Molly Grace9-Minute Read
UPDATED: May 25, 2023
Keeping a house humming with power requires a lot of energy. By making certain changes, you can significantly reduce your home’s carbon footprint and save money on energy costs.
Whether you’re looking to reduce your utility bills or live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, here are some changes that are worth making to make your home more energy-efficient.
Energy-efficient homes incorporate certain features and design elements to help conserve energy and cut down on heating and cooling costs while still offering all the comfort, convenience, and other amenities of a traditional home.
Some features commonly found in energy-efficient houses include:
Whether you’re looking to improve the energy efficiency of your home – or you’re in the market to purchase a more energy-efficient house – you can use the following list to ensure your current or new home has all the features you need to use less energy and save on utility costs.
The aim of a home energy audit is to learn how your home uses energy and the ways it wastes energy or uses it inefficiently. That way, you know where to target your energy-efficiency efforts.
If you hire a professional energy auditor, they’ll use a variety of tools to gather information about your home’s energy use. For example, they may use a special fan to conduct a blower door test, which can locate air leaks in your home.
A professional will also analyze your past energy bills to learn more about your energy consumption. Once they’ve completed the audit, they’ll provide you with a report of their findings. This can help you determine what changes would get you the most bang for your buck.
If you want to conduct a DIY energy audit, Energy.gov recommends checking areas inside and outside of your home where air could leak through. These areas include exterior walls – especially areas where two different building materials meet (such as where your siding ends and your foundation begins) – as well as electrical outlets, door and window frames, baseboards, vents and fans.
Using smart home devices and similar technology to your advantage can help automate some of your energy-saving efforts and ensure that nothing undermines those efforts.
For example, smart thermostats make programming your home's environment easy, and they can even learn what temperature you should set your air conditioner for in the summer based on when you're home.
These thermostats also help you determine when to turn your heating on or off in the winter. This can help maximize your energy savings year-round.
Other smart home technology that could help boost energy savings include smart plugs, smart outlets and smart lights. You can use these to program when lights or other devices plugged into your smart outlets turn on and off. You can also control these devices through an app on your phone – even when you aren’t home.
A professional energy audit can help you determine if the insulation in your home is inadequate. If you prefer to DIY, the best place to start is in your attic, where it’s easier to check your current insulation and add to it.
If you’re still having issues after reinforcing the insulation in your attic, you may need to add insulation to your walls. This is a bigger project that will typically require professional assistance.
Need help funding a whole-house insulation or other home improvement project? Consider tapping into your home’s equity with a cash-out refinance.
Weatherstripping, caulking and other forms of weatherproofing your windows and doors is a simple and effective way to keep air from leaking in and out of your home.
Weatherstripping is a strip of foam, rubber or other material used to seal the space between components that move, such as the area where a door and doorjamb meet. Caulk is used to seal cracks between stationary components, such as space between a window frame and the wall.
Gaps or leaks in your home’s ductwork can seriously add to your electricity bill and lead to poor air quality in your home.
Inspect any exposed ductwork in your home – you’ll likely find some in your basement or attic – and look for holes or gaps. Seal these leaky spots using foil tape.
You can also insulate your ductwork with duct insulation to help regulate air temperature.
You don’t need to go out and buy all new appliances in one go, but when your washing machine or other appliance needs to be replaced, consider opting for energy-efficient models.
Major appliances such as refrigerators, washers and dryers and dishwashers use a lot of energy – especially if they’re older. New models that are rated for their energy efficiency are much better for the environment – and your utility bill. Look for the ENERGY STAR logo when shopping for new energy-efficient appliances.
What is ENERGY STAR, and why should you switch to products stamped with its iconic blue star logo?
ENERGY STAR is a program run by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy. The ENERGY STAR logo makes it easy for consumers to identify which products have been certified as meeting the program’s standards for energy efficiency.
Take some time to examine the ways you use your heating and air conditioning. Sometimes, you may be heating or cooling your entire home when you don’t necessarily need to.
Let’s look at some helpful, alternative methods to heating or cooling a space in your home without having to run your HVAC:
Are you using energy-efficient bulbs to light your home? It’s hard not to – energy-efficient bulbs dominate the lighting aisles of most stores. Traditional incandescent bulbs are all but extinct because they waste a lot of energy. In fact, 90% of the energy used by traditional incandescent bulbs is given off as heat, rather than light.
