Going green can save you some green (money, that is) when you focus on energy use in your home.
Aside from honoring the noble call to save the planet, it’s possible to save some serious cash by examining how you use energy in your home. Most homeowners are shocked when they stop to analyze how much energy is wasted around the house every day. Rocco Sinisgalli, president of Oneida Builders and an EarthCraft-certified remodeler, says the ideal first step to control hidden costs is to find an assessor to complete an energy audit of your home. He compares the audit to an MRI of your body. “The audit gives you a list of major and minor things that can be improved and it prioritizes them so you can decide what’s most important to you.” Here, we’ve collected some easy ways to help you save big when it comes to energy use in your home.
Door-in-door options save energy because you don’t open the entire door to search for items. For your current fridge, check the seal on the door by closing it on a piece of paper. If the paper can be pulled out easily, it’s time to replace the rubber gaskets to stop cold air leaks.
WATER HEATER TEMPS
Turn your water heater down from the typical 140 F to 120 F—there’ll be plenty of hot water for laundry, showers and dishwashing, but you’ll save money on heating costs.
ON-DEMAND WATER HEATER
A Metlund® Hot Water D’MAND® System conserves water and energy by delivering H2O to the faucet far faster than a traditional model, so less water flows down the drain.
NATURAL GAS VS. ELECTRIC
Appliances that use natural gas rather than electricity are cheaper to use. They’re usually more costly to buy, but the energy savings can be worth the initial expense.
Don’t rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. The 5 gallons of water used by rinsing for 2 minutes is what most dishwashers use in an entire cycle.
Heating water accounts for 90 percent of the energy needed to run a washer, so using cooler water saves energy. Today’s high-efficiency washer models and cold-water-friendly soaps get the job done.
SOLAR WATER HEATER
Solar water heaters can slash your water heating bills by 50 to 80 percent. A rooftop cell absorbs the sun’s radiation and transfers the heat to water in a storage tank.
A new, high-efficiency central A/C unit will cut your summer electric bills by about one-third if your current unit is 10 years old or more.
Look for the Energy Star logo, a designation by the Environmental Protection Agency, meaning an appliance exceeds minimum federal energy-use standards, usually by a significant amount
Steel and fiberglass doors insulate your home better than wood ones. If your door doesn’t fit tightly within its frame, consider buying an Energy Star-certified door that puts a stop to drafts.
2. STONE VENEER
Stone veneers added to outside walls (where day and night temps vary greatly) can control those fluctuations—helping to keep interior temps consistent and saving on heating and cooling energy.
3. ROOF COLOR
A roof painted with a white, solar-reflective coating reflects up to 90 percent of the sunlight that hits it, reducing the need for air conditioning indoors by 10 to 40 percent.
4. SOLAR PANELS ON ROOF
Installing energy-saving solar panels is more affordable now with a federal tax credit that covers about 30 percent of the installation cost (around $5,000 for most homeowners).
Windows made with low-emissivity glass (Low-E) and triple panes block about 97 percent of the sun’s UV rays, so there’s less need for air-conditioning.“Smart windows” use a thermochromic material to control light and heat levels in the house. The windows transition from clear to tinted as they heat up, so you can use less A/C.
Changing up the siding on your home? DuPont’s™ Tyvek® HomeWrap® reduces energy bills by controlling air flow and water intrusion inside your walls, helping insulation to work better.
Heating and cooling account for about 56 percent of energy use in a typical home. Insulation, like EnviroFoam’s Icynene® spray foam, surrounds your pipes, ducts and walls with an airtight barrier that keeps cooled or heated air from escaping.
Plant trees on the west and south side of your house to provide much-needed shade during the dog days of summer.
8. GARAGE DOOR
Keep your garage door closed when possible. Its interior walls transfer heat or cold to your home’s “ecosystem”—making your air conditioner or heater work overtime to stabilize indoor temps.
9. OUTSIDE LIGHTS
Convert existing low-voltage incandescent or halogen landscape light bulbs to LED bulbs.They are about 90 percent more energy-efficient and manage extreme temps better.
AUDIT YOUR ENERGY USE
Analyze where your home is losing energy. The U.S. Department of Energy’s website, EnergySavers.gov, has details on performing an energy audit yourself.
“Gadget drain” refers to electricity that is used by electronics, even when they’re off. Stop their energy use by unplugging them or turning off the power strip they’re plugged into.
A “SmartPlug,” like iDevices Switch, remotely turns off appliances or gizmos from your smartphone—or you can set a schedule to have them turn off automatically.
An Evolve Showerhead conserves water as it heats up in anticipation of your shower. When the water reaches 95 F, flip a switch to proceed with regular water flow.
Switch to LED light bulbs, which use 85 percent less energy than incandescents and last 25 times longer. Look for Cree’s 60W Equivalent Soft White A19—it’s Energy Star-certified and backed by a 10-year warranty. Not all LED bulbs are created equally. Cree bulbs are fully dimmable (dimming saves energy), allowing you to customize the light in your home and save energy, too.
Kill A Watt® is a meter that will tell you how much energy your other gadgets are consuming.
The Nest Learning Thermostat creates a schedule for the temps you prefer in your home. It saves users an average of 10 to 12 percent on heating bills and 15 percent on cooling bills, easily paying for itself.
MySmartBlinds are app-controlled window coverings that you can set to “Energy-Saving Mode” so they’ll automatically close when they sense your windows heating up under the blazing sun.
Program a “smart sprinkler controller” with information on your yard’s plants, soil and sun conditions. It downloads weather forecasts and customizes an irrigation schedule that will save water.
CARBON FOOTPRINT CALCULATOR
Yet another use for your smartphone—download a calculator, like one at Oroeco.com, to give you tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint based on your lifestyle and activities.