Upgrading Your Home’s Energy Efficiency

by Gail Brumfield

If you own a home, improving its energy efficiency is likely to be an ongoing, gradual process. There’s so much you can do to make your home more efficient –  too much work and expense for most of us to accomplish for most of us in less than several years. But when elements of your home need to be replaced, making a commitment to upgrading to more efficient solutions can pay huge dividends for you.

Energy-Efficient Appliances

If you have an old appliance or two in your home, it may be costing you more than you realize. That’s because today’s appliances are so much more efficient than those of a generation ago. Let’s look at refrigerators, for example: Per ENERGY STAR, a refrigerator made in 1980 would cost more than $200 a year to run; a new, ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerator would cost only $50. Even when compared to today’s standard models, ENERGY STAR refrigerators are about 20% more efficient.

Upgrading the other major appliances in your home also offers the potential for big energy savings. Dishwashers, clothes washers, freezers, water heaters all use a lot of energy – but ENERGY STAR models use a lot less. As if that wasn’t enough incentive, your local government agencies and utilities may also offer tax credits, rebates, or other incentives to support your efficiency-enhancing upgrades.

Replacement Windows

Appliances aren’t the only household devices that have greatly improved in energy-efficiency: Replacement windows have, too. Today’s windows offer glass coatings that manage the sun’s rays, allowing some through while reflecting others away. These coatings allow windows to play an active role in managing the temperature in a home, and reducing the workload on heating and air conditioning systems.

Like appliances, windows can also be ENERGY STAR qualified. Replacing your windows with ENERGY STAR models can greatly reduce your energy usage and cut down on your power bills. Per ENERGY STAR, replacing a home’s single-pane windows with ENERGY STAR qualified windows can save between just over $100 to almost $500 per year. Savings like these can pay for your window replacement in just a few years, while keeping you more comfortable.

Heating & Air Systems

Chances are, you’re not going to replace your entire heating and air system before you have to do so. But there are things you can do to reduce the energy it spends. Changing your air filter on schedule, for example, will improve the air flow to your system and reduce the energy required to keep you comfortable. Scheduling tune-ups from a heating and air professional will also help your system run more efficiently.

If you want to upgrade your heating and air system on a budget, consider a programmable thermostat. These thermostats maintain a comfortable temperature while you’re at home and awake; when you’re away or asleep, the thermostat can be programmed to maintain a temperature that demands less from your heating and air system. For example, your thermostat may be programmed to let your home stay cooler in winter, while you’re away at work; adjustments like these can reduce your power bill by as much as 10%.