Energy efficiency is more than a trendy buzzword – it is the key to a sustainable future. Consumers want to upgrade to energy-efficient homes to create a cleaner, greener planet that will last for generations to come. In addition to being better for the environment, energy-efficient homes have reduced heating and cooling costs.
By adding energy-efficient appliances and striving for electrical efficiency, you can reduce your carbon footprint and lower your energy bills. In many cases, it can also increase the value of your property. It’s a win-win situation for every homeowner.
Table of Contents
- What Does Energy Efficiency Mean?
- Energy-Efficient Heating
- Energy-Efficient Cooling
- Energy-Efficient Plumbing
- Electrical Energy Efficiency
- Energy Efficiency for a Better Future
First of All: What Does Energy Efficiency Mean?
Energy efficiency is simply the idea of using less energy to perform a certain task, thereby eliminating “wasted” energy. Energy-efficient homes, for example, have airtight construction and better insulation. It has properly air-sealed windows, doors, and vents to prevent air from escaping or entering.
Look out for the energy efficiency label for home appliances
Many energy-efficient homes use high-performance Energy Star appliances and equipment, including heaters, boilers, air conditioners, furnaces, refrigerators, washers and dryers, and energy-efficient lighting.
Energy Star is a government-backed symbol for energy efficiency — by labeling energy-efficient appliances and products with the Energy Star name or logo, the government makes it easy for consumers to choose energy-efficient products. Energy-efficient homes are also very desirable.
Investing in the right changes can increase your home value, help the environment, and save money!
Energy-Efficient Heating: Saving Money While Staying Warm
The average American spends $2,000 annually on energy costs, according to Energy.gov, which also estimates that $200-$400 could be going to waste from drafts, air leaks, and outdated heating and cooling systems.
You can save money on heating by making smart changes to your home. Increase your energy conservation and reduce your energy consumption by using better insulation, fixing leaks, and updating to energy-efficient cooling and heating systems.
While nearly every homeowner can make positive changes — think switching to energy-efficient appliances — that will benefit their wallet and the environment, there are more specific suggestions that depend on your equipment and the type of fuel you use.
Overall, there are many options for energy-efficient heaters. Popular choices include energy-efficient heat pumps, energy-efficient furnaces, and energy-efficient boilers. Below, learn more about each of these options, as well as which is right for you based on your home, equipment, and needs.
Go green by maximizing heat pump efficiency
A heat pump is powered by electricity and transfers heat from one place to another to heat your home. In cooler months, it takes warm air from the outside and redistributes it indoors, using refrigerant, which absorbs and rejects the heat as it circulates throughout the system.
Since a heat pump transfers heat rather than converting it, it can deliver up to three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes, according to Energy.gov. While the cost of your heat pump depends on the size of your living space, the average cost of installation is about $5,000.
Homeowners should consider the climate in which they live before purchasing a heat pump system. Heat pumps work better in warm or mild climates where the temperatures do not drop below freezing. They’re most efficient when the temperature is above 40 degrees, and they start losing their efficiency when the temperature drops below 25 degrees.
Since energy-efficient heat pumps do not burn fossil fuels, they are considered more environmentally friendly than other methods, even among energy-efficiency heating options. However, one environmental consideration for homeowners is what to do with old refrigerants.
Refrigerant is a compound made with hydrofluorocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to the hole in the ozone layer. There are very strict rules surrounding the disposal of used fuel, so always call a certified technician in your area to dispose of it properly.
To reduce energy costs, keep the thermostat at less than 70 degrees during winter and set it to “heat.” Another way to save money and energy is by using a timer and having the energy-efficient heat pump turn on about 15 minutes before you are going to be in the room. Heat pump efficiency works by not wasting energy — pumps don’t have to run all day to be effective.
But one of the most overlooked ways to save money on your energy-efficient heat pump is through proper maintenance. While a professional contractor should fully service the unit at least once a year, there are several things that homeowners can do themselves for upkeep in the interim.
These tasks include inspecting the air filters and cleaning or changing them if necessary, making sure the coils are clean, checking that the entire unit is free from dirt, debris, ice or snow, and trimming back shrubbery or other foliage that could prevent it from working properly.
Choose furnace efficiency for the coldest winters
Though there are some electric furnaces, the majority of furnaces found in homes create heat by burning fuel. The warm air is then distributed throughout the ducts of your home using a blower. Most often a furnace uses natural gas or home heating oil as the energy source, although occasionally it can use propane.
Natural gas central energy-efficient heating is often considered one of the cheapest ways to heat a home, even with the recent rise in gas prices. Natural gas units also heat a space more quickly, and most newer models are considered energy-efficient furnaces. Fuel oil furnaces, on the other hand, are an expensive way to heat a home, and electric heat is the most expensive.
