While many people want to make their home more energy efficient for environmental reasons, there are arguably more people interested in improved energy efficiency to save money on expenses related to energy use and consumption. When a home is energy efficient, performance does not have to be compromised and money can certainly be saved.
In order to improve the energy efficiency of a home, the ‘envelope’ of the home should first be targeted, and this includes the walls, ceiling, doors and windows. The energy efficiency of systems — such as heating, cooling, lighting and appliances –should then be a focus.
Here we take a look at six simple ways to improve the use of energy in your home. While some should be considered when a home is being built and building permits are sought, others can be considered and used whether a home is being built or has been standing for many years.
1: Insulate walls and ceiling
When your home is well insulated, heat will flow out of your house more slowly in winter and into your house more slowly in summer; this means that less energy is needed to heat or cool the house. In situations where seemingly continuous wall cavities are used (as is often the case with conventional stud walls), insulation can be blown in and will enhance comfort, conserve energy and help to reduce costs. If necessary to do so, it can often be effective to upgrade the insulation of the above ceiling or attic space.
Old and/or leaky windows can be replaced with more energy efficient counterparts or have their energy efficiency increased with weatherstripping and storm windows. Often, replacing entire windows is far less cost effective than simply replacing windows that are single-glazed.
It is possible to save energy with a well-landscaped yard featuring deciduous plants — particularly for older houses that have inferior quality insulation. This foliage is effective because, in summer, it can block infrared radiation that would otherwise heat the house and, conversely, in winter, its branches can allow the same radiation to come through.
4: Hot water system
In order to maximise the efficiency of your hot water system, it is advisable to turn the heater down to the warm setting and have hot water lines insulated so that they do not lose their heat as quickly between uses. Low flow fixtures for showers and baths are also a good idea.
5: Use compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
By replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFLs, 75 per cent of the electricity used by incandescent bulbs can be saved. When the costs of purchasing a particular type of light bulb, the number of hours that it lasts and the amount of energy that it uses (and the costs of this energy) are considered, the costs associated with using CFLs are calculated to be less than one third of the same costs for incandescent bulbs.
Far too often, people buy a new refrigerator but decide to leave the old one plugged in and running as a reserve site for cooling party supplies and drinks. This is expensive and energy inefficient, as keeping an old fridge running costs an estimated $50 to $150 per year in electricity. Energy Star rated fridges, in contrast, may cost as little as $30 to $60 per year to run.
Improving the energy efficiency of your home can be achieved in a number of simple ways. The great advantage of many of these methods is that no approval or building permit is required — they can easily be achieved by people in their own homes.