How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient
Your home is likely your greatest investment, and you want to keep it running like a well-oiled machine. Every house is a system with components that work together to determine the home’s energy efficiency, or lack thereof. If you suspect that your home isn’t as energy efficient as it could be, there are a variety of ways you can approach the issue and bring your energy costs down while driving your property value up. We’ll cover some of the best home energy efficiency tips in three categories: structure, appliances, and automation.
Benefits of Energy-Efficient Homes
Before we move on to the nuts and bolts of how to save electricity at home, let’s take a look at the advantages of energy-efficient homes. Understanding the payoff to your potential investment will help you decide which forms of improvement you want to undertake.
1. Save Money
Saving money on energy bills is the number one reason most people look into making their homes more energy-efficient, but how much can you really save just from making some simple changes? The Department of Energy has compiled a list of 13 different actions we’ll cover in detail later, as well as estimates of how much they can save you on your annual utility bills. All together, the Department estimates that you could save between $723 and $1,182 on your bills annually.
2. Push up Property Value
You won’t just save money on your utility bills. Upgrading your home to be energy efficient will pay off in the long run as it increases your home’s value. A study in North Carolina found that new green-certified homes sold for nearly 13 percent more than their non-certified counterparts. The green certification programs listed include:
- LEED for Homes
- ENERGY STAR
- National Green Building Standard
- HERS Index
Updating your home for better efficiency now is an excellent move if you want your home to be worth more later.
3. Stay More Comfortable
When your home’s systems are set up to be more efficient, your home retains heat and cold better. Warm air stays inside in the winter, and cooled air from an air conditioner won’t escape in the summer. This allows you to use less energy to heat and cool your home, leading to increased comfort year-round.
Better energy efficiency also results in more consistent temperatures throughout your home. With less energy escaping, you’ll be less likely to find that your home has hot spots near the heating system and cold spots near doors and windows.
4. Enjoy Better System Longevity
Energy efficiency allows all your home’s systems to work below their maximum capacity. When components of the system don’t have to work as hard to provide the same level of function, their performance is optimized, and their lifespan will be extended. You’ll see savings in the form of less maintenance and fewer repairs over the life of your systems.
5. Do Your Part for the Environment
In 2017, homes and businesses were responsible for 12 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The older your home is, the more CO2 it emits — unless you take steps to make it more energy efficient. With greater energy efficiency comes a smaller carbon footprint, which can be a reason to upgrade in and of itself.
How to Upgrade Your Home’s Structure for Better Efficiency
If you have the time and funds for it, upgrading structural elements of your home is a good way to increase its efficiency. The Home Energy Score (HES) is a program developed by the Department of Energy, which gives homeowners a window into their home’s energy use and performance, similar to the way miles per gallon is a measure of a car’s efficiency. The HES takes into account the home’s construction as well as its energy system. The following three improvements are good places to start improving your HES.
1. Replace Your Windows
Windows are a huge source of wasted energy. Heat that comes in and escapes through your windows accounts for between 25 and 30 percent of your home’s use of energy for heating and cooling. Windows with the ENERGY STAR label include ratings from the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), allowing you to compare products for their efficiency.
If you’re not willing or able to replace your windows, you can still increase the efficiency of your existing ones. The U.S. Energy Department recommends these steps:
- Check windows for air leaks
- Caulk and weatherstrip windows
- Add window coverings such as blinds or curtains
- Apply solar control film
- Add exterior coverings like awnings
2. Check Your Insulation
Good insulation keeps more warmth in during the winter and helps keep the heat at bay during the summer, so you can use less energy to cool or heat your home. Conventional stud walls have nearly continuous cavities that do hardly anything to stop heat transfer. Getting blown-in insulation will fill up those cavities and increase overall efficiency.
3. Check Your Duct System
Your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system may be a source of lost energy. If they are not well-sealed or have sub-par insulation, it’s likely that energy lost while moving through the ducts is pushing your energy bill higher. Have your ducts checked for leaks, and have them sealed as well as insulated. It’s especially important to do so in unconditioned spaces like an attic.
Sometimes, making minor tweaks to your habits or furniture arrangements can give your HVAC system an efficiency boost. If you keep doors open more often, the increased airflow will help the system do its job. Moving furniture further away from vents can also help.
