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Easy and Affordable Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

Easy and Affordable Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

alt="A green home full of energy efficient and environmentally friendly options includes a sun, the earth and a leaf in a lightbulb."When it comes to making your home more energy efficient as well as more environmentally friendly, a wide array of opportunities are available—from purchasing pricey solar panels to install on your roof, to adding top-of-the-line doors and windows, to replacing your current appliances with brand-new Energy Star-rated fixtures. Although these options are all excellent and effective ways to reduce your home’s carbon footprint and will ultimately save you some cash in the long run, they all require a considerable amount of commitment in terms of their upfront costs. Whether you’re looking for less expensive ways to make your home more energy efficient or you’re a renter who isn’t permitted to make such massive changes to the property in which you live, the following tips will help you make your residence more energy efficient without breaking the bank.

1. Replace Incandescent Lightbulbs with LED or CFL Lightbulbs

alt="LED, CFL and incandescent lightbulbs are shown to illustrate how the former two are more energy efficient options."
Photo: LatinaLista.com

One of the easiest and most affordable ways to make your home more energy efficient is to swap out your old incandescent lightbulbs and replace them with light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs or compact florescent lamps (CFL) bulbs. In 2007, the U.S. Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) in an effort to assist the United States in moving toward greater energy independence and security and to increase the production of clean and renewable forms of energy. As a result of the the EISA being signed into law, several types of incandescent lightbulbs are no longer being manufactured and a wider array of LED and CFL options are now available.

alt="A green lightbulb contains a U.S. dollar sign to indicate how this bulb is more energy efficient."
Photo: Town of Kittery

Although they are much more energy efficient than their incandescent counterparts, many consumers are hesitant to replace their old bulbs because of the higher upfront costs that are often associated with LED and CFL lightbulbs. The majority of incandescent bulbs can be purchased for about $1, whereas LEDs and CFLs typically range in price from $3 to more than $10 per bulb. However, despite their higher purchase price, LED and CFL lightbulbs offer a significantly longer lifespan than incandescent bulbs, which means you’ll save more money in the long run by not having to replace them as frequently—and because they are energy efficient, you’ll also save a considerable amount of money on your monthly electric bills.

2. Use Low-Flow Showerheads & Faucets

alt="A stainless steel showerhead in a black tiled shower drips water from blue lights at the top of the showerhead fixture."
Photo: American Home Shield

Another inexpensive yet effective method of making your home more energy efficient is to trade in your current showerheads and faucets for low-flow options that will help you to conserve water and reduce your use of excessive resources that are simply—and quite literally—going straight down the drain. According to The Washington Post, the average American family uses 40 gallons of water for showering each day—which amounts to 1.2 trillion gallons of water used each year in the United States. Add to this the fact that each gallon of water must be heated up properly before use and the results in a huge amount of “energy-rich” water being used up every single day, much of which is wasted when low-flow showerheads aren’t being utilized.  

alt="Two $20 bills are being sucked down a drain by water in a shower that is not energy efficient."
Photo: Earth Bio Technologies

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that water heating comprises as much as 17 percent of a home’s electric bill, so replacing your high-flow showerheads with low-flow models will not only reduce the amount of water that is wasted during your daily showers—it will also cut your monthly electric bill costs significantly once less water is being warmed up to showering temperatures by your water heater. To ensure you select a suitable model, look for a low-flow showerhead that has been certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Thanks to this government organization’s WaterSense program, consumers can now easily find showerheads that have been proven to produce flow rates below 2 gallons per minute—enough to save the average family nearly 3,000 gallons of water per year and to provide power to a residential property for as many as 13 days.

