Making your home more energy-efficient provides long-term benefits for both your budget and the planet. When your house consistently uses less energy, you can lower your utility bill and your carbon footprint. Unfortunately, unless you’re someone who loves completing do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvement projects, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of work needed to create an energy-efficient home.
That’s why Palmetto has developed this room-by-room guide to creating an energy-efficient home. By focusing on one room at a time, it’s easier to plan out the work you need to do, how you will pay for it, and what you might need an expert to do for you.
Besides your home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, your kitchen is usually the room that uses the most electricity. It’s also the room that releases the most energy, such as heat from your stove, oven, or refrigerator. By developing an energy-efficient kitchen, you’re less likely to heat the rest of the home, which has the added benefit of helping to lower your air conditioning costs.
In the kitchen, you’ll see the biggest immediate impact by simply changing up a few of your cooking habits. The less you use your oven and stove, the more efficient your kitchen will be.
Additionally, purchasing energy-efficient appliances is a great idea, but you don’t need to do a full renovation of your kitchen right away. Instead, just plan to buy Energy Star models when your old appliances stop working.
Here are a few more tips on how to make a more energy-efficient kitchen:
- Clean the condenser coils of your refrigerator
- Only run full dishwasher loads
- Use the dishwasher instead of hand-washing
- Keep your fridge at least 3/4 full
- Don’t preheat the oven
- Use glass or ceramic dishes in the oven
- Leave the oven door closed when cooking
- Use the right size of cookware for your stovetop
- Use small appliances like a microwave for cooking when possible
- Unplug small appliances when not in use
- Install low-flow faucets
- Install Energy Star certified appliances
Energy efficiency in the bathroom can be reduced to one basic concept: Use less water. Water by itself doesn’t take energy, but heating it for showers, handwashing, and more does.
To create a more energy-efficient bathroom, look for ways to use as little hot water as possible:
- Take colder showers
- Take shorter showers
- Only use the ventilation system (exhaust fan) for 10 minutes after you finish your shower
- Turn off the water when brushing your teeth or shaving
- Unplug devices like hairdryers and curlers when not in use
- Install a low-flow showerhead
- Install a low-flow faucet
- Install a low-flow or dual-flush toilet
The top energy user in your bedroom is usually your home’s heating and cooling systems. By improving the flow of air in the room, especially when you’re sleeping, you will use less energy to keep the room at a comfortable temperature you enjoy.
Here are a few other ways to make a more energy-efficient bedroom:
- Install heavy curtains for the windows to better regulate temperatures
- Close the closet and bathroom doors
- Unplug electronics when not in use
- Invest in a mattress and bedding that supports your sleeping temperature preferences
Washing