We'd like to let you in on a little secret: energy inefficiency is an abundant problem for most homes. Home improvement and performance are ongoing exercises. The good news is that what's good for your house - from an energy usage perspective - is also good for your pocketbook.
We know that getting started with the process of home energy can be quite daunting. Here's a starter's checklist to get you going in the right direction. Rated from 1 to 5 by level of difficulty to repair, cost, and time investment, and potential positive impact. (Note: all estimations assume repairs are DIY.)
1. Replace Old Weather Stripping on Windows and Doors
Cracked or old weather stripping around windows and doors are the number one culprit when it comes to heat and energy loss.
Do a thorough investigation around all windows and doors. Also make sure that the threshold seals tightly with the door. Weather stripping is available at any hardware store, and is not expensive. Installation is easy. A pair of box cutters to cut the stripping to the desired length you need, peal off the backing to reveal the tacky side, then stick it to the surface.
Pro tip: Check your weather stripping once a year. While it is a great solution to prevent heat loss, it’s also prone to wear and tear. If it’s sealing a door or window that gets a lot of use, you might need to replace it periodically.
2. Add Insulation to Your Walls and Attic
Proper insulation can massively reduce the amount of energy your house uses.
If you have a modern home then either fiberglass or cellulose insulates your walls and attic. Both are excellent at doing their job - trapping heat - and once installed they last a lifetime. But, if upon inspection of your attic you find that the cellulose spray is a little sparse or the fiberglass has settled, then it may be time to add some more. Do some independent research and review both options for cost and ease of installation. Then choose the right one for you. You can add additional cellulose on top of a layer of fiberglass or vice versa.
Pro tip: If you are planning on replacing the insulation yourself be sure to wear a respirator outfitted with a particulate vapor filter. You don't want to be breathing either type of insulation for an extended period of time. Also be sure to wear coveralls and safety glasses.
3. Replace Old Appliances
When it comes to using up energy, antiquated appliances are a liability.
The most common culprits are usually your hot water heater, your refrigerator, your washer/dryer, and your pool pump - provided you have a pool. Replacing all of the appliances that are sucking your home dry all at once is quite a hit to the pocketbook.
The best way to go about solving this energy issue is to first do some research about how much energy you are wasting. The U.S. department of energy has a energy calculator for just this purpose. Once you've determined your "energy budget" then you can decide which appliances need to be upgrade or replaced. When shopping for replacements, look for the Energy Star label that indicates the appliances meets the criteria of energy efficiency.
Pro tip: Having energy efficient appliances that meet the Energy Star criteria can earn you rebates in the form of tax credits1. To ensure your home appliances are truly optimized, identify any you may have and look for cost effective remedies.
4. Replace Your Windows
The Department of Energy estimates that windows that let out too much heat can account for 10% to 20%2 of your heating or cooling bill.
That's a pretty huge drain. While expensive, replacing old windows with energy efficient ones will solve this problem. Check out these lower budget and DIY options to be more kind to your wallet.
Pro tip: Installing energy efficient windows in your home can be an investment as well as it’s a great way to increase the overall value of your home as well as curb appeal.
5. Invest in a Smart Thermostat
A smart thermostat is an excellent starting point to starting actively managing the heating and cooling of your home.
The most immediate benefit of installing a smart thermostat is its ability to learn your habits. By anticipating when you are most active at home, a smart thermostat can adjust the temperature based on those habits. This allows you to not only always stay comfortable, but to save energy as well.
Pro tip: The popular Nest thermostat has a lot of integrations designed to save owners money on their electricity. Make sure you take advantage of all that apply to you. For a list of some of our favorites, be sure to read about 3 non-obvious ways a Nest thermostat helps optimize your energy usage.