If you live in a cold climate or in an environment where temperatures drop very low, a furnace is probably the right choice for you for staying warm. Since it generates its own heat (unlike a heat pump), it is more effective in colder temperatures, like the New England winters.
To reduce your heating costs when using a furnace, turn down the temperature of your heater by 2 to 3 degrees. It also helps to clean or change your air filter frequently, and to keep air vents or baseboards free from blockages by furniture or other objects in the home.
Regular maintenance will increase your furnace’s lifespan, making your purchase last longer. Change your air filters regularly so dirt and dust don’t accumulate. Dirty filters cause your unit to waste energy because your furnace has to work harder to push air out.
Also, check that your thermostat is working properly. The temperature in the home should match the setting on the thermostat — if not, it needs to be looked at by a professional. Cleaning the unit will also keep costs down. Finally, don’t forget to check the tension belt and oil the motor a few times a year.
Boiler efficiency for low-maintenance energy-efficient heating
A boiler produces hot water or steam using natural gas, electricity, oil or, sometimes, wood. It heats water to extremely hot temperatures and then typically pushes the hot steam via pipes to cast iron radiators. However, hot water can also be distributed through heat-radiant flooring systems, baseboard radiators, or heat air through a coil.
One of the benefits of energy-efficient boilers is that the air does not need a blower, so there is less dryness than in homes heated with a furnace. Many people believe it’s one of the most comfortable ways to heat a home. It’s certainly one of the most natural.
One disadvantage of boilers is that a wintertime power outage can sometimes lead to the water in the boiler tank to freeze, preventing a home from being heated when people need it most. They also tend to be more expensive upon installation, and a leak can cause quite a bit of damage.
Overall, though, a properly working boiler system is usually more energy efficient, less noisy, and can create better air quality inside your home than other energy-efficient heating systems. Also, they require very little maintenance, other than an annual tune-up by a professional.
Using a thermostat to set your energy-efficient boiler can help you save money. Keep the temperature between 65 degrees and 68 degrees – even one degree higher can add to your energy bill. Always turn off central heating when you are out, and be sure to check your thermostat.
Energy-Efficient Cooling: A Balance Between Comfort and Environmental Consciousness
More than 88% of U.S. homes use air conditioning, according to EIA.gov, and paying for it takes up a large chunk of their income, with the lowest-income families being hit the hardest.
Over-reliance on air conditioning is not only costly to homeowners but also bad for the environment. First, it taxes the electrical grid. Second, air conditioners contribute to global warming because they can leak hydrofluorocarbons, heat-trapping greenhouse gasses that are released into the atmosphere.
That being said, there are ways to make sure that the unit you choose is an energy-efficient cooling system. Be sure to look at your air conditioner’s SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating, which represents a unit’s maximum efficiency. It’s essentially the output of the cooling system over an average cooling season divided by the total energy used. It indicates how much energy and money the unit requires to operate effectively over a single year.
There are other things you can do to implement energy-efficient cooling strategies. One way is by making sure your home is properly insulated, so warm air cannot get in and cool air cannot escape. You can also rely on energy-efficient windows and doors, as well as shades and ventilation. And always raise your thermostat when you will be away.
While there are various ways to cool a house, the right choice for you will depend on the type of home you have, its equipment and capabilities, where you live, and what is offered in your area. Below are some energy-efficient cooling options.
Repurposing heat pump efficiency for cooling
Contrary to its name, heat pumps are also used as energy-efficient cooling solutions for your home. In warm or summer months, an energy-efficient heat pump pulls heat out of indoor air.
Because you can use it all year round, many homeowners find heat pumps to be a cost-efficient solution for energy-efficient homes for their heating and cooling systems.
To keep costs down, your heat pump needs to be working to its maximum efficiency. Improper maintenance of the heat pump can cause it to be less efficient and lead to an increase in bills, so be sure to check it for blocked or dirty air filters or debris in the fans.
It’s also necessary to check that the coils are clean, make sure the unit is not covered with debris, and have a professional inspect and service it at least once a year.
Air conditioning for energy-efficient cooling and air quality
Air conditioning removes warm air and humidity from your home and transfers it outside. It offers the best protection against extreme heat, can reduce allergens, and improves air quality.
Air conditioners use about 6% of all the electricity produced in the United States, according to energy.gov. That’s about $29 billion a year for homeowners. It also leads to roughly 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide being released into the air each year.
However, the government is cracking down and has recently raised the minimum energy efficiency rating for central air conditioning units, through the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating system, introducing the SEER2. For example, central air conditioning systems and ductless mini-splits in Massachusetts must have a minimum SEER2 of 13.4; this rating can be found in the product’s label, along with the Energy Star seal. New units on the market that follow these guidelines can be anywhere from 10-40% more energy efficient than those installed in homes in the past.
