Now that Spring has officially arrived, and you’re thoroughly cleaning your home, why not run through these home energy efficiency tips that will save you money and reduce your carbon footprint? At MSCO, we’re all about promoting better energy-use habits throughout your home, not just with your heating and cooling system – of course, there’s a little of that in here too.
Did you know that the average US household will spend about $2,000 on home energy this year? If you’re appalled by this statistic and want to learn some steps you can take to bring that number down, keep reading!
Outside the Home
Air Conditioning Unit
When you’re investing in new heating and cooling equipment, it’s important that you buy a unit that is the proper size and have it installed by a high-quality company. This is critical for your home’s energy efficiency and comfort.
Systems that are too big can cause reduced comfort and excessive noise. Bigger isn’t always better in this case as oversizing can actually cause it to cycle on and off more frequently than a properly-sized unit. On the other hand, systems that are too small can greatly reduce efficiency because they’re working overtime to produce the same amount of work as a properly-sized system; plus it accelerates wear and tear on system components, leading to early failure and costly repair and/or replacement.
If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, giving your car a break every now and then is one of the best ways. You can combine trips instead of making lots of little ones, use mass transit, walk, or bike when possible. Keeping your car well-maintained and up-to-date on its annual inspections maximizes fuel efficiency, safety, and reliability in your vehicle. Any easy way to ensure you are getting max efficiency out of your car is to check your tire pressure regularly to avoid unnecessary wear and tear and decrease gas mileage, which can result from under-inflated tires.
Air leaks are one of the largest sources of heat loss during the winter and air conditioning escaping during the summer. Air leaks can often happen under the door leading from your house to the garage because they often aren’t sealed as effectively as doors leading directly outside. Ensure that there are door sweeps under every door leading outside but especially under this one that is often neglected. Sealing the gap between the bottom of the door and the threshold helps to prevent the inside air from escaping your home.
The attic is one of the biggest culprits for air leaks but because of the attic’s general accessibility, it is easy to seal and insulate it to improve the home’s comfort and energy performance. A quick way to determine if your attic needs more insulation is to look across the uncovered attic floor. If the insulation is level with or below the attic floor joists, you most likely need more.
Ducts distribute conditioned air throughout the home making them the driving force of your heating and cooling system. In a typical house, about 20% of the air moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, rips, holes, and poorly connected ducts. Look for any signs that point to leaking ducts and have them sealed using either mastic or metal tape.
As you’re going through and adding insulation to your attic, make sure you are only placing it where you find leaks. For example, chimneys or furnace flues that penetrate your attic floor may have gaps and holes around it that allows air to escape your home, causing more drafts. Around these parts, you should cover the gaps with metal flashing and caulk small gaps with high-temperature caulk as chimneys and furnace flues can get hot.
There are some easy fixes you can make to your kitchen appliances to improve the energy efficiency of your home and save on energy bills.
ENERGY STAR recommends keeping your temperature range between 35° and 38°F to keep food fresh but also keep from wasting energy. Otherwise, follow the temperature recommendation that accompanies your fridge to avoid excessive cooling.
Did you know that refrigerators and freezers operate most efficiently when they are full (but not overflowing)? This is great because that extra freezer that you have in your garage for overflow storage, you know the one, is costing you more money than you might think. You could save $300-$700 by not running a second refrigerator over the next 5 years, according to ENERGY STAR, so if possible, you should properly recycle your second and fill the first.
Believe it or not, rinsing dirty dishes before loading the dishes uses a lot of water and turning the sink on and off uses a lot of energy. Instead, save water by scraping the dishes then running the dishwasher only with a full load. It’s also recommended that you run your dishwasher and clothes washer/dryer at night as it will emit air, keeping the house cooler and it’ll reduce strain on the power grid if you avoid peak washing times between the hours of 4 and 6 PM.
It’s in your best interest to use the right sized pot on stove burners. For example, using a 6” pot on an 8” burner wastes over 40% of the burner’s heat and emits unnecessary heat into the home, bringing the indoor temperature up. If you have a gas range, keep the burners clean and clear for maximum efficiency.
When it comes to the oven, using it as little as possible is the best way to go. If possible, employ your microwave, stove top, or toaster oven rather than turning on your oven. When you do use the oven, avoid peeking while your food bakes; every time you open the oven door, the temperature drops 25° F, making your oven use more energy to maintain the temperature. Save even more energy by turning the oven off a few minutes before cooking time runs out; the residual heat will continue to cook the food without using extra electricity.
The basement, like the attic, is a great place to start making energy-efficient improvements from the appliances to the heating and cooling equipment. There are several steps that are important to improve your home’s energy efficiency, save on energy bills, and reduce your carbon footprint.
Your Heating and Cooling System
Dirt and maintenance irregularity are the two biggest causes of an inefficient heating and cooling system. It’s critical to regularly change your filter and schedule routine maintenance check-ups performed by a certified technician. If your HVAC system is an older model and is nearing the end of its lifespan, replacing it will save you money and energy.
As much as half of your household energy is used by heating and cooling so replacing your system with one that’s more energy efficient one is a great way to save. In addition to replacing your old system, getting a system that is the right size, scheduling regular maintenance, sealing your air ducts, installing a programmable thermostat, and adding insulation are great DIY methods of increasing efficiency and lowering your energy bill.
Washing Machine & Dryer
Whenever possible, wash your laundry in cold water and only run the washing machine when you have a full load – or reduce the amount of water if you want to wash a partial load. Hot water heating accounts for about 90% of the energy your machine uses to wash clothes (the other 10% goes to electricity used by the washer motor).
If you are ready to replace your old washing machine, an energy-efficient model, which reduces water consumption with a better spin cycle and lower drying time, is a worthwhile investment.
When it comes to drying your clothes, you don’t want to over-dry them; the best way to do this is to get a dryer with a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off when the clothes are dry. Just like with your washing machine, only run full loads or reduce the drying time for partial loads. It’s also a good idea to run loads made up of similar fabrics so that the entire load dries in relatively the same amount of time. The lint trap is also an important energy saver and should be cleaned out after every single load.