These days, LED lighting, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and halogen bulbs are more popular and much more energy efficient. Switching to LED bulbs or other energy-efficient bulbs is an easy way to reduce your energy use and save money.
Programmable thermostats allow you to choose what temperature you’d like your home to be at certain times of the day: while you sleep, when you wake up, when you’re away from home and when you return home.
For programmable thermostats, ENERGY STAR makes suggestions for energy efficient temperature settings, which consumers are recommended to use as a starting point before adjusting to their household’s schedule and comfort.
The suggested Fahrenheit settings are:
If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, consider upgrading to save money and energy.
If you have an older heating and cooling system that’s in need of replacing, switching to an energy efficient model can make a big difference. If your system is more than 10 years old, have it evaluated by a professional to see if it’s time for new equipment.
When shopping for a new HVAC system, be sure to look for the ENERGY STAR logo.
Tankless water heaters raise water temperature as it’s needed. Though they usually cost more initially than conventional storage water heaters, they typically last longer and can help you save money in the long run by lowering your energy usage.
Equipping your home with renewable energy technologies to provide some or all of your power can be costly upfront, but the long-term payoff can be extremely worthwhile, depending on the cost of electricity in your area.
House solar panels, for example, have a very high startup cost: around $24,000 on average, according to HomeAdvisor.com. However, prices have been dropping in recent years, and tax credits and other incentives are available to make installation more appealing to homeowners. For example, homeowners who install solar panel systems are eligible for the Residential Energy Tax Credit which covers 22% of the installation cost through 2023.
Once installed, solar panels can significantly reduce or even eliminate your monthly energy costs, depending on how much sunlight your home gets.
And depending on how much equity your home has, you may be able to pay for solar panels upfront with a cash-out refinance. You can start a refinance application with Rocket Mortgage® today to see how much you qualify for.
You may find it surprising, but your front and backyard landscaping can help you save energy.
For example, a windbreak – which is a row (or several rows) of trees planted closely together – can be used to reduce or limit the amount of cold winter wind that gets into your home.
In the summer, trees and vines can also provide shade to your home, naturally keeping it cooler.
If you’re still washing all your laundry in warm or hot water, it’s time to make the switch. While hot water is best for heavily soiled items and sanitizing, cold water can otherwise get your clothes just as clean, thanks to modern washing machines and detergents. Cold water also reduces the amount of energy used each time you do a load of laundry
While properly insulating your attic can be a great way to improve your home’s energy efficiency, a leaky attic can defeat the purpose of the insulation.
According to EnergyStar.gov, the likeliest areas for attic leakages are dropped soffits, behind or under attic knee walls, or where walls meet the floor.
In basements and crawl spaces, one common spot for leaks is along the top of the walls, where the foundation meets the wood framing. You can seal these areas with caulk or expanding spray foam sealant for larger gaps.
Natural light can do a great deal to heat your home naturally. On sunny winter days, keep your curtains and other window treatments open to allow the heat from the sun to warm your home.
On hot summer nights, sleep with the window open to take advantage of cool nighttime breezes instead of turning on the A/C.
Conversely, curtains can be a great tool in keeping nature out and your energy use down. Once the sun sets in the winter, closing thick curtains can help to insulate windows against the cold. Likewise, keeping curtains shut on a sunny summer day can keep your home cool.
Small changes in your water use, such as turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth or taking shorter showers, can make a big difference in your overall water usage.
Switching to low-flow versions of fixtures – such as showerheads and toilets – can also help. Though you may scoff at the idea of installing any such components, today’s low-flow fixtures don’t sacrifice water pressure for efficient use of water.
Finding ways, big or small, to make your home more energy-efficient can add up in more ways than one. Not only are you making things easier on your wallet, but you’re helping to reduce your home’s negative impact on the environment as well.
If you’re looking at financing for higher-end efficiency upgrades, a cash-out refinance is a great option to consider. Cash-out refinances let you leverage existing equity to affordably fund improvements. Interest rates are typically low, and the upgrades you make can even help you build back equity both through energy savings and through the value they add to your home’s price.
If that sounds good, why not start the process to get a cash-out refinance today?
Viewing 1 - 3 of 3
Living off the grid may be a good option for those looking to embrace sustainable lifestyles. Learn more about how to live off the grid with our complete guide.
Energy-efficient windows could reduce your monthly utility bill but are they worth the cost? Find out if you should make repairs or replace your windows here.