Central air conditioning, which circulates cool air through a system of supply and return ducts, can be costly, both in terms of natural resources and your wallet. But there are many ways you can achieve energy-efficient cooling with your central air conditioner:
- Raise the thermostat by at least 10 degrees when you are out for the day – or turn it off completely. The system doesn’t need to be working when you are away and you can save a lot of money this way.
- Have your AC ducts sealed by a contractor who knows how to keep air from escaping. Sealants and sheet metal screws can help cover holes that become energy (and wallet) leaks.
- Check and change your air filters to ensure they are not dusty or dirty.
- Consider buying a programmable or smart thermostat so that you can decide exactly when to cool your home.
Like the other HVAC systems, maintenance is key to keeping your machine running properly. Dirty filters, leaky ducts, low refrigerant, and broken parts can cause high electric bills, so be sure to have it properly serviced at least once a year. An annual air conditioner tune-up is the best way to make sure your AC unit continues to run as efficiently as possible.
Energy-Efficient Plumbing: Water is Crucial Too
Energy efficiency extends beyond heating and cooling. There are many ways homeowners can save money by upgrading to more environmentally conscious and energy-efficient plumbing, using less power and less water.
Clean water is a quickly disappearing resource that affects millions of people around the world, and it’s further impacted by climate change drying up water sources. That’s why it’s crucial to try to save water whenever and wherever we can through energy-efficient plumbing solutions. Here are some options:
- Switch to low-flow toilets, which work just as well as traditional toilets but use only a gallon of water per flush.
- Install a dual flush conversion toilet, which has one low-flow button for liquid waste and one higher-flow option for solid waste.
- Low-flow faucets and low-flow shower heads are also easy switches to make for more energy-efficient plumbing, and they still provide substantial water pressure.
- Consider a tankless style efficient water heater, which, unlike a conventional unit, only heats up water as you need it. These units are considered to be the most energy-efficient type of water heaters. While they can be expensive at first, the long-term money- and energy-saving benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
- Also, remember to insulate the pipes properly to ensure that heated water doesn’t cool as it travels to the fixtures, cutting down on unnecessary heating costs.
For more ideas, contact an energy-efficient plumbing expert near you.
Save Even More with Electrical Energy Efficiency
Of all energy costs, electricity is probably the biggest one, which means it’s your highest bill. It should not be used thoughtlessly — and that applies to clean energy, too, which is not completely harmless.
Through electrical efficiency, you can save money while also reducing pollution that is emitted from non-renewable sources of energy. Here are some pointers you can follow:
- Purchase energy-efficient products and energy-efficient appliances like washers and dryers, refrigerators, and dishwashers (look for Energy Star, SEER, and SEER 2 labels).
- Swap out your traditional light bulbs in favor of energy-efficient light bulbs like modern LED bulbs.
- Consider relying more heavily on natural daylight like windows and skylights. Unplug appliances when they are not being used.
- Keep your refrigerator and freezer as full as possible.
- Use a toaster oven instead of your traditional oven.
- Take advantage of smart home systems such as programmable thermostats to conserve energy.
A professional electrical efficiency expert can help install these systems and suggest other ways to optimize the electrical systems in your home to be the most efficient.
Energy Efficiency for a Better Future
When it comes to energy-efficient homes, the latest technological advancements have made it easier than ever to save money on utility bills while improving comfort.
And, if you’re looking to maximize savings, you can take advantage of various incentives and rebates programas for upgrading to energy-efficient systems.These incentives are offered at state and federal level, and also by some utility and service providers, and can significantly offset the cost of new equipment and upgrades.
Before making any energy-efficient upgrades, it’s a good idea to research which rebates and incentives are available in your area.
Furthermore, you can take advantage of these additional tips to create energy-efficient homes:
- Focus on the exterior: Insulate walls and attics to prevent heat loss or gain, and upgrade windows and doors to energy-efficient models that improve insulation and minimize drafts.
- Switch to efficient appliances: Choose Energy Star-rated models for heating, cooling, lighting, and appliances to optimize energy usage throughout your home.
- Explore renewable energy sources: Consider installing solar panels, wind turbines, or geothermal systems to harness clean, renewable energy. These solutions can boost your electrical efficiency and significantly reduce long-term energy costs.
Remember, improving energy efficiency benefits not only your wallet but also the environment. Every change, whether big or small, brings us closer to a more sustainable future. Let’s work together to create a win-win situation for homeowners and our planet.
Questions? Contact Us.
"*" indicates required fields