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A Guide to Energy Efficiency Changes in the Home

Energy costs keep rising. Not only that, but you want to feel like you’re doing your part for the planet.

We all want an energy-efficient home, but with so many possibilities, where can we start?

It can be tough to decide on specific home changes. To make things easier, we’d like to share some of the best changes you can make for reducing your overall energy consumption.

Some are fast and cheap, while others are large, expensive changes. All, however, will make a difference in your home’s resource consumption.

energy savings lightbulbs

Conduct a Home Energy Audit

Before you make changes to your home, have a home-energy audit performed on your house. These assessments are conducted by trained professionals and will help you determine the best way to make the most immediate and noticeable reduction on your overall energy use.

Simple, Affordable, Easy Repairs

For the first batch of energy conservation changes, we’ll focus on simple and affordable home improvements. These measures rarely call for a professional, as most able-bodied people can handle them alone. They require little more than basic tools, such as a screwdriver or spade shovel, and nothing in this section should cost more than $100.

We’ve also added our own difficulty rating, (which we admit is pretty unscientific), with 1 being easy and 5 being the most difficult. For rating the task, we’ve considered both the physical difficulty, such as heavy lifting, as well as the mental difficulty, such as the complexity.

Replace Old Light Bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lamps

  • Cost: Roughly $5.00 per bulb
  • Savings: 25 to 80% less energy use than traditional bulbs
  • Difficulty: 1

Energy.gov, which is run by the U.S. Department of Energy, says that replacing old bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, or “CFL’s,” could reduce the cost of using lightbulbs from $4.80 a year to $1.00 a year. That might not sound like much, but imagine if you replace every single bulb in your home. These bulbs can also last 3 to 25 times longer, which means you’ll spend less on light bulbs at the store.

Installing CFL’s is incredibly easy, and the only real challenge is reaching high locations, so be sure to practice care and caution when working in higher areas.

window sealed

Caulk Drafty Windows

  • Cost: Less than $10 for a tube of caulk; $10 to $15 for a caulking gun
  • Savings: 10% to 20% better efficiency when applied to drafty windows
  • Difficulty: 2

If you have old windows with drafty seals, placing a thin layer of caulk around the perimeter can have substantial benefits. This task requires both the tube of caulk and a caulking gun; if you have multiple windows to seal, you may need two or three tubes.

Completing the task is easy, but be sure to clean the area properly and wipe away any excess caulk before it dries. If you live in a cold climate, it may be best to complete this task before the winter for better drying.

Give Your Water Heater a Cozy Blanket

  • Cost: Roughly $15 to $30
  • Savings: Reduces cost of heating water by 7% to 16%
  • Difficulty: 2

Your water heater keeps water toasty warm, waiting for your next shower or dishwasher. However, the water can wait in the tank for hours, and when it cools, the water heater has to use electrical or gas energy to warm it back up. With a water-heater blanket, heat-loss is reduced, making your appliance’s job a little easier.

Installing the water heater blanket is easy. If you already have basic tools, such as a tape measurer and gloves, you’ll only need to buy the blanket. Simply wrap the blanket around the heater, cut it to size, and tape it permanently in place. You will need to turn off power to the unit and you’ll likely need a helper to help keep the blanket in place until it is taped.

shade from trees

Plant Trees Around Your House

  • Cost: $10 to $30 per tree
  • Savings: Up to 35% reduction in summer air conditioning costs
  • Difficulty: 3

You can spend hundreds of dollars on a new tree, but you don’t have to. Most quality trees that provide good shade for your home will only cost about $20, although the price can vary depending on the age of the tree.

The Arbor Day Foundation says that having shady trees by the home can block the sun and create a 35% reduction in air conditioning costs.

The only reason planting trees gets a 3 in difficulty is because it can be physically difficult. If you are not a strong person, you may struggle with the task, as it calls for heavy lifting, digging, and physical strain on your arms, legs, and back. Also, if you’re not an experienced green-thumb, you may need to research how to keep the trees healthy for the first year or two.

