10 Hacks to Improve Energy Efficiency

Reduce your carbon footprint, and in turn, your energy bill

1. Get an efficiency audit

Before you can make your home more energy efficient, you need to know where you stand. Contact your local energy provider and request a technician to your home to evaluate your current efficiency level. In addition to giving you a baseline for improvement, these professionals can offer suggestions specific to your home!

2. Seal the gaps

Your first step towards reducing your energy bill is to seal any gaps that allow air to flow in or out of your home. Take note of cold drafts and isolate the cause! Such leaks are often found around doors, windows, and laundry/heater vents. Other common places to look are in your attic or basement. In most cases, a tube of caulk and a plastic spreader are the only tools you will need to solve the problem. These supplies can be found inexpensively at your local home improvement store.

3. Insulate your garage and attic

According to a study done by the Alliance to Save Energy, nearly 50% of American homes lack adequate insulation. Before you begin, be prepared that dealing with fiberglass insulation is a messy and itchy business. Be sure to wear protective gloves, as well as a respirator. For the inexperienced, this may be a job best left to the professionals, or your handyman husband (that's why you married him anyways, right?).

4. Seal your air ducts

Most modern homes utilize a forced-air heating/cooling system. These systems work by forcing hot or cold air through metal ductwork running throughout your house. Over time, these ducts naturally shift, causing gaps and air leaks. The EPA estimates that, in severe cases, nearly 50% of the air coming from the source is lost through this type of leak. Duct sealant compound and sealant tape are easy methods to address this issue where ductwork is accessible. Tip: Find leaks by using your hand to feel for an air current where sections of ductwork come together!

5. Install a programmable thermostat

An easy and efficient way to reduce your monthly energy usage is to install a programmable thermostat. These handy devices allow you to significantly lower your energy bill by reducing energy output during the hours that you are asleep, or during the day, while you are not in the house. Be sure to remember to program your device with a custom schedule! Buying one and leaving it set to a constant temperature won’t do you any good! With a little effort, these programmable devices can easily pay for themselves in a matter of months.

6. Install weather stripping

So, you’ve stopped any air from flowing around the casing of your window with caulk, but there is still a nasty draft! Unfortunately, as the sun shines down on your home, harmful UV rays cause damage to your home and windows, including your existing weather stripping. Eventually, this damage can cause it to become brittle and crack, ruining the seal. Luckily, new weather stripping comes in lengthy rolls with adhesive backing for easy installation, usually for under $20. Using household scissors, cut window-length strips and complete this easy DIY improvement in an afternoon!

7. Unplug your appliances

How many electronic gadgets and appliances are plugged in throughout your home right now? According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the average American household contains 40 products that are plugged in and constantly drawing power. Individually, the electricity flowing to your toaster doesn’t draw much electricity; however, collectively these devices may account for up to 10 percent of household energy use. Generally speaking, the biggest offenders are devices with a remote control, such as a TV or DVR, due to their necessity to always be “listening” for a signal.  

8. Lower your thermostats

Lower not only your home thermostat for substantial savings, but also the thermostat on your water heater. A water heater set above 120 degrees wastes a significant amount of energy. So, while you may have to wait a few minutes for your morning shower to warm up, you’ll enjoy a cool savings on your monthly bill!

9. Upgrade to Energy-Star appliances

Despite the initial investment, upgrading your old, inefficient appliances to Energy-Star qualified models can save you a bundle on your monthly energy costs. In addition to your fridge, consider replacing other appliances such as your stove, dishwasher, water heater, A/C units, and even washer/dryer units with Energy-Star appliances. To ease the transition to efficient machines, many retailers offer additional incentives to help offset the initial cost of these expensive home appliances.

10. Mind your Mother’s rules

When you aren’t using the light in a room, turn it off! Remember to close the refrigerator door, and don’t leave the windows open when the air conditioner is running! Although it may seem inconsequential to follow these basic common household rules, track yourself when you realize your own inefficiencies. With a little common sense, you can discover how much you can save just by being mindful of your energy consumption and taking small steps to reduce your footprint.