This article is being written as governments around the world are urging their citizens to stay at home in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. During difficult times, it’s important to look on the bright side – in this case, that you may have ample free time to start tackling those home improvement projects you’ve been wanting to get at!
We may all be faced with a significant amount of time indoors over the next few weeks or months – that means you’re going to be using light bulbs, climate control, and electronics more than you normally would. Now is the perfect time to make your home more energy efficient.
This article is divided into three parts: low-to-no upfront cost, some upfront cost, and significant upfront cost. All of these costs can be recouped over time; whether or not it’s worth it for you financially will depend on how long you expect to live in your home.
Become a Vampire Slayer
Standby power, also known as vampire power, is a serious problem. When you turn off your TV, it’s not really off – it needs to use power so it can tell if you hit the “On” button on your remote control.
That microwave you never adjusted for Daylight Savings? The clock might be showing you the wrong time, but it’s still consuming power.
Standby power is everywhere, but it’s relatively easy to deal with: unplug devices when you’re done using them – don’t just turn them off. Worried that you’ll forget to unplug? Invest in some low-cost power bars and turn them off when you’re done with your devices.
You can even find power bars with timers so they shut off automatically if you forget to turn them off yourself. You’ll be amazed how much you save on your power bill!
Weather stripping is incredibly inexpensive and an excellent way of maintaining shoring up the weak points of your building envelope. In plainer English, weather stripping helps you insulate the moving elements of your home, like doors and windows. Installation is incredibly simple; you can do it yourself.
Get Low (Flow)
Low-flow faucets and shower heads can significantly reduce your energy consumption and your water bill. Any time you use hot water, you’ve got to heat it – that takes energy. Low-flow fixtures will often mix air in with water in order to maintain pressure while reducing water flow; in other words, your shower will still feel just as good, but it will use less energy.
You can get these fixtures inexpensively – some utilities will even provide them to you for free in an effort to reduce energy consumption. Installation isn’t too tricky, either; you should be able to install them yourself.
Light Up Your Life
Depending on where you’re reading this article from, you may have already been mandated to make this change. Incandescent light bulbs have been phased out in many countries, like Canada, but the ban in the United States that was due to come into effect was recently lifted.
Incandescent light bulbs have been banned because they’re very inefficient; if you’re still using them, consider swapping them with CFLs.
Some Upfront Cost:
There are so many smart devices that can reduce your power consumption: Smart light bulbs that power on and off depending on the time of day and Smart thermostats that can adjust the temperature when you’re asleep or away, only to adjust it back just before you come home.
What’s more, these smart devices are often coupled with programs that allow you to monitor your power consumption. That means you can get insights into your own behaviour and adjust your power usage accordingly.
Ever notice how cold your laminate or wood floor gets? Get a few area rugs; they’ll liven up your space and keep your toes warm. That means you’ll be less inclined to crank up the heat.
You can follow the same logic with curtains; there are several styles of insulating curtains that keep your home warmer in the winter and colder in the summer. These items aren’t just good for energy consumption – they look great, too!
The Best Kind of Audit
Energy audits can help you find weak points in your building envelope – in other words, spots where your home isn’t properly insulated. They can also find unnecessary power consumption and give you tips on reducing your energy usage.
They’re like a much more personalized version of this very article! You can typically get one for a couple hundred dollars; follow their recommendations, and you’ll save a lot more.
Significant Upfront Cost:
Insulation Rules the Nation
Have you heard of Passive House? It’s a home building standard that operates on the premise that if you have a lot of insulation, you’ll use way less energy. Heating and cooling are among the most significant energy costs in a household. When you’ve insulated properly, you reduce these costs substantially.
You’ve read the term building envelope a few times in this article – the envelope surrounds your home and acts as a barrier between the climate outside and inside. When that barrier has weak points, heat can seep through, making your home hotter in the summer and cooler in the winter.
To insulate efficiently, you need insulation throughout your home; you’ll also need insulating doors and windows. That can seem like a hefty cost, but building green doesn’t cost, it pays. Over time, you’ll save an incredible amount on energy costs and you may be able to sell your home for more than if it wasn’t well-insulated.
How old is your furnace? How about your air conditioner? Over the last decade, there have been substantial improvements in energy efficiency for climate control devices. Instead of spending money on repair costs for inefficient devices, consider replacing them entirely.
The upfront cost might seem significant, but when your energy utilization jumps from 60% to 95%, you can save up to 35% on heating and cooling costs each month, and that adds up fast!
Shiny New Appliances
Every year, appliances get more efficient. Getting rid of your old refrigerator, stove, washing machine, or dryer can save you a lot of energy over time.