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How To Make Your Home More Energy-Efficient: 18 Tips To Save Energy

Molly Grace8-Minute Read
March 24, 2021

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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.

1. Start With An Energy Audit

As you embark on your energy-efficiency journey, it helps to know the ways in which your home is energy inefficient. An energy audit can help with that.

The aim of an 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.

You can have a professional perform an energy audit or you can do it yourself.

When you hire a professional, 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.

It’s also possible to conduct a DIY energy audit without a professional. This can include inspecting the inside and outside of your home for gaps or cracks that could cause air leaks.

Energy.gov recommends checking exterior walls, especially areas where two different building materials meet (such as where your siding and foundation meet), electrical outlets, door and window frames, baseboards, vents, fans and other areas where air could leak through.

Let a pro help.

Connect with a pro and get a home energy audit.

2. Use Smart Home Technology

Using technology to your advantage can help automate some of your energy-saving efforts and ensure that your efforts aren’t undermined by your forgetting to turn off lights or properly set your thermostat.

A smart thermostat will likely get you the most bang for your buck when it comes to energy-saving smart home devices. 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. Both of these efforts help maximize your energy savings.

Other smart home technology that could help boost energy savings include smart plugs or smart outlets and smart lights. With these types of technologies, you can program when lights or other devices plugged into your smart outlets turn on and off or control these devices through an app on your phone, even when you aren’t home.

3. Improve Your Insulation

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.

4. Weatherstrip Your Windows And Doors

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 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 nonmoving components, such as space between a window frame and the wall.

5. Check The Air Ducts

Gaps or leaks in your home’s ductwork can seriously add to your energy 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.

Let a pro help.

Connect with a pro and get a home energy audit.

6. Upgrade Appliances

You don’t need to go out and buy all new appliances in one go, but when an appliance ends up needing 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 appliances. (More on shopping for ENERGY STAR®-approved items further down.)

7. Heat (Or Cool) Only What You Need

Take some time to think about the ways you use your heating and air-conditioning, and whether there are times when you’re heating or cooling your entire home when you don’t necessarily need to be.

In some cases, using a space heater to keep a single room warm may make more sense than turning on the heat for the whole house. Or, if you have a fireplace in your home, you might consider lighting it and sitting near it to take advantage of the heat of the fire.

If you’re trying to keep a room warm, shut the door to prevent heat from escaping.

Ceiling fans or standing fans can help cool down a room without having to turn on your air conditioning.

8. Switch Out Your Light Bulbs

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, and with good reason; these types of bulbs 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, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and halogen bulbs are more popular and much more energy efficient. Switching to energy efficient light bulbs is a simple and quick way to reduce your energy use and save yourself money.

9. Set Up A Programmable Thermostat

You don’t necessarily need a smart thermostat that anticipates your every need and operates on a schedule tailored to match your own. Your regular old thermostat can help you save energy just as well – provided you know how to use it.

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.

However, studies suggest that most people with programmable thermostats in their homes don’t actually program them, defeating the purpose of having a thermostat that you can program to your schedule.

If you have a programmable thermostat that you’ve never actually programmed before, get familiar with it. Read the manual. If you threw out your original copy, you may be able to find it online by searching by the brand and model.

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.

These are the suggested settings:

  • At home: 70 degrees in the winter, 78 degrees in the summer
  • Away from home: 62 degrees in the winter, 85 degrees in the summer
  • Sleeping: 62 degrees in the winter, 82 degrees in the summer

If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, consider upgrading to save money and energy.

10. Replace Your HVAC System

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, look for the ENERGY STAR® logo.

Let a pro help.

Connect with a pro and get a home energy audit.

11. Shop For A Tankless Water Heater

With a tankless water heater, water is heated as it’s needed. Though they typically 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 costs.

12. Invest In Renewable Energy For Your Home

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.

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 there are tax credits and other incentives 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.

13. Search For ENERGY STAR®

Throughout this article, we’ve recommended switching to ENERGY STAR®-approved 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 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.

14. Make The Most Of Tree Coverage

You may find it surprising, but your front and backyard landscaping can help you save energy.

For example, a windbreak can be used to limit the amount of cold winter wind that gets into your home. A windbreak is a row (or several rows) of trees that are planted closely together to reduce the impact of wind on a home.

In the summer, trees and vines can also provide shade to your home, naturally keeping it cooler.

15. Clean With Cold Water

If you’re still washing all your laundry in warm or hot water, it’s time to make the switch. Hot water is overrated, anyway (in most cases – hot water is best for heavily soiled items and sanitizing).

Cold water reduces the amount of energy used each time you do a load of laundry, and it gets your clothes just as clean, thanks to modern washers and detergents.

16. Seal The Attic, Basement And Crawl Spaces

As we discussed earlier, properly insulating your attic can be a great way to improve your home’s energy-efficiency. But a leaky attic can defeat the purpose of the insulation.

According to EnergyStar.gov, the likeliest areas for attic leakages are where walls meet the floor, dropped soffits and behind or under attic kneewalls.

In basements and crawlspaces, 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.

17. Let Nature Do The Work For You

When it comes to heating and cooling your home, use the natural environment to your advantage.

Sunlight 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.

In fact, curtains can be a great tool in keeping your energy use down. Once the sun goes down in the winter, closing thick curtains can help to insulate windows, keeping the cold out. Likewise, keeping curtains shut on a sunny summer day can keep your home cool.

On hot summer nights, sleep with the window open to take advantage of cool nighttime breezes instead of turning on the A/C.

18. Conserve Water In Your Bathrooms

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 fixtures, such as low-flow showerheads and low-flow toilets, can also help. Though you may scoff at the idea of installing any low-flow components, today’s low-flow fixtures don’t sacrifice water pressure for efficient use of water.

The Bottom Line: Energy-Efficiency Is Great For Your Home (And The Environment)

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.

For more great tips for homeowners, check out the Rocket Homes® blog.

Let a pro help.

Connect with a pro and get a home energy audit.

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Molly Grace

Molly Grace is a staff writer focusing on mortgages, personal finance and homeownership. She has a B.A. in journalism from Indiana University. You can follow her on Twitter @themollygrace.