According to data recorded by the Energy Information Administration, the typical owner of a typical US home paid over $1,300 for electricity in 2013. That number is only going up. The cost of a kilowatt continues to climb, and while our appliances are more efficient than ever, our TV screens get bigger and our gadgets more plentiful. Thus, the rise continues.
There are, of course, actions you can take to lower your bill. Turning down your thermostat can make a noticeable difference. It never hurts to turn off a few lights, either. There are other ways, though. There are ways that don’t leave you in the dark and the cold, and things that you’ll only need to remember to do once.
The Big Picture
Look at your home like a business – you want your company to run as efficiently as possible, so the first step to improving your home’s efficiency is to look for areas of inefficiency.
The owners of heavy industrial companies save vast sums of potentially lost money by upgrading their old inefficient equipment with up-to-date gear that saves money in the long run. Applying the same methodology to your energy efficiency can help to cut your costs significantly.
Eliminate the Waste
Your home’s heating and cooling systems combine to use more energy than anything else, so they’re the first place to look for waste. You’re likely to find some – as much as 20 percent of the air moving through your home’s duct system is lost through leaks and poor connections.
If there are rooms in your home that don’t seem to heat, cool or ventilate properly, it’s time to inspect your ducts. Calling in a respected, professional contractor is, of course, the easiest way to go; however, you may also choose to make the job a DIY project.
Mind the Details
Once you’ve minimized your lost air, it’s time to maximize the system’s efficiency. This is where simple maintenance comes in.
Changing your furnace filter doesn’t just keep your air clean; it also keeps your energy costs down. A clogged filter can repress the airflow and force your system to work harder than it otherwise would. A monthly filter check during colder months will ensure that everything’s operating smoothly.
With your system operating at its best, you can move on to quality control. In our case, that’s environmental control. The longer the air stays at your preferred temperature, the less energy you’ll need to control it.
Draperies and blinds are simple solutions to this problem. Sealing the heat in with heavy draperies through the winter and repelling heat with reflective blinds in summer gives you more control over your home’s temperature.
Better still, upgrading to new, energy efficient windows can further help to control the heat entering and leaving your home. This option is especially attractive to homeowners living in areas of extreme heat and cold, potentially saving them hundreds per year in heating and cooling costs.
The Next Step
As you can see, there are plenty of simple things you can do to battle against the rising costs of energy. There are bigger steps you can take, too.
With your systems running at peak efficiency, the next step is to upgrade the components. Doing so can do more than just reduce your energy bill – it can increase the value of your home. Savvy buyers are on the lookout for efficiency upgrades that come with the house.
They’re right to do so. If your air conditioning unit is more than 10 years old, a new unit – one that carries the Energy Star label – can save you up to 20 percent on your cooling costs. If your furnace is over 15 years old, an Energy Star qualified unit can save you another 15 percent on heating costs.
The water heater is another area of interest. New, tankless water heaters provide hot water on demand, and that means there’s no unused hot water left to waste. Add one of these to save as much as 50% on your water heating costs.
And then, of course, there’s the ultimate option – solar arrays. While going completely off the grid is still a rather large investment for many homeowners, it’s been proven to pay off over time.
Another option? Go with the contracted solar arrays from companies like SolarCity or the upcoming Vivint Solar – they provide affordable leasing options that can still reduce your energy costs by 25 percent or more.
As renewable energy grows in popularity and decreases in price, the war for the price of power will change. That day’s not quite here yet, though. We have to win the smaller battles first, and fortunately for our energy bills, a little ductwork and some new draperies are all it takes.