5 Clever Energy-Saving Tips You'll Wish You Knew Sooner
Make your home a little greener—the planet (and your electric bill) will thank you later.
Unlike your car payment or cable bill, your electric bill is one that can vary drastically from month to month and season to season (and don’t forget that heating bill). Beyond the electric bill, though, reducing the energy your home uses with energy-saving tips can help the environment by cutting down on the fossil fuels it takes up and the carbon emissions it emits.
If you’re looking for simple ways to save energy at home (even if it’s for a more reliable electric bill every month), check out these energy-saving tips. Whether you’re using gas or electricity to heat and cool your home, you’ll find doable ways to save energy and cut electricity costs.
1 Seal your home
When it comes to adjusting the temperature in your home, experts recommend thinking of your house as an envelope. Jeff Starkey, vice president of Atlas Butler, a heating, cooling and plumbing company in Columbus, Ohio, says that to maintain your heat in the winter or your air conditioning in the summer you’ll want to seal all cracks. You could pay someone to come do this task for you, but it will run about $250, Starkey says.
Instead, Zillow Lifestyle Expert Amanda Pendleton suggests first doing some things yourself. “Add weather stripping to drafty doors and caulk drafty windows,” Pendleton says.
If you still need help, experts will be able to inspect other culprits. “Ducts are also a common source of leaks, so have your contractor look for holes, tears, and other signs of leaking ducts and seal them,” Pendleton says.
A contractor can also check on other common sources of leaks in your home, including your chimney, plumbing stack, and attic door.
2 Make some upgrades
If your heating or cooling system is outdated, you might want to invest in a replacement. “Since heating and cooling uses the most energy, look to replace your old system with high-performing equipment,” Pendleton says. “And make sure you’re getting the right size furnace or HVAC system for your home—too big or too small will waste energy.”
Pendleton also suggests replacing your major appliances (such as the washer and dryer), with versions that include the Energy Star logo. “The US Department of Energy offers tax credits, rebates, and other savings which can help with the cost,” she says.
Replacing a major appliance is probably the most expensive way to cut costs, but you can also make smaller changes. Pendleton suggests replacing your light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs or upgrading to a programmable thermostat.
3 Change your habits
Of course, beyond major improvement projects, there are simple habits you can change and small energy-saving tips you can try. Why not start by turning your lights off each time you leave the room?
You might also curb your family’s TV or video game habits. Pendleton says that while the television itself isn’t a major energy suck, all of the combined gadgets such as your gaming system or sound system can be.
Pendleton also suggests washing laundry in cold water when possible and cleaning the lint trap in your dryer for a quicker dry time. Unplug small appliances when they aren’t in use and be sure to close your chimney flue when not in use.
Pendleton also suggests taking showers instead of baths to reduce the amount of hot water needed. You can also reduce hot water usage by scraping dishes clean instead of rising them before loading the dishwasher.
While cooking, Pendleton says to be sure you’re using the smaller burner for smaller pots and pans to ensure you aren’t wasting additional heat.
Starkey also suggests lowering your temperature in the winter and upping it in the summer. Even a change of a few degrees can impact your bill and your energy usage.
This is also where a smart thermostat can help. Starkey suggests lowering the temp while you’re gone and setting your smart thermostat to kick on about 30 minutes before you’re due home, so the house is warm again for your arrival without unnecessarily heating it while no one’s home.
4 Monitor your usage
All of these energy-saving tips might not matter much unless you can tell they’re working. That’s why it’s also important to monitor your usage by going over your monthly power and heat bills in detail.
Most utility companies will offer an energy audit to show you where your usage is going and how it might be lowered. If they don’t, Pendleton suggests reaching out to your local or state government to find a good energy auditor. Check with the Residential Energy Services Network for a directory of auditors in your area.
5 Consider a switch to solar
Perhaps the best way to save energy is to make the switch to solar. While this method requires a hefty investment up front, Pendleton says it can be worth the switch if you plan to stay in your current home for a while.
“Not only can adding solar panels to a home save energy costs and help the environment, but Zillow research finds homes with solar panels sell for 2.6 percent more,” Pendleton says.