The period after Earth Day is a great time to think about the impact our homes have on the environment. But beyond lowering your environmental impact, increasing your home’s efficiency will also increase your comfort, lower energy bills and improve your home’s value.
Here are five tips to make your home a model of efficiency.
Protect south-facing windows: The biggest impact on your home’s heat level in the summer comes from the south, where sunlight hits at the harshest angle. This means south-facing windows require more attention. If possible, install double-pane windows to help block heat entry. Physical barriers can also prove effective, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. A light-colored awning is a good way to reduce heat gain, as are blinds or reflective films. If this sounds too complicated or costly, put up drapes or plant trees and bushes to help block sunlight.
Slay energy vampires: Garlic and silver bullets won’t get rid of the creatures of the night that suck up your home’s lifeblood and crank up the power bills, but a little preventative action might. The DOE warns that many home appliances use small amounts of energy when they’re plugged in, even if they’re turned off. The solution here is simple: Unplug what you can and use power strips for everything else.
Your kitchen appliances draw small amounts of energy. Coffee makers, toaster ovens, microwaves and other small appliances should be unplugged or turned off via wall switch.
TVs, DVRs, cable boxes, video game consoles and computers all slurp up energy while turned off. To remedy this, plug as many of them as possible into power strips so you can switch them off en masse before retiring for the night. You can also look into smart power strips that detect when devices are in sleep mode and automatically block them from wasting energy.
All these energy uses are small on their own, but they can add up to hundreds of dollars a year.
Check your HVAC filters: Replace the filters in your HVAC system. A dirty filter wastes energy and money and keeps your home from staying at a comfortable temperature. Keeping clean filters is one of the single easiest and most effective things you can do to ensure an energy-efficient home.
Seal up doors and windows: Remember your parents telling you not to heat or cool the whole neighborhood by leaving the doors or windows open? Well, they might not have to be open to leak energy. Check their edges for air loss or draftiness. Even a small amount of air loss can force your HVAC system to work harder and burn extra energy. Insulate, seal or caulk where needed.
Schedule an energy audit: Home energy auditors conduct room-by-room reviews of how efficiently a home uses energy. They use advanced diagnostics, such as blower door tests or thermographic scans, to determine air leaks and over- or under-insulated areas and help you find where you’re losing the most energy. This work averages about $400 and takes most of a day to complete. You then get a written report and recommendations that can save you from 5% to 30% on utility bills. Over time, the audit can pay for itself — and then some.