Energy efficiency is essential if you want to be a responsible energy customer in the 21st century. Not only will lowering your energy usage shrink your home’s utility bill, but you’ll also help the environment by reducing your carbon footprint. It’s truly a win-win outcome!
However, the concept of “energy efficiency” can be nebulous. While lowing your carbon footprint and electric bill are objectively good outcomes, it’s easy to get confused by what you’re supposed to do to benefit. We regularly hear questions like:
- How do I actually use energy more effectively in everyday life?
- How will making these changes to my home and energy usage habits help the environment?
- Does energy efficiency really make a difference?
Those are good questions! You should want to better understand the bigger reasons behind what you do, especially when those actions are purported to be important and “world-changing.” At Chariot Energy, we’re big believers in informing all energy consumers so they can make the best possible choice for the world.
To that end, we’ve collected 30 tips to help make your home more energy efficient. We’ve given nearly every part of the house some attention, and the suggestions have been assembled in tiers from simplest to most difficult. The idea is to make you aware of as many tactics as possible so you can implement them according to your time, budget, and ability level.
Think of this list as quick hits. Easy wins. Effortless activities. If you’ve ever read an article with energy efficiency tips, these tips will seem all too familiar. They’re the sort of changes you can easily make to your home to lower your electricity bill.
We think of these tips as a way to show your family the importance of energy efficiency without too much change all at once. Plus, this is stuff everyone can do, so the whole family can feel like they’re contributing to improving the house and the environment.
1. Switch to LED Light Bulbs
Every energy efficiency list starts with this tip because it’s the easiest, most tangible, and most effective. Compared to traditional incandescent light bulbs, LED light bulbs use 75% less electricity, use it more effectively, waste almost no energy as heat, and last 25 times longer. This amounts to $75 in annual savings.
2. Turn Off the Lights
Yes, the oldest tip in the book. If you leave a room and you know you’ll be gone for more than 10 minutes, you should flip that switch.
3. Unplug Your Electronics
Turning them off isn’t good enough. And yes, we do include the chargers for all of your mobile devices. Modern consumer electronics have standby settings – the little red light you often see on screens – that continually draw energy even after you smash that “OFF” button. This concept is called “vampire power” because it sucks your electricity.
If you don’t want to unplug everything every night – and why would you? – you should plug everything into a single power strip and then flip a single switch before going to bed each night. The point is to stop wasting electricity when you aren’t using it.
4. Install a Programmable Thermostat
We aren’t recommending you drop a couple hundred bucks on a fancy smart home device (though you can certainly do so if that meets your needs). We’re talking about a basic thermostat that allows you to enter a few settings and time frames to meet your family’s schedule. When you create a regular pattern for your electricity usage, you can better control your energy bill because you know exactly when and how you’re using electricity.
5. Use Better Thermostat Settings
When you do install that new programmable thermostat, we encourage you to use the following settings:
- Summer: 80° F during the day if no one is home
- Summer: 75° F during the day if people are home and at night when people are asleep
- Winter: 62-65° F during the day if no one is home and at night
- Winter: 68° F during the day if people at home
OK, we hear you. Those might seem extreme at first, but if you work toward those parameters slowly and keep your family’s comfort in mind, you’ll see savings through these recommended temperatures.
6. Use Ceiling Fans
Your ceiling fans will aid you in using those new thermostat settings. In summer, the rotation of the fan should push air down into the room where it can circulate over people’s skin. In winter, the rotation should point air toward the ceiling where it can then settle in the corners and wrap the room in warmed air.
7. Replace Your HVAC Filter
Changing your air filter regularly serves two purposes:
- It ensures that your family breathes clean air; and
- It helps your air conditioner work more effectively since it’s not fighting a clogged filter.
In general, you should change your air filter every month. The only exceptions to this are if you use an upper-tier filter wherein you can just rinse the filter for several months before replacing it or if the manufacturer of your HVAC system recommends changing the filter every two or three months.
8. Use Your Microwave
You should really heat as much food as possible in the microwave to save energy. While we love eating excellent homecooked food as the next person, we also know how much heat the oven and stove create. And the hotter you make your house, the more you’ll run your air conditioner to cool your home.
