Editor’s note: This guest post is written by Michael Joseph, who has 12 years of experience as an interior designer, and currently works for Champion Window.
Over the past few years, a steadily increasing number of homeowners have switched to solar power as a way to save on energy costs and drastically reduce their carbon footprints. While producing your own electricity is a great way to save money, the best place to start is by making the most of every watt that enters your home.
The following questions list some steps you can take to make your home more energy efficient. There are many more, but if you answer yes to most of these questions, you can rest assured that your home is indeed green — and you’ll be saving even more green every month.
Have you installed these energy-saving devices?
A few simple, relatively affordable gadgets can go a long way toward cutting down on your heating bill. For instance, a spot infrared thermometer, a handy little gadget that can easily locate leaks in your home’s insulation without calling in a professional energy auditor.
A programmable thermostat: Since the launch of the Nest Learning Thermostat, these smart devices have gained some major public attention. Proper use of pre-programmed settings in a programmable thermostat can save you about $180 every year in energy costs.
Slaying the vampire gadgets: All the electronics you keep plugged into your walls 24/7 can eat up a ton of energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 75 percent of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off but not unplugged. This adds up to nearly 10 percent of U.S. household electricity use, or approximately $4 billion per year. You can curtail those phantom loads that your electronic appliances are devouring by plugging the appliances into power strips, and switching the strip off when they are not being used.
Are you doing what you can to plug the thermal envelope of your home?
Have you ensured that air is not escaping through unnecessary openings in your home? Check the walls, chimney, the attic, holes made for electrical fixtures and make sure they are well insulated. Plug leaks around windows and doors with caulking and weatherstripping.
Do you have energy-efficient, multi-paned, gas-filled widows with low-e coating? Approximately a third of an average home’s total heat loss occurs through your doors and windows. Replacing old windows with Energy-Star qualified windows lowers household energy bills by 7-15 percent.
Do you have a cool roof — one that reflects as much sunlight as possible? Have you used eco-friendly materials for your roofing?
Do you go in for energy-saving appliances?
When your old appliances and electronic devices break down, do you replace them with new energy-efficient ones that have the Energy Star label? These cost more but use 10-15 percent less energy and release less greenhouse gases into the air than traditional appliances. You can recover their higher upfront cost through reduced energy bills. Pay particular attention to the fridge, which is one of the highest energy-consuming appliances in the home. Do you keep it functioning at its maximum by regularly keep its heating coils and rubber door seals clean?
What about heating and cooling equipment?
Have you installed Energy Star-rated ceiling fans? You can reduce energy costs by up to 14 percent just by turning up the thermostat two degrees and using ceiling fans in summer.
Do you have an eco-friendly air-conditioner? This could cut your cooling costs by at least 30 percent and prevent emission of around 1,600 pounds of greenhouse gases annually. Moreover, do you clean your AC filters at least every three months to maximize its efficiency?
Have you installed a whole house fan below your attic?
Are you using a tankless water heater or a solar water heater? These are great options that will not only help you save power but water as well, when combined with low-flow faucets and showerheads.
How green is your lighting equipment?
Have you switched over to Energy Star-qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs? CFLs use more than 75 percent less energy than conventional incandescent bulbs, run cooler, last 10 times longer and pay for themselves within 6 months, each bulb saving about $30 over its lifetime. LEDs are about 100 times more energy efficient than traditional lighting and are commonly used in Christmas lighting.
Have you reduced your dependence on artificial lighting during the daytime by using skylights and tubular daylight devices?
Taking your green living habits to the next level
Above and beyond all the steps listed above, there are a number of ways to change your household’s behavior to save energy and reduce your environmental impacts. Some of the most effective methods include:
- Do you make a habit of turning off lights which are not being used?
- Do you save energy by decreasing your water heater temperature to about 130° F when using appliances like the dishwasher and washing machine? And, whenever possible, do you avoid using the dryer and use a clothesline instead to dry your clothes?
- Do you make it a point to turn off all sources of heat(such as lights, appliances and electrical equipment) when not in use in the summer? This will help keep your home or workplace cooler and reduce the need for fans or air conditioning.
- Have you planted shady trees a foot away from the outer walls of your home to create a dead airspace that will shield it against extreme outdoor temperatures?
- Do you use insulated shades, drapes and other window treatments to make your windows more energy efficient?
- Are you making your own non-toxic cleaning products so that you can improveyour indoor air quality?
- Do you make a habit of recycling and reusing things around the home? All these will help you reduce your energy consumption and save significantly by way of reduced energy bills.
After going through this checklist, how green would you rate your home? Have the suggestions above spurred you on to do something about your environment and in the process for yourself as well? Let us know in the comments below.
House at night photo CC-licensed by Chad Paul.