Efficiency and solar energy should always be considered together. Reducing consumption before adding solar to your property is the most cost-effective way to lower your energy bills. Remember, the lowest-cost energy is always the kilowatts you don’t burn. Let’s take a look at ways to go about increasing your efficiency.
Most new homes are built to a great standard of efficiency but many of us are not living in a new building. There are a lot of small improvements a homeowner can make that will help increase energy efficiency. Monitoring your energy use is usually the most obvious improvement (did you leave lights on, forget to power down your computer, or leave the tv playing in the other room?). However, there are other things to think about as well. Let’s walk through more options.
Your heating and cooling system should be well-maintained and Energy Star rated. Many heating/cooling companies offer great rebates on new installs, as do many co-op utility companies. Having an outdated system wastes a lot of energy. A smaller improvement you can easily make is using a programmable thermostat. These fancy wall computers can be taught your schedule and help you avoid wasting energy. After all, why heat the house to 72̊ when everyone is at work? Changing how and when you heat and cool your house can have a big impact on your energy usage.
Improving insulation throughout your home is an important step in changing your efficiency. Adequate insulation throughout the exterior walls and the attic will help retain heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. Make sure to check small areas around outlets, fixtures, and switch plates. Repair any damaged weather stripping or caulking around windows and doors to keep drafts to a minimum. Just like installing an Energy Star heating and cooling system is ideal, consider replacing windows and doors that are outdated and allow air infiltration.
Ensuring that any vents leading out of the house are secured will help prevent drafts and improve efficiency. Fireplace dampers and exhaust vents should all be sealed tightly. While you’re outside checking these vents, look around and see if you have adequate landscaping to provide wind block or shading on your home. Using strategically placed shrubbery can decrease the load the sun puts on windows during the summer. You should also consider black-out curtains and shades during months of temperature extremes. Lastly, switch to LED bulbs and fixtures. They last much longer and are much more energy efficient. They are available at just about every hardware store.
Making your home as efficient as possible is no small task, but breaking it down into different sections will make it a more manageable project. Small changes can make a big difference.