Seal Your Ductwork

  • Cost: $10 for a roll of duct tape
  • Energy Savings: Eliminates roughly 20% air loss from leaky ducts
  • Difficulty: 2

As air travels from the heater or air conditioner to your living space, it passes through the ducts. If these ducts are leaky, however, the air escapes, forcing the appliances to work harder to move enough air to create comfortable temperatures in the rooms.

EnergyStar.gov says you can lose roughly 20% of the air that is sent from the furnace or air conditioner.

Sealing the duct work is easy unless the ducts are covered by soffits. In that case, the hassle of the project may not be worth it. However, if you have access to the duct work, sealing any gaps with duct tape can keep the air in the ducts and prevent excessive loss. (Notice we’re not talking about insulating the ducts, merely sealing gaps and leaks.)

Big Investments in Small Energy

Now we’re moving into more expensive and time-consuming projects for home energy efficiency. These will cost you over $100, and in many cases could go well over $1,000. However, they provide excellent energy savings for your home.

Many of these large-investment projects can be completed by yourself, but they are generally more difficult and some will require a professional technician.

Install Storm Windows

  • Cost: $60 to $200 for every window
  • Energy Savings: Up to 35% reduction in summer air conditioning costs
  • Difficulty: 3

While some may recommend complete window replacement, simply adding storm windows to the existing area can be a more cost-effective choice, especially if the current windows are fairly new and in decent shape. Energy.gov says this project can reduce energy use by 12% to 33%.

Installing the windows is relatively easy, but it can be a difficult task for windows on second floors, which will require a ladder. You’ll have to measure the windows, clean the surface area, caulk the connecting seal, and make sure the storm windows are properly placed.

Install Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors

  • Cost: $450 to $1,000 per window, plus installation fees
  • Energy Savings: $126 to $465 a year when replacing single-pane windows
  • Difficulty: 4

To keep the temperatures inside, one of the best steps you can take is to add energy efficient windows and doors.

According to ENERGY STAR, you can save up to $465 in a single year when you go from single-pane windows to energy-efficient windows, and Angie’s List says they can be as affordable as $450 per unit.

Installation of windows can be difficult, so if you are not experienced and confident in home maintenance, you may want to hire a professional to ensure they are properly mounted. This is especially true for second-story windows.

Insulate the Attic

  • Cost: $1,358 (National average)
  • Energy Savings: 15% savings on heating and cooling costs (includes sealing)
  • Difficulty: 4

According to HomeAdvisor, it costs an average of $1,358 to install blow-in insulation into an attic, while ENERGY STAR claims sealing the attic and adding insulation can save 15% on heating and cooling bills.

Insulation can come in many forms, but a common method is currently blow-in insulation. This popular form of insulation calls for specific equipment, so hiring a professional is usually the best choice.

You can, however, rent equipment to complete the task. It’s a somewhat simple project but does require climbing into the attic and possibly working in small spaces, making it more difficult.

Programmable Thermostat

  • Cost: Roughly $30 to $200 (Plus professional installation)
  • Energy Savings: Reduce heating and cooling costs by 10%
  • Difficulty: Professional recommended

Programmable thermostats, or smart thermostats, allow you to run the air conditioning or furnace when needed while keeping it off at certain times. This makes it easier to have ideal operation, saving you money on the monthly utility bill. While the effectiveness of these products depends on how you use them, Energy.gov says they can save as much as 10% on heating and cooling costs.

Installation of these products should generally be done by a professional. The process involves proper wiring and mounting, so it’s best to leave this project to someone who is properly trained.

Replace Old Furnaces

  • Cost: $4,191 (National average for new furnace)
  • Energy Savings: Over $115 reduction in annual energy costs
  • Difficulty: Professional recommended

If you have a furnace that is over ten years old, ENERGY STAR says you can save $115 a year in energy bills when you replace it with an energy-efficient model. Although the cost of this project can be over $4,000, you will use less energy in the home, reducing your carbon footprint.

