What is energy efficiency? We define it as using less energy – and therefore paying less money – to achieve the same level of comfort in your home. It’s using less and getting more, and these days that means using technology as much as it does changing your behavior to simply use less energy. Using energy and water more efficiently not only lowers your monthly utility bills, it also reduces the load on our electricity grid and water system and helps the environment.
25 Tips to Save on Energy Costs
Home Improvements to Save Energy
Cooling and heating accounts for almost half of the typical home’s energy use, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Your lights, refrigerator, TV and other electronics together consume almost 20%. Together, these account for about two-thirds of your energy usage, which means that making them more efficient can lead to significant savings.
- Energy Audit – An audit from your utility or a local company is a good place to start when it comes to finding out what home improvements will help you save the most money on your energy bill.
- Attic Insulation – Proper insulation, especially in your attic, is an easy way to reduce the burden on your air conditioner during the summer. As an aside, solar panels covering the sunniest parts of your roof will also create shade that helps keep your home cooler, providing a similar insulating benefit.
- Window Sealing and Weather Stripping – Window sealants and weather-stripping are two of the easiest ways to prevent air flow into and out of your home, which results in higher energy bills during hot and cold weather.
- LED Lightbulbs – LED lights are not only even more energy-efficient than compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, they also provide a bigger range of options that can more closely mimic natural light. Plus the cost of these bulbs has decreased significantly. Just remember to recycle your old lightbulbs!
- Energy Star Appliances – The government’s certification program for high efficiency appliances covers a wide range of products that can lower your energy costs. You’ll see the biggest savings from large appliances such as a refrigerator or washer and dryer, but the program offers choices for almost every home appliance you can think of as well as equipment for offices, data centers, and other commercial purposes.
- Smart Thermostats – A smart thermostat can help you save on energy without any inconvenience by letting you program the temperature in your home based on your schedule. The Nest, ecobee, Emerson Sensi, and Honeywell Lyric are all options for a smart thermostat. Check with your utility to see if they have a demand response program, like the Austin Energy Power Partner or TXU iThermostat programs, that will incentivize you for helping them to balance the electricity load during periods of peak demand.
- HVAC Tune-Up – Ensure your HVAC unit is performing at peak efficiency to avoid overpaying for energy. You can even sign up for an ongoing preventative service like ABC Home & Commercial Services’ Proactive Maintenance program so you never have to worry about your air conditioning again.
- Hot Water Heater – Older hot water heaters are less efficient, requiring more energy to run. Consider replacing your hot water heater to a newer model or at least insulating it with a hot water heater blanket or wrap.
- Solar Panels – You might guess that we’re partial to solar panels as a way to reduce your energy bill and increase your home’s value. In addition to helping the environment and protecting you from rising energy costs, we see solar power as another way to use technology to lower your energy expenses without compromising your comfort.
- Landscaping for Shade – Another way to reduce your air conditioner’s heavy load during the hot Texas summers, while keeping your house warmer in the winter, is to plant south-facing and west-facing deciduous trees and shrubs.
Home Improvements to Save Water
The cost of water is lower than electricity, but you are still paying for your usage each month. In addition, water is a precious resource in Texas that is worth conserving.
- Rain Barrel – Rainwater collection systems are an affordable and easy way to keep your plants and lawn happy year-round while reducing your water bill and saving your treated drinking-quality water for home use.
- Low Flow or Dual-Flush Toilets – Flushing account for about 30% of indoor water use, making toilets the biggest water user in the home. Improved technology means that new toilets can deliver the same performance with less than 1.3 gallons of water per flush, compared to as much as 6 gallons for older toilets.
- Native Landscaping – Replacing even part of your lawn with native, drought-tolerant plants can lower your water usage. Depending on where you live, you may be eligible for a utility rebate.
- Drip Irrigation – If you have a small lawn or sections of plants, install a drip irrigation system instead of sprinklers to minimize water evaporation or runoff.
- Smart Sprinkler Controller – If you already have a sprinkler system installed, consider making it smarter. Look for smart controllers such as the Rachio 3, which is WiFi-enabled, allows scheduling from a smartphone app, and makes automatic hyperlocal weather adjustments.
- WaterSense Products – The U.S. EPA has certified water-efficient products for both residential and commercial use. In addition to irrigation products and toilets, products also include showerheads and faucets.
Easy Everyday Tips
It does not take a big investment or major household improvements to be more energy efficient. There are number of easy, simple actions you can take every day to reduce your energy consumption without any lifestyle tradeoffs.
- Let your dishes air-dry instead of using the “dry” setting on your dishwasher.
- Change air filters regularly.
- Clean the clothes dryer lint filter after every load.
- Turn off the lights when you leave the room.
- Turn the hot water heater temperature down to warm (120 degrees).
- Use ceiling fans while you’re in the room to help the room feel cooler in the summer and reverse the blade direction to provide heat in the winter.
- Only run full loads in the dishwasher and when washing and drying clothes.
- Use smart power strips to avoid charging unnecessary appliances when you aren’t using them
- Don’t leave your phone plugged in overnight (which wastes electricity and is bad for the battery!)
Considerations for New Home Construction
If you are building a new house or planning an extensive remodel, it is possible to build energy efficiency principles into the home’s design in an integrated, holistic way that will deliver even bigger savings and financial returns.
- Cool roofs use reflective material such as TPO to absorb less sunlight and keep the home cooler in the summer.
- Passive solar home design considers the home, landscaping, and environment to minimize energy usage through strategic selection and placement of materials including windows, thermal mass materials ranging from masonry to water-based products, and distribution mechanisms to transfer heat to the appropriate places at the right times.
- Advanced house framing minimizes lumber usage and reduces construction waste.
Considerations for Commercial Buildings
About 20% of U.S. energy usage is consumed by commercial buildings such as offices. Many home energy efficiency improvements can be scaled up to commercial buildings to make an even greater impact and result in more significant savings. Watch this DOE video to learn more. Key areas of focus for commercial energy efficiency include:
- Smart energy management systems
- Roof material
- Solar panels
- Insulation and windows
- Water usage in bathrooms