Simple improvements that can help cut expenses
Be it minor ductwork insulation or major investments in sustainable energy, there are many possible ways to upgrade your home’s energy efficiency. Sure, energy efficiency may seem like a trend amid the eco-friendly movement, but in reality, it’s a tangible initiative to minimize your monthly energy expenses while reducing your carbon footprint. Here are several ways in which you can reduce your energy costs with simple building upgrades.
1. Invest in a Better Door
While many are quick to assume it’s windows that leak the most energy, a significant amount of energy can be lost due to poorly insulated doors. Invest in an energy efficient door that has a steel frame and a foam insulation core. This can pay dividends in the long-run by keeping warm air in during the colder months, and hot air out during the warmer months.
Another option is to choose an energy efficient fiberglass door. A couple of things to look for in such doors are Energy Star labels and the R-value, which is rating used to measure the resistance of a certain material to heat conductance. For example, most steel and fiberglass doors are rated between R-5 and R-6.
2. Seal Air Leakages
Seal air leaks surrounding walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, and fireplaces with weather stripping, caulk, or spray foam. Warm air leaking out of your home during the winter months and into your home during the summer months can be a money-sucking drain on your utility bill. Not only does the potential energy savings from sealed air leakages in a home range from 5 percent to 30 percent per year, but it can also make a home far more comfortable for its occupants.
3. Take Advantage of Natural Light
One of the most accessible and natural ways to lower your energy bill is to let the light in. For this, consider installing large windows or using different window placements to encourage more sunlight into your home, such as skylights.
Avoid conventional light blocking treatments like drapes and shutters, and instead use shades that can be opened at will. This way, you control the level of darkness and light whenever you want. You can also level-up your windows with daylight redirecting film which helps natural light penetrate deeper into your home. Some creative homeowners even place mirrors on the walls adjacent or opposite to windows. The idea behind this upgrade is to have several reflective surfaces to create the illusion of light and spaciousness.
4. Upgrade Your Heating and Cooling System
Making the investment to tune-up or upgrade to an energy-efficient heating and cooling system might seem like a no-brainer. But when you consider that an average of 43 percent of your utility bill goes to heating and cooling, this upgrade becomes even more real.
The fact of the matter is, heating and cooling your home uses more energy than any other system in your home. By combining proper equipment maintenance and upgrades with appropriate insulation, air sealing, and thermostat settings, you can dramatically reduce your heating and cooling energy consumption. According to the Department of Energy, such measures can result in a 20 percent to 50 percent reduction.
5. Install Sun Blocking Window Film
According to 3M™, one of the most popular brands of window film, an estimated 33 percent of cooling expenses are the result of solar heat gain from glass windows. For spaces with large windows exposed to prolonged periods of sunlight, that number can exceed 40 percent.
Energy efficient, sun blocking window film serves as an effective solution by acting as an invisible thermal shield. This transparent barrier significantly prevents heat gain and UV exposure coming through windows and glass doors. Properly installed sun control window film can block as much as 66 percent of the sun’s heat, minimizing the frequency of your AC system needing to run.
6. Pinpoint Areas to Insulate
The expense of home insulation upgrades can vary depending on what method you choose. While not all options are applicable for certain homes, the most common types include: loose-fill and blow-in insulation; structural insulated panels (SIPs); foam board or rigid foam; concrete block insulation with foam board; and, blanket insulation (commonly comprised of natural fibers or rolls of fiberglass).
If insulating the entire home is out of your budget, start with the attic because this is the area that sees the highest amount of heat leaks. Additionally, ducts can leak an enormous amount of air in basements, crawlspaces, attics, and other areas of the home that do not need to be temperature controlled. In turn, leaky ductwork can cause your HVAC bill to go up by as much as 30 percent. Although sealing and insulating ductwork is not an enjoyable upgrade, it’s an easy fix that can greatly impact your bottom line.
7. Consider Investing in Sustainable Energy Sources
Provided your home is exposed to adequate levels of sun and wind, solar panels and wind turbines are two very accessible ways to diversify your home’s energy sources. Both are certainly major investments that can cost several thousands of dollars, but the long-term energy savings can make quite a difference.
The good news is that both solar panels and wind turbines have seen a 60-70 percent reduction in the total cost to invest in such technology. Still, most entry-level projects can cost homeowners $7-10k on the low end of the spectrum. While there are a number of variables that impact ROI (i.e. size of home, level of energy consumption, electricity prices, etc.) a general benchmark is that it takes roughly 10 years for the savings to outweigh the initial investment. Over the course of several decades, this can result in 5-figure savings by making such investments in sustainable energy sources.
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