Home Energy Efficiency

There are many ways to improve home energy efficiency– and happily not all of them are expensive. One cheap and easy way is to change light bulbs from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs or even light-emitting diodes (LED). Incandescent bulbs are what most people think of as standard bulbs. They’re the type that Thomas Edison had invented over 100 years ago — and it shows. Incandescent bulbs are very inefficient. An incandescent bulb in use is hot to the touch, while CFLs and especially LEDs are cooler. An incandescent bulb converts less than 5% of the energy it uses into visible light, while the rest becomes heat. They also don’t last as long as CFLs or LEDs. An incandescent bulb lasts about 1,000 hours, while a CFL lasts for roughly 5,000 or 6,000 hours. LEDs are in a league of their own as they can last for up to 50,000 hours. That means that an LED left on for 12 hours a day will last for 11 years, while an LED left on 8 hours a day can last for 17 years. Since these bulbs last so long, they’re considered green technology. A single LED lasts as long as 50 incandescent bulbs or 8 to 10 CFLs.Buying new appliances is hardly inexpensive, but it sometimes has to be done. When it’s time to do so, look for an appliance that has the EnergyStar logo on it. EnergyStar was established by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 to identify and promote energy-efficient products. Products gain the EnergyStar certification only after being tested in an independent laboratory.

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The EnergyStar program also covers buildings. That means it’s possible to buy a new house that has EnergyStar certification or improve one’s current home to make it more efficient. Building products certified by EnergyStar include roofing, windows, doors, skylights, insulation, and sealants.

An obvious consideration is that a drafty home is an inefficient home. If cold air is leaking into a house during the winter, the heater has to work harder to compensate and warm the house back up — which wastes energy and increases fuel bills. The same is true in regards to hot air that gets into a house during the summer, in which case the air conditioner has to work harder to cool things back down.

Similarly, a poorly insulated home is an inefficient home. Properly sealing and insulating a house will not only make it more efficient, but will also reduce noise, keep out bugs, pollen, and dust, and improve humidity control. EnergyStar does include a list of certified insulation. Their website also includes descriptions of how expensive and/or difficult a given project be. While many people might be able to seal a door, most people should hire a professional to insulate their attic.

Another way to improve home energy efficiency is to maintain or replace the heater and air conditioner. Both of these, especially the latter, can use a lot of power, so keeping them in tip-top shape is important. One relatively cheap way to maintain the HVAC system is to change the air filter every 1 – 3 months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep the house warm or cool, and it will also be less likely to keep dirt or dust from building up in the system, which could lead to expensive repairs.

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