Quick fixes and larger projects to make your home more energy efficient
If your utility bill reflects a higher-than-average energy consumption, your appliances are likely running on overtime due to a lack of energy efficiency within your home.
Don't despair! To help solve some of the most common issues, here are some quick-fix projects that you can accomplish on your own, as well as some larger home upgrades that can make a huge impact. These changes could lower your energy bills in the near term--and make your home more valuable in the long run.
Here are the top four home energy efficiency issues that can be addressed with both a quick fix and a long-term solution.
What to do…
…If you’re constantly cranking your thermostat
Quick fix: Seal your windows
Even small gaps can waste a significant amount of energy. Test for leaks by moving a piece of tissue paper around your window. If you see movement, there’s a leak. Heat loss occurs through gaps between sashes and frames, so you’ll want to caulk around these areas, mainly around the exterior. For the best adhesion, you’ll want to clean all areas first, removing any old caulk and paint. Then apply caulk to all joints in a window frame and the joint between the frame and the wall. If possible, caulk in one continuous motion.
Long-term solution: Replace your windows
Windows play a big part in your overall energy use accounting for 25-30% of residential heating and cooling energy use.1 You’ll want to discuss with your window retailer and installer whether you’ll be able to replace your windows in their existing frame. Then you’ll need to decide on features—frame types, glazing type, gas fills and spacers and operation types. When selecting the windows themselves, you’ll want to keep energy use in mind and look for the ENERGY STAR® label, as well as review ratings on the energy performance label for the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC).
What to do…
…If your electricity and gas bills are consistently over the local average
Quick fix: Unplug—ensure that you’re not outputting excess energy
Do you use space heaters in the winter? Leave your appliances plugged in at all times, or leave your phone on the charger all night? All of these things eat away energy. If you use power strips, you’ll be able to turn off multiple devices with just the flip of a switch. When charging your phone, don’t leave it siting on the charger all night, and once it’s charged, don’t just detach your phone—unplug the charger as well. As for space heaters, you’ll want to ensure it’s safe and energy efficient. Which brings us to our long-term solution…
Long-term solution: Insulate to your attic
If you find you’re cranking up your thermostat or plugging in space heaters, some insulation could help with your home’s heating and cooling costs. Take a peak in your attic. If the insulation is level with your floor joists, you could benefit from additional insulation. There are a lot of factors that can cause the cost of this project to fluctuate—the type of insulation you choose, the size of your attic, whether you need to seal fixtures, whether you have mold that needs to be treated and removed or whether you have junction boxes or cables that will require an electrician to safely insulate around those areas.
What to do…
…If a strategic plan needs to be in place when both your clothes and dishes need to be washed
Quick fix: Consider your laundry and kitchen appliance approach
Wash your clothes in cool water when possible. Approximately 90% of the energy used by your washer is used to heat the water.2 So, for loads that don’t require hot water, you don’t need to expend all that extra energy to heat water. And it’s gentler on your clothes! You’ll also want to try to wash only full (but not packed-to-the brim!) loads of laundry in order for your machine to operate at peak efficiency. Once you’ve found the Goldilocks of dirty clothes, you can do the same for your fridge and dishwasher—both of which run most efficiently when full but not overstuffed.
Long-term solution: Replace your old, energy-bleeding appliances
Is your refrigerator over 10-years old? Do you have a top-loading laundry machine? Consider updating your appliances to newer models that expend significantly less energy and can help cut down your monthly utility costs. Look for ENERGY STAR®products, as they meet the energy-efficient specifications set by the EPA and use 10-50% less energy than standard appliances.3
What to do…
…If you’re last, better shower fast—you have hot water battles in your household
Quick fix: Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators
Standard showerheads use approximately 2.5 gallons of water per minute (GPM), while water-saving showerheads use no more than 2 GPM. So in just a 10-minute shower, you could save 5 gallons of water.4 To reduce further water usage, you can install a low-flow aerator to your kitchen faucet. Both of these fixes not only save water but can also save your furnace from heating excess water. And if a new showerhead isn’t going to cut it…
Long-term solution: Full bathroom and/or kitchen renovation
If you’re looking for some aesthetic changes as well, this is the perfect time to ensure your upgrades are going to conserve your resources. You’ll be able to select the most up-to-date and energy efficient appliances and make structural fixes along the way. For instance, you can check for water intrusion and condensation to improve your home’s indoor air quality by eliminating mold-friendly moisture. Or you can add HVAC ducts to parts of your home that are heated and cooled. This will ensure your heating and cooling systems are working efficiently, ultimately cutting your month-to-month utility bills.
Whether you’re looking to make some small tweaks or major changes, there are so many ways to make your home more energy efficient and cut down costs. Be green—save green.
 Energy.gov, Update or Replace Windows
 Treehugger, 11 ways to green your laundry
 Energystar.gov, How a Product Earns the ENERGY STAR Label
 EPA.gov, Showerheads