In honor of Earth Day, we've put together some energy-saving tips that will not only reduce your environmental impact, but also make your home a more enjoyable, happy and healthy place to live.
Here are 8 practical ways that you can reduce energy consumption in your home and help make the planet a little happier all year long.
1. Stay Sun-Aware
The Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the sun during winter months, which causes the sun to appear lower in the southern sky. This means that opening the curtains on your south-facing windows during the coldest months of the year will bring extra heat into your home. Closing those same curtains after the sun sets will make sure the heat stays in. In the same vein, drawing the curtains on your west and east facing windows during the summer will help keep your home cool.
2. Insulate, Insulate, Insulate
Proper insulation should be a top priority– you may not realize how much money you’re throwing away on wasted energy without it.
Weather-stripping doors and windows is a great place to start, but you can go one step further by purchasing inexpensive insulation from your local hardware or home improvement store and covering other areas where heat might be escaping (such as the attic or basement). Although most people assume that insulation is only meant to keep heat inside the home, it also slows the movement of heat between two spaces, meaning that during the summer months, the insulation actually keeps your home cooler.
3. Dress for the Season
When the temperatures start to fall, it’s time to bust out the throws, flannel blankets, and fuzzy comforters. Simple as it seems, those cozy winter accessories can help you save money– and reduce your energy output –by resisting the temptation to crank up the thermostat. Then, when temperatures begin to rise in warmer months, take off the long sleeves and put on a tank top and shorts.
Try to break the habit of always reaching for the thermostat. You’d be amazed at how much your clothing can affect your body’s temperature.
4. Opt for Thermal Insulated Curtains
Energy saving curtains (also called thermal insulated curtains) might be a game changer. These curtains are specially designed to lock in the cool or the heat, maintaining the temperature of your home with minimal energy output. They come in all sorts of styles, from multi-layered looks to single, heavyweight textiles.
Just don’t forget to close your curtains at night. They do their best work while you’re fast asleep.
5. Program Your Thermostat
An easy way to save money on your heating and air conditioning bill is by resetting the thermostats when you’re asleep or away from home. With a programmable thermostat, you can pre-schedule the times the heat or air conditioner turns on and off. The Department of Energy also recommends turning the thermostat down 10-15 degrees for eight hours each day. In the summer months, try setting the thermostat a few degrees higher when you're away for more than a couple hours.
6. Clean Your Furnace
It’s a simple fact: a clean furnace is a fully functioning furnace, and a fully functioning furnace is the most energy efficient. Checking your filter monthly and replacing it when it gets dirty isn’t simply a tip for saving energy; it’s a best practice for proper home maintenance.
7. Be Smart About Staying Cool
Depending on where you live, you may not always want—or need—air conditioning. But if you do have it in your home, there are smart ways to improve its efficiency. If you have a window unit, you can select the "re-circulate" option so it will re-cool the inside air instead of using excess energy trying to cool and pump the outside air into your home. A whole house fan is also an energy-efficient option recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy. It pulls air in from open windows and exhausts it through the attic and roof, making the temperature much more comfortable.
8. Consider Solar Panels
While the cost of solar panel installation may prompt some immediate sticker shock, the benefits can outweigh the initial cost. Most residents recoup the initial costs in energy savings within 5-10 years, to say nothing of the benefit to the environment by reducing your home’s energy output to nearly zero. You should also factor in the federal solar tax credit, which covers 26% of the cost if you install before 2023.
If you’re still on the fence, try using the Home Solar Calculator, which allows you to calculate the initial installment cost and your long term savings.
We’ve given you 8 steps to reduce your energy consumption, but we wanted to end with a few extra tips:
Pro tip #1: Turning up your thermostat higher will not warm your room faster. We’ve all done it because it’s intuitive. The reality is that it takes the same amount of time to warm your home regardless of the heating level. Cranking up the heat actually wastes energy.
Pro tip #2: Programmable thermostats can help create energy efficiency and generate savings, but you have to make sure they’re properly programmed to enjoy the benefits. Check that the times and temperatures you’ve entered are the right choices for your lifestyle.
Pro tip #3: If your house isn’t as warm as you like it, don’t always blame the furnace. You’ll need to replace your furnace eventually, but you might be able to extend the life of your unit by cleaning it, updating your insulation, and inspecting your ductwork. If that doesn’t work, try calling a technician to take a look. They won’t try to sell you a new heater, and they might just be able to add a few years to your old one.
Reducing energy consumption helps ease our impact on the planet, and in some cases it can also save you money. That’s what we’d call a win-win—every season of the year.