How to Save Electricity at Home With Appliances
Wondering how to use less electricity at home? The appliances you use every day are a huge drain on energy. One of the most common ways to make your home more energy efficient is to replace older appliances with new ones. ENERGY STAR certified appliances save homeowners a significant percentage on their bills, depending on the type of appliance. These three appliances are the biggest energy users and will benefit most from better habits or replacement.
1. The Refrigerator
Your refrigerator may be the single greatest waster of electricity in addition to being the most necessary. It runs 24/7, and there are several ways it may be working harder than it has to. The top culprit is leaky seals around the doors. They can lead to a significant amount of cold air escaping the fridge over time. Other common energy-wasting habits include:
- Standing in front of the open fridge to look for items
- Over-filling the fridge and reducing airflow
- Under-filling the fridge but using the same amount of electricity
2. Washers and Dryers
It’s easier and more convenient than ever to wash your clothes, but washing machines and dryers are still a large source of energy waste. ENERGY STAR washing machines use between 70 and 75 percent less water than old agitator washers of 20 years ago, and they consume 25 percent less electricity. No matter how old your machine is, you can still save electricity by integrating habits including:
- Wash clothes on the shortest cycle
- Use cold water when possible
- Wait until you have a full load to wash
3. The Dishwasher
Dishwashers work similarly to washing machines in that most of the electricity they need is used to heat the water. Because you can’t change how much hot water your dishwasher uses, it’s important to minimize waste by maximizing how you use the appliance. These three tips are a good place to start:
- Only run full loads of dishes
- Skip the pre-wash and simply scrape food into the trash before loading them into the dishwasher
- Load dishes so they all contact water, eliminating the need to wash some dishes again
Why Home Automation Is Important for Energy Efficiency
One energy-saving strategy that many people overlook is home automation. While it was once the realm of science fiction, home automation has become a very real and accessible tool for homeowners. Home automation is a broad category, including any technology that can be used to adjust and monitor certain aspects of your home systems. Aside from the obvious convenience and novelty of having a responsive home, automation can have a huge impact on energy efficiency.
1. DIY Potential
One of the roadblocks in improving a home’s energy efficiency is the difficulty of installation. Unless you’re very handy, you likely won’t be up for replacing windows or blowing insulation on your own. Many home automation solutions are simple to install yourself, eliminating the need to hire expert help. And even if you’re not comfortable installing light switches or outlets on your own, the help you’ll need will likely be more affordable due to the speedy installation time.
Many people think of home automation as a complete overhaul of the whole house and aren’t comfortable with the cost or the idea of learning to operate a fully-connected home. Luckily, you can easily pick and choose as much or as little smart home technology as you want.
If you’re curious but aren’t ready to overhaul your whole house, you can dip your toes into automation with one or two Wi-Fi dimmer switches. When you’re ready to expand, you can add components at the pace that’s most comfortable for you and your budget.
3. Precision Control
The amount of money you save with home automation technology is completely in your hands. For example, you can set your dining room dimming lights to half brightness most of the time — but turn them all the way up to highlight the area for the duration of a dinner party.
You can decide what lights and appliances should be on, when, and for how long. Experimenting with different configurations from your phone is easy, allowing you to find the right balance of comfort and energy efficiency with your home systems.
Two Systems to Choose From: Wi-Fi and Z-Wave
When you’re looking into home automation you have to consider the automation protocols. These are the different processes systems use to communicate with each other, and if your components don’t operate on the same protocol, they won’t be able to work together. Two of your main options are Wi-Fi and Z-Wave protocol.
Pros and Cons of Wi-Fi Automation
If you’re considering using home automation to save money, it’s a good bet that you already use Wi-Fi for your internet access. That makes it a good protocol choice if you don’t want to purchase anything separate for your devices to run on. Wi-Fi home control products are often less expensive than other proprietary technology like Z-Wave.
The main drawback is that Wi-Fi smart home systems are reliant on the quality of your internet connection, and if your internet goes out, you’ll have to go back to manual device control. It’s not the worst thing to contend with, but you want your systems up and running regardless of issues with your Wi-Fi.
Another drawback for Wi-Fi protocol is that the more devices you have, the greater the chance that they’ll bog down your internet speed. If you have a good connection and don’t plan on automating everything in the house, Wi-Fi is likely to be the most cost-effective option.
