inches of insulation in your existing home can cut your energy bills by 10-20%. When building a new home, ask the builder about the R-value of the insulation. This is a measurement of how effective insulation is, and many builders have options for higher R-value insulation.
- Thermostat: A programmable (also known as “smart”) thermostat helps homeowners lower their energy bills by adjusting the temperature when they are gone or sleeping.
- Windows: Replacing older, single-pane windows with efficient dual-pane ones can cut your energy costs by another 20-25%. If you aren’t ready to upgrade your windows, use light to your advantage: block sunlight from your home during the summer using curtains and shades, and let it in during the winter to warm up the home.
In the winter, uninsulated copper pipes are not only at risk of freezing, but the heat loss can reduce your water heater’s efficiency. Have a plumber insulate your plumbing, and you’ll be killing two proverbial birds with one stone.
Your small changes can add up quickly
In addition to the upgrades and improvements listed above, homeowners can further slash their energy costs, bit-by-bit, by doing things like changing out inefficient light bulbs, unplugging “vampire” electronics when not in use, or signing up for a energy-saving plan with their local utility company. For even more tips and ways to save electricity, be sure to check out this infographic below :