9. Stop Preheating Your Oven
Not only should you reduce your oven cooking in general, but you should also completely cut out any preheating. Outside of some very specific baking-related situations, you don’t need to preheat your oven or adjust your cooking time to account for that preheating.
10. Turn Down Your Water Heater
This is pretty simple: your average water heater comes from the factory at 140° F, which is hotter than you need it to be, no matter how you’re using water. By reducing your water heater temperature to 120° F, you’re saving money instantly since you’re not overheating your water.
11. Wash in Cold Water
You can cut your electricity usage even further by not heating the water you need to wash clothes. Washing your clothes in warm water all the time shrinks your clothes, fades the colors, and attacks the seams. The only time you really need to use warm water for washing is when clothes are especially soiled by a sticky or oily substance.
12. Switch to a Green Electricity Plan
Show your love for the environment by signing up for a home electricity plan powered by 100% renewable energy. By choosing green energy, you’re declaring to the energy industry that you don’t want fossil fuel energy any longer and that you want to see increased investment in technology that’s good for the environment. The more people that switch to such plans, the lower the price of that electricity will become.
With this section, you’ll see that the amount of time and money it takes to complete a task jumps a bit. Before, we were asking you to change a few habits and tendencies around the home. Now, we’re talking about some serious effort – but it will all be worth it. We promise.
13. Conduct Energy Audit
Some energy efficiency lists walk you through a few exercises you can do to perform a DIY energy audit. While those are OK, we greatly prefer that you go to a professional. Not only will they have the most up-to-date tools and technology to track your energy usage, but they can provide detailed advice on how to fix what might be wrong with your home. Sometimes, investing in outside expertise makes all the difference.
14. Buy ENERGY STAR Appliances
No, we’re not suggesting that you fully renovate your home, as that would be far too cost-prohibitive. We’re merely recommending that you replace your next busted appliance with an ENERGY STAR model.
Such devices use less energy and use it more effectively so that you can recoup your investment long before its time to replace it with a newer model.
15. Perform Regular Appliance Maintenance
Like any piece of machinery or technology, your home appliances need some periodic upkeep to operate at peak energy efficiency. This includes:
- Cleaning the coils on your refrigerator
- Defrosting your freezer
- Cleaning your microwave
- Descaling your water heater
- Running a clean cycle on your dishwasher and washing machine
- Removing all the lint from the dryer
16. Get an HVAC Tune-Up
To make a real difference in the energy efficiency of your home, you should clean your HVAC unit with a tune-up from a professional at least once a year. If you live in a warmer climate, get it done in the spring; if your winters are harsher, get it done in the fall.
17. Air-Dry Your Clothes
This task isn’t necessarily difficult to accomplish, but not everyone has the available space to accomplish it effectively. We simply recommend this one if it’s possible, as it will lower your energy usage and lengthen the life of your clothes.
18. Install Low-Flow Devices
Limiting your water usage is an underappreciated part of energy efficiency. The less water you have to heat, the lower your electricity bill. Hence, you should first adopt low-cost options like low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, but to take things up a notch, you can install two-option toilets that discern the difference between liquid and solid waste
19. Install Weatherstripping
One of the worst things you can do to your HVAC system is to allow air to escape. If your door doesn’t have a good seal, then you’re letting out air you’ve already cooled or heated. That makes your system work harder, which drives up your electricity usage and wears down the system faster.
To combat this, you need to ensure you have good weatherstripping around any door that leads outside. Obviously, if it’s cracked or dried, it needs replacing, but you can also check by placing a piece of paper in the door jamb when closed – if it’s easy to pull out, then you need to replace it. Weatherstripping isn’t difficult to replace, and you can get kits at your local home improvement store.
20. Caulk Your Windows
The same principle about letting air escape out your door applies to your window. Examine your window frames for cracked or dried caulk, and if it’s in poor condition, it needs to be filled so your home isn’t leaky. You can purchase caulk and a caulk gun for not much money at your local home improvement store.
21. Increase Your Attic Insulation
You can also take those two previous steps up a notch by increasing the amount of insulation in your attic. Industry experts recommend a minimum of R-30, but you might need more than that, depending on where you live in the United States. For example, Texans should get up to R-60 in their home attics.