Perhaps more than any other project, replacing old furnaces and installing new models should be handled by a professional. There are numerous connections and specific details that need to be handled properly, so we recommend leaving this task to an HVAC technician.

fan ventilation

Cool Roofs

  • Cost: $0.75 to $3.00 per square foot
  • Energy Savings: $.50 reduction per square foot on annual utility bill
  • Difficulty: Professional recommended

This project can bring significant savings to your home. The EPA reports that a California study found that for every square foot of cool roof, there was an average savings of $.50 off the annual utility bill. This might seem small, but it can add up to hundreds of dollars.

Most people would not install a cool roof until their old roof is ready for replacement. Because of the dangers involved with working on a roof, it’s best to leave this project to the professionals.

An option to cool your attic is with an attic power ventilator. This nifty device will pull the hot air out of your attic making the attic space cooler. As a result you will enjoy cooler temperatures inside as well.

If you want to go one step further consider installing a whole house fan. A whole-house fan system can reduce your air conditioning costs by 90%. Given that your HVAC system has the highest energy usage of any appliance this change can produce the largest home energy efficiency savings.

Water Efficiency Changes

Saving on heating and cooling bills is not the only way to make your home more energy efficient. There are also changes you can make to your home to reduce the amount of water you use.

Duel-Flush and Water Sense Toilets

  • Cost: $200 to $400
  • Savings: 13,000 fewer gallons of water per year
  • Difficulty: Professional recommended

WaterSense is a label that the EPA grants to specific water products that are determined to be more efficient than other models. Dual-flush toilets are a new type of toilet that has two flushing options: one for liquid and one for solid waste. This allows users to select the right amount of water for flushing, reducing overall use.

The EPA claims that using WaterSense-labeled products can reduce annual water use by 13,000 gallons for the average home, resulting in $2,200 worth of savings over the life of the product.

High-Efficiency Clothes Washer

  • Cost: $500 to $1,500
  • Savings: 10 gallons less per load
  • Difficulty: 3

This change allows you to use less water and less electrical energy. According to EnergyStar.gov, installing an ENERGY STAR-certified clothes washer will save 10 gallons of water per load, saving you roughly 3,000 gallons every year.

As an added bonus, these products will shave about $45 off your annual utility costs.

Hooking up a new washer is relatively simple, but moving the washer into place can be tough, requiring strong muscles and special equipment, such as a handcart. Because of the physical challenge, we’ve given this task a 3 in difficulty.

Use Low-Flow Showerheads

  • Cost: Roughly $10 to $20
  • Savings: 43% reduction in hot water bill from shower use
  • Difficulty: 2

Depending on how much you shower and how hot you like the water, you can get significant savings by changing your shower head from conventional to low-flow options.

By installing low-flow shower heads, you reduce the total amount of water used in the home and the cost of heating more water, making this a double-efficiency project.

According to the state government of Nebraska, using low-flow shower heads can save you roughly 5,000 gallons of water every year.

This project can generally be handled even if you have low experience with home repair. Simply shut off the water source, remove the existing shower head, and tightly secure the new unit. Some units may require a sealing product. This job can be completed in less than a half hour, making it a fast and convenient home improvement.

Look for Tax Credits When Considering Changes

Another important consideration is tax credits. The federal government and many state governments have created financial incentives for using energy-efficient products and making changes to the home that reduce your use of resources.

For example, there are Federal Energy Tax Credits that make certain projects more affordable. Before making changes, be sure to check with your state government or local officials to see if there are any other programs for people in your area. Many tax credits and other incentives will expire over time, so be sure to make sure they are still available.

The Importance of Air Purifiers with Energy Efficiency

When making home energy efficiency changes, many people look to seal up leaks and ensure the house is as air tight as possible. While this is a useful goal for reducing energy bills, it can create indoor air problems, including reduced home ventilation.

Air pollutants, which could previously escape through cracks and gaps in the home, are now trapped inside. This can cause the indoor air quality to be in the range of 5 to 100 times worse than outdoor air.

For this reason, it’s important to use an air purifier in an energy-efficient home.

Oransi has a full selection of world-class air purifiers that give you exceptional performance for years. From large purifiers for commercial offices to small units for cozy bedrooms, we have everything you need.

Contact us today and we’ll help you choose the right air purifier for your specific needs!
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