Pros and Cons of Z-Wave Automation
Z-Wave is a protocol that supports devices by a wide range of manufacturers. Its main advantage over Wi-Fi automation is that it operates on a mesh network. Each device uses the other to boost the signal, creating the mesh network. However, Z-Wave requires a separate hub for them to function. The more compatible devices you have set up, the better they all work together, whereas Wi-Fi slows down as you add more devices.
The sticking point for some people is that Z-Wave is more expensive to set up than Wi-Fi automation. But if you plan to connect a large number of devices, Z-Wave is the way to go.
There’s no straightforward answer to which protocol is better. It depends on your needs and future plans for expanding your suite of automated devices.
Five Ways Home Automation and Smart Home Products Can Reduce Energy Costs
You may be wondering exactly how smart home devices save money. You can turn almost anything that draws power in your home into a smart device, from your ceiling fans to your power strips. All smart home devices and systems are designed with the following energy-saving benefits in mind.
1. No More Phantom Loads
Most home appliances that draw power from outlets actually go into standby mode when turned off. Even after you shut off your TV, it continues to draw power continuously. The same goes for nearly every appliance that uses an external power supply, has a battery charger, or has a remote control. This constant power draining is called a phantom load, and it can account for up to 10 percent of home electricity use.
Smart power strips and plugs are one of the top smart home devices that save money thanks to their ability to eliminate phantom loads. The leading smart plugs have features like a manual on/off switch so you can ensure the devices plugged into it are actually off without having to unplug them.
2. Automatic Shutoff
Let’s face it: Many of us are forgetful and rush out of the house without turning off a device or appliance every now and then. The more people living in your house, the more likely something is to get left on, and the cost of these little mistakes build up over time. Switches with countdown timers are invaluable when you want to set it and forget it.
For example: Connecting a timer switch to your bathroom fan allows you to hit the 30 minutes setting when you step in the shower, then go about your day. You’ll be able to rest assured that the fan is on long enough to remove moisture, but will shut itself off even if you’ve left the house.
3. Efficient Customization
Programmable switches are one example of how smart home devices save money. The Enerlites HET01 switch gives you 18 on/off settings for every day of the week, so you can set up your in-home lights to come on and off based on your regular routine. You can set each day of the week individually so no lights are ever left on when no one’s home. This switch has excellent compatibility and works with both LED and CFL bulbs, as well as most other types of light bulbs. It’s easy to install and easy to program, so you can create your custom lighting schedule quickly.
The Enerlites switch also showcases one of the more surprising ways home automation can save money: vacation mode. The RND (random) setting on the switch will turn on the connected lights at random intervals to deter would-be intruders when you’re not home. It’s a valuable addition to any home security system that only costs pennies of electricity.
4. Controlled Output
Dimmer switches are an excellent way to save money on lighting. LED lights use 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent lighting, and they last 25 times longer. They’re so efficient that they often put out a much more intense light than you need to see comfortably in your home.
Smart devices like a dimmer switch allow you to use a slide wheel to turn down the intensity to your desired degree, saving money in the process. You can easily reduce the brightness by 25 or even 50 percent and still have adequate lighting for everyday tasks and activities.
5. Only Pay for What You Use
Home automation systems focus on eliminating energy use when you’re not present or actively using a device. Programmable switches help cut down on wasted energy from lighting rooms no one is using, but the most accurate way to eliminate this type of waste is to install a motion detector switch like the TDOS5-J. This switch uses passive infrared (PIR) motion sensing, which can detect tiny changes in heat radiation. The switch knows when someone has entered or exited the room, and it will turn lights on and off accordingly.
This type of switch fully automates your lighting, so you can save money without even having to think about it.
Explore Automation With TOPGREENER
The advantages of energy-efficient homes extend far beyond the money you’ll save on your utility bills. An automated home is more comfortable and convenient to live in, as its systems can be adjusted to serve the needs of you and your family. If you’re interested in learning more about how smart homes save energy and how home automation reduces energy costs, TOPGREENER is here to help. With a catalog of Wi-Fi and Z-Wave smart home devices, you’ll be able to modernize your home and make it work better for you.
Our products are UL-listed or ETL-approved for your safety and peace of mind. For your convenience, we also offer our products on the TOPGREENER Amazon store. Whether you just want to upgrade the lighting in one room or control multiple devices with a tap of your smartphone screen, TOPGREENER has the products and expertise you need to get started with home automation. If you have questions or concerns about smart home automation, contact us for further information.