22. Install and Use Curtains
While we are big fans of using your windows to provide lots of natural light so you don’t have to keep lights turned on all the time, thick curtains can be very useful. They help block out sunlight that can overheat your home in summer, which can drive up your air conditioner usage. Conversely, they can trap in heat during the winter, so you don’t have to run your heater all the time.
Want to up your game even more? Ready to put your money where your mouth is literally and figuratively? This final set of energy efficiency tips might entail significant expenses, but they also promise increased energy efficiency benefits, electricity bill savings, and environmental impact.
With nearly all of these suggestions, you need to first speak with a licensed professional before you make any purchase. That way, you can choose the right materials and solutions for your home and situation. You should then use that licensed professional (or someone they recommend) to complete these tasks since they all involve specialized knowledge, tools, and materials unavailable to your average homeowner.
23. Purchase a New HVAC Unit
Yes, we know. This is a large purchase, but since over half of your home’s energy usage can be attributed solely to heating and cooling, an old or faulty HVAC unit can be the biggest driver of your high energy usage. Replacing your old system with a new one will go a long way toward controlling your usage habits as well as simply heating and cooling your home more efficiently.
24. Upgrade or Repair Your Ducts
Did you install a new HVAC unit but aren’t seeing the drop in energy usage and rise in energy efficiency you were promised? That might be because your ductwork is shoddy and in disrepair. You could have a top-rate HVAC system at your home, but if your ducts are cracked, leaky, or rusting out, you’re literally blowing hot air into your attic. This hurts your electricity bill and the environment.
25. Improve Your Wall Insulation
Your walls can leak air just like your windows and doors, but they can be harder and more expensive to upgrade. But depending upon the age of your home, this tip could be both supremely beneficial and supremely costly. Older homes simply don’t have as much wall insulation installed, and they’re often not constructed in a way where new insulation can be added easily.
26. Repair Drafty Doors
After a while, even new weatherstripping won’t help your home if the door itself is aged, broken, or in disrepair. You might need to invest in a new front and/or back door to help your home retain air more effectively. A new door will fit the door frame more snugly, and any glasswork will be in top condition so air doesn’t leak through the panes.
27. Install Energy-Efficient Windows
Once again, the same principle applies. No amount of caulk will fix windows that are loose in their frames and jambs. New-school energy-efficient windows are double-paned to keep your treated air inside and the outdoor air outside. They are a significant but worthwhile investment, especially if you want to sell your home.
28. Install Ceiling Fans
Honestly, we recommend installing a ceiling fan in nearly every room of your home. No, we aren’t talking about your closet, unless you have a luxury walk-in with sitting area. We’re talking about any room where your family congregates for any stretch of time. As we discussed before, a ceiling fan will keep your family comfortable without needing to overwork your HVAC system.
29. Install a Tankless Water Heater
Even when you lower your water heater temperature to 120° F, you’re still using lots of electricity to keep a full tank heated all the time. But how often do you really need all that hot water? Not very often – just for your shower, a few loads of dishes a week, and the rare load of extra-dirty clothes.
A tankless water heater will give you hot water only when you need it, as opposed to sitting around in a tank wasting electricity. Most new models will help you save over $100 a year in water-heating costs, which means you’ll start seeing the return on your investment well before the unit needs to be replaced.
30. Plant Trees Around Your Property
The strategic planting of a tree or two can help your home and the environment even more. The shade from the tree will help moderate your home’s temperature in summer and winter, as it blocks sunlight and enhances your insulation. Since trees take in carbon dioxide and expel oxygen, you’re lowering the carbon footprint of your home.
Energy Efficiency Enhances the Environment
Everything we’d talked about in this post will help your home use energy more effectively. In turn, this helps you use less energy at home, which will always lead to a lower electricity bill. But how does this help the environment? Because anything you can do to lower your energy usage will reduce the resources needed to generate that electricity. And even if you use exclusively renewable energy sources for your home electricity, being more energy efficient shows your respect for the environment and our planet.
Interested in becoming more energy efficient, but you’re unsure of where to begin? Just pick a couple of things from the easy list to start, and once you become a pro at those, try some new ones while slowly increasing the difficulty level. You’ll find that it’s easier to break old habits and create new ones if you give yourself some space to grow and develop.
Welcome to your new energy-efficient life!