Nine Tips for a Greener Home
John Robinson’s Inspection Group believes in conservation — not just because it helps keep valuable resources in the world, but because it can save homeowners a pile of money in the long run. In addition to examining home, we train our inspectors to be repositories of knowledge about how to make your home more green. Here are nine of our best bits of advice to help new homeowners save energy around the house.
Heat and Cool Efficiently
Almost half of the energy costs of a home go toward heating up the house when it’s cold out, or vice versa. You can reduce that expenditure significantly with a few simple tricks:
- Install a ceiling fan. Circulating air helps stabilize the temperature in your home.
- Maintain your air conditioner and heat pump filters properly. Nothing slows down a heater or an AC unit like a clogged air filter.
- Adapt a little — rather than keep your home at 70° year-round, drop it by 3° in the winter and raise it by 2° in the summer.
- Get a programmable thermostat. This simple device will allow you to spend less effort heating or cooling a home when everyone is at work or school, or asleep.
- Install a woodstove or a pellet stove. Either one of these is more efficient than a furnace for heating all but the largest homes.
- Close your curtains when the temperature outside is significantly less comfortable than it is inside. The increased insulation will reduce the need for your heating or AC to kick into overdrive.
Get An On-Demand Water Heater
On-demand water heaters only heat water when you need it, reducing costs by not sitting around heating water all night when you’re not using any. By not storing and constantly heating a large volume of water, on-demand water heaters can save a significant amount on your monthly energy bill. The only catch is that, if you have a busy home, you may need as many as three: one for the shower, one for the kitchen, and one for the rest of the house. Otherwise, you will not be able to support both a showering child and a dishwasher at the same time.
Use LED Light Bulbs
Traditional incandescent lights are horribly energy-inefficient — only 10% of the electricity they burn turns into light — and with them, your lighting bill can be as much as 15% of your energy bill. Compact Florescent Lights (CFLs) are much more energy-efficient, but they contain toxic mercury and must be specially disposed of — not to mention, they are dangerous in any house that has a young child. LED, or Light Emitting Diode, bulbs are even more energy-efficient and longer-lasting than CFLs and use no mercury. They may be a bit more expensive up front, but your savings over the years will easily make up the difference.
Insulation is the single most important part of keeping any home energy-efficient. A ‘tight’ home — one that is well-insulated and well-sealed against the weather — will not only save you money on your utility bills, but it can improve indoor air quality as well. Pay special attention to the insulation around:
- Electrical outlets
- Window-mounted or in-wall Air Conditioners
- Mail slots
- Plumbing and wiring
- Attic hatches
- Window frames
- Switch plates
- Doors (also triple-check the weather-stripping)
Most hot air leaks happen in the attic — unsurprising, since hot air rises. It’s often worth the cost to hire a professional to examine and address insulation problems in your attic.
Use Efficient Toilets and Shower Heads; Don’t Take Baths
Toilets use between one third and one half of the water in your average dwelling, and replacing your toilet with a low-flush version — preferably one that uses roughly a gallon and a half of water per flush — can conserve a LOT of water. Dual-flush toilets give you an even smaller flush option for ‘liquid waste only’, and can cut your water consumption by another 30% beyond that of a low-flush toilet. Similarly, a low-flow showerhead can get you just as scrubby and save a third to half of the water that you would normally spend on a shower.
Be Responsible With Appliances
Appliances and electronics have come to account for almost a fifth of the average American energy bill. These tips cut that fifth by at least a fifth:
- Move refrigerators and freezers away from sources of heat such as stoves, dishwashers, or windows that get direct sunlight.
- Shut your computers off when you’re not using them. If you must leave a computer on, shut the monitor off.
- Use “Energy Star” appliances whenever they are available.
- Switch to a laptop computer if you can — laptops use roughly a third of the electricity of a desktop.
‘Daylighting’ is the craft of allowing natural light to illuminate your home rather than keeping electrical lights on during the day. Consider installing skylights, lightshelves, clerestory windows, or light tubes around your home.
Cook With An Eye Toward Energy
Cooking wastes a huge amount of energy in many circumstances. Remake your kitchen with an eye toward conservation
- If at all possible, put a lid on everything you put on the stove — it keeps the heat in and cooks faster.
- Use the right burner on your stove. A small pan on a large burner sends most of the heat into the air rather than into the food. It’s better to use an element that is too small than too big.
- Gas ranges are more efficient and cost less than electric ranges to operate.
- Consider using an infrared convection oven rather than a conventional oven or a microwave.
Wash Clothes Efficiently
Always try to wash a full load of clothing. A ‘half load’ setting doesn’t mean you’re saving half the water and have the energy. Unless your clothes are filthy, wash on the Cold setting; 70-degree water cleans just as well as 140-degree water in 90% of circumstances. Clean your dryer’s lint trap before every load. If you can, air-dry your clothes on a clothesline rather than using the dryer.
In combinations with the energy-saving suggestions that an inspector from John Robinson’s inspection Group will offer you at the end of your inspection, these tips will help you save the planet and keep your energy bills down at the same time.