3. Replace Furnace Filters Frequently

alt="A man replaces a furnace filter inside a home to ensure the residence is as energy efficient as possible."
Photo: California Energy Services

Few methods of making your home more environmentally friendly and energy efficient are quicker—or easier—than replacing your furnace filters on a regular basis. Traditional forced-air systems—which are the most common types of heating and cooling systems found in residential properties—draw air into return ducts and then heat it up or cool it down with the help of a heat exchanger. Once the air has been heated or cooled, it is pushed back out through another series of ducts with the assistance of a blower fan, and it is then dispersed into the various rooms throughout your home. This cycle is repeated again and again until the desired temperature you have set on your home’s thermostat has been reached.

alt="A dirty and dusty furnace filter is shown next to a clean furnace filter to illustrate when the filter needs to be replaced."
Photo: Landmark Home Warranty

Although many people mistakenly believe that the only job of a furnace filter is to clean or purify the air that is pumped out from your heating and cooling system and into your home, the reality is that the primary job of a filter is to protect the blower fan on your furnace from becoming clogged by dust, hair and other contaminants that may be floating around inside your property. When you neglect to maintain a regular filter replacement schedule, your furnace filter can become very dirty very quickly, which not only results in filthy, contaminant-filled air being pumped out into every room of your home—but also results in an appliance that has to work overtime to keep up, contributing to an excessive amount of energy use and potentially causing damage to the unit itself. To ensure your family is breathing in clean and safe air, to prevent your furnace from becoming damaged and to make your home more energy efficient, check your filter for clogs and blockages monthly, and replace your filter completely every 90 days or sooner.

4. Seal Up Air Leaks Around Doors and Windows

alt="Money is seen flying out of an open window in a home whose windows are not properly sealed up."
Photo: The Balance

If you’re searching for a super-cheap way to save a considerable amount of cash on your home’s electricity bills while also increasing the energy efficiency of your residence, hit your local hardware store and stock up on some sealant, caulk, spray foam or weatherstripping to use on your home’s windows and doors. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, residential properties are filled with a variety of places that can contribute to air leaks that cause your home to lose warm air in the winter and lose cool air in the summer—potentially costing hundreds of dollars in wasted electricity and also reducing the energy efficiency of your home significantly.

 

alt="A man uses a caulk gun to seal and air leak in the window of a residence and ensure it remains energy efficient."
Photo: House Logic

Although attics, ceiling fixtures, fireplace walls, chimneys and air vents are well-known trouble spots when it comes to air leaks, the most common culprits are typically doors and windows that haven’t been properly sealed to prevent the flow of air from seeping in and out of your property through the cracks. Major leaks are often noticeable—particularly during cold and windy days when the flow of outside air can be felt creeping into your home; however, some smaller leaks can be almost impossible to detect but still require proper sealing. For a variety of ways to check your residence for air leaks of all types and sizes, click here. Once you’ve determined the spots where your home is losing hot or cold air—or where it is allowing hot or cold air to seep in from the outdoors—use spray foam, caulk or weatherstripping to completely seal up the gaps, save your hard-earned money and to maximize the energy efficiency of your house.   

 

Conditioned Crawlspaces

During the summer, the Outer Banks are filled with sunshine and family fun.  But it’s also the season we crank up the air conditioning and our utility bills skyrocket. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects warmer temperatures this summer and the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts an increased use of electricity for air conditioning.  So what’s a vacation homeowner to do?

The Coastal Cottage Company recommends researching conditioned, unvented crawlspaces as a option for improving energy efficiency. 

Despite the popularity of vented crawlspaces, many building professionals recognize that a conditioned, unvented crawlspace is the best option for homes in particularly warm and humid climates.  A conditioned crawlspace is constructed and insulated so that it is part of the conditioned space of the house.  

Conditioned Crawlspace
Image courtesy of Environmental Protection Agency


According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the Outer Banks’ summer air can increase moisture in crawlspaces.  Given the region’s high humidity, that moisture may not dry out and could cause condensation on cooler crawlspace surfaces such as floor joints, foundation walls, and air-conditioning ducts.  According to Peak Energy, this can lead to mold growth and dry rot.

Conditioned Crawlspace
In 2002, Advanced Energy studied a group of 12 houses in North Carolina. The 8 homes that had unvented crawl spaces had relative humidity that stayed less than 60% all summer.


According to the Building Science Corporation, benefits of conditioned crawlspaces include:

  • More efficient cooling and, thus, lower energy costs.
  • Decreased condensation and, thus, lower likelihood of mold growth.
  • Improved structural integrity due to less moisture.
  • Lower maintenance.

So when planning your Outer Banks vacation home, consider chatting with the Coastal Cottage Company about a conditioned crawlspace!


Blog by Jessica T. Smith

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