How to Make Homes More Energy Efficient

Energy-Efficient Improvements for Homes of All SizesWith so many excellent energy-efficient upgrades available today, homeowners can easily reduce the carbon footprint of their households. With each improvement they complete, they will reduce their energy bills and add value to their homes as well. Their efforts can even make the space more comfortable, transforming it into a true pleasure to live in day after day. To help pinpoint the best ideas for each property, here's a look at the top six ways to make homes more energy efficient.

Upgrade the Insulation

Many homes have old or poorly rated insulation, while others have none at all. These residences can greatly benefit from putting new insulation in the walls, floors, and attic. Depending on their existing setup, this upgrade can decrease heating and cooling costs by up to 50%. And it will make the interior space feel so much more comfortable through the summer and winter months.

Before performing this energy-efficient improvement, homeowners should try to pin down the R-value of their current insulation. If they cannot find this information outright, they can calculate the approximate value by measuring the thickness of the insulation, then multiplying it by the figure for their insulation type.

On average, the R-values per inch for each type are:

  • Fiberglass batts—3.4
  • Blown-in fiberglass—2.6
  • Cellulose fill—3.5
  • Spray foam—5.9

By going with insulation with a higher R-value, homeowners can rest assured the improvement will provide ample energy savings.

Install a Whole-House Fan

A whole-house fan can greatly decrease the amount of work the central AC does while keeping the house cool and comfortable. Installers place the fan in the attic to draw hot air out of the home in an instant. When working at peak efficiency, these fans replace all the air in the house up to 60 times an hour. They only use 10% of the power that central AC units do, keeping costs down every month.

Although these fans are often a great investment, they work much better in dry areas than those with high humidity levels. They are also more effective when it is not blazing hot outside, though they still make a marked difference in indoor temps during the hottest months.

Shift to Solar Power

Homes that get a lot of direct sunlight each day are great candidates for solar panels. When equipped with these panels, homes can generate their own electricity, reducing or eliminating their reliance on public power systems. If the solar panels generate enough electricity each day, homeowners can even elect to feed it back into the local power grid and collect a tidy sum for their contribution.

Although solar panels are a big upfront investment, they tend to pay for themselves after about seven years. The returns can come even faster if homeowners sell their excess electricity to the utility company. Since the panels stay in good working order for over 20 years, homeowners can enjoy more than a decade of free energy after the returns pay off the system.

Replace Old Appliances

Old appliances eat up energy faster than homeowners might believe. If the house has an outdated fridge, it could take up to 1,700 kilowatt-hours of electricity every year. By switching to an ENERGY STAR approved modern fridge, homeowners can decrease that figure to just 450 kilowatt-hours per year.

Depending on their local energy rates, this simple change can result in more than $100 savings per year for just that one appliance alone. If homeowners replace all the appliances in the house with energy-efficient models, they could save big.

Switch to LED Bulbs

LED bulbs consume far less power than the incandescent bulbs of yesteryear. Depending on the design, LEDs can run on 1/5th of the electricity used by their outdated counterparts. As an added bonus, modern LED bulbs can run for 25,000 hours before needing replacement. That is far longer than the mere 1,000 hours of runtime offered by incandescent models. By replacing all their incandescent bulbs, homeowners can save around $100 per year on power and far more on not having to replace their bulbs nearly as often.

Use a Programmable Thermostat

Without a programmable thermostat, homeowners have to set their temp at a steady level and leave it there all day and night. Or, they have to remember to turn it down before bed and back up in the morning.

By installing a programmable model, they can leave the work to the device and enjoy even more energy savings. Just by setting the thermostat to automatically adjust the temp by 10 degrees for about eight hours a day, homeowners can save around 10% each year on their heating and cooling bills.

With these improvements under their belt, homeowners are sure to see the benefits in no time. In fact, once that first power bill comes through the mail, they can see their hard work start to pay off. From there, they just have to wait for the upgrades to pay for themselves through month after month of returns.

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