By Erik J. Martin, CTW Features
Want to make a New Year’s resolution that will pad your wallet and make your home’s climate comfier? Give thought to improving the energy efficiency in your domicile this year. These efforts can pay you back in the form of lower utility bills, a longer lifespan for your HVAC system, and other benefits.
“Improving energy efficiency is a wise decision that leads to significant reductions in utility bills while also cutting down on environmental impact through lowered energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” explains Josh Mitchell, an HVAC technician in Nevada City, California, who notes that buildings account for around 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is a major factor in climate change. “Moreover, homes that are more energy efficient usually offer a more comfortable living space thanks to improved temperature control and eliminating drafts.”
Bethany Sanker with Aeroseal in Miamisburg, Ohio, explains that older homes are generally much more inefficient than newer homes, while modern houses built in the last 10 to 20 years are much more efficient than properties built in the 80s or earlier.
“One of the most significant contributors to inefficient homes is leaks in the building envelope – meaning the outer walls and windows – as well as ductwork leaks. According to the US Department of Energy, 95% of American homes have leaky air ducts,” she says.
That’s why it’s crucial to seal up gaps that may be found in your air ducts as well as around your home’s entry points.
“Simple measures like using caulk to gap up around windows and doors can significantly reduce energy loss,” suggests Paul Eaton, founder of Ladybug Energy.
In general, homeowners can invest in two different areas that can improve their home’s energy efficiency.
“The first are things that reduce your home’s energy needs – such as using LED lighting, applying weatherization measures, adding extra insulation, and sealing gaps. The other area is upgrading your appliances and infrastructure – for instance, upgrading your home’s electric or HVAC system,” Sanker says.
If your existing HVAC system isn’t ready to be replaced, keeping it well-maintained is vital.
“This includes cleaning or changing filters regularly,” says Mitchell. Likewise, having your system checked annually by a professional can ensure your system runs optimally.
Enhancing insulation within walls, floors, and addicts can significantly decrease heat loss.
“Don’t overlook the attic and basement when adding insulation. These areas can be significant sources of energy loss,” adds Eaton.
Choosing more efficient appliances can also lower energy usage.
“Kitchens can be the biggest energy and water offenders in the house, so opting for ENERGY STAR-certified refrigerators, dishwashers, and other appliances is smart,” says Justin Reinke with Beko Home Appliances USA in Bolingbrook, Illinois.
Many pros like Mitchell also recommend hiring a company to conduct an energy audit so you can get a more comprehensive understanding of where you can save energy around your home.
Also, installing and programming smart thermostats can help optimize heating and cooling schedules, thereby cutting down on unnecessary energy consumption.
“And making behavioral changes, like turning off lights when not in use or lowering the thermostat when you are out, can add up to significant savings, too,” Eaton says, who adds that, in his experience, homeowners can typically see a reduction in utility bills by 10% to 30% after implementing these changes, “especially if their home was previously not energy efficient.”
Many of these tasks, like replacing furnace filters and applying caulk, are easy for DIYers to tackle.
“But more complex jobs like HVAC maintenance, insulation upgrades, and smart thermostat installations are best handled by professionals for proper execution, maximal efficiency benefits, and safety,” Mitchell continues.