Solar is a great way to cut down on your home’s carbon footprint and energy usage, but it isn’t the only way. There is a whole range of energy efficient products and technologies that are available to reduce your home energy usage and save you money. Some of these are larger expenses and good to consider when it’s time to replace old appliances, and others have smaller upfront costs with long term savings. Here’s a list of some suggested items to consider when doing home improvements:
- Switch out old light bulbs. Today’s increasingly efficient light bulbs can reduce your lighting energy usage anywhere from 30-80%. These bulbs also last about 25 years longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, so you won’t be replacing burnt out bulbs too often.
- Buy Energy Star products. If your dishwasher, refrigerator, washer, or any other appliance breaks, replace it with an energy efficient version. These appliances may have a slightly higher upfront cost, but the energy savings creates a short payback period. Here is a breakdown of how each appliance can save you money and electricity:
- Refrigerator: ENERGY STAR refrigerators use 15% less energy than their noncertified counterparts, and top-mounted freezers 10-20% than side or bottom-mounted freezers.
- Dishwasher: ENERGY STAR dishwashers use only 4.25 gallons of water per cycle, while dishwashers purchased before 1994 use more than 10 gallons. They also use 41% less energy than the federal minimum standard for energy consumption.
- Clothing washers: Compared to standard washers, ENERGY STAR washers use 40-50% less energy and 55% less water. This calculates to about $50 savings for you each year on your utility and water bills.
- Air conditioning: ENERGY STAR qualified room air conditioning units care 10% more efficient than standard models, and central ENERGY STAR units are 15% better than the standard.
- Install a programmable thermostat. These allow you to control your thermostat via your phone, laptop, or tablet, giving you greater control over your homes central heating. Cost savings are the main benefit here. Creating a temperature schedule that fits your family’s routine means you aren’t wasting money or energy heating or cooling your home when no one is home. The average savings for top thermostats is 10-12% for heating and 15% for cooling.
- Improve insulation: Having proper insulation prevents heat loss and gain, creating savings of up to 40% on heating and cooling bills. Insulation also reduces your energy consumption and therefore greenhouse gas emissions. To learn more about what kind of insulation is right for you click here.
- Seal ducts: Leaking ducts can reduce the efficiency of heating and cooling systems by up to 20%. Sealing and insulating ducts can pay for themselves by recouping these unnecessary costs. Doing so can also stop harmful fumes, and particles that cause asthma and allergies from entering your home. See ENERGY STAR’s Duct Sealing brochure for more information.
- Install energy efficient windows: Energy efficient windows have reduced energy bills by an average of 12% nationwide. These windows shield your home from winter chills and the summer heat, while protecting all your valuables from discoloration from the sun.
- Install a high-efficiency water heater: Many high-efficiency models can reduce energy usage by up to 50%, partly because they take less time to heat water. For example, tankless water heaters heat water only when needed, versus conventional models which operate 24 hours a day. Solar-powered options reduce operational costs by up to 70%. These savings make it worthwhile to do research on what model is the right fit for your home.
- Consider a solar water heater. These are an environmentally friendly option, and you may qualify for tax credits or rebates for buying one. Visit here to see if you qualify.
- Upgrade your heat pump. There are three different types to choose from: air-to-air, water source, and geothermal. Geothermal heat pumps can reduce your energy usage by 30-60% and are a good fit for a variety of homes. For information on each type click here.
- Install a cool roof or a green roof. A cool roof can lower the temperature of your roof by 50℉, decreasing your need for air conditioning. Cool roofs can be created through retrofitting your roof with heat-reflective materials, such as lighter colors than the conventional black options or covering with a waterproofing surface. Because of the increased heat and light reflectivity on lighter roofs, cool roofs reduce more home energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions than standard roofs. Green roofs use plants and vegetation to naturally insulate and cool a home. They also serve to reduce flooding and runoff, improve air quality locally, and provide habitat for pollinators. Even though the average cost of installing a green roof is more expensive than a conventional roof, it is usually less expensive in the long run because of energy savings.
Keeping these tips in mind when shopping for new appliances and home products can help save you money and reduce your carbon footprint. Home energy use makes up about a quarter of your carbon footprint, so cutting back there lowers on your impact on our environment as well as your wallet.
ENERGY STAR: https://www.energystar.gov
ENERGY STAR Qualified Appliances: https://www.energystar.gov/ia/new_homes/features/Appliances_062906.pdf
Benefits of Duct Sealing: https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_improvement.hm_improvement_ducts_benefits
What is a Cool Roof: https://www.certainteed.com/residential-roofing-commercial-roofing/what-cool-roof-0/
Green Roofs: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/05/green-roofs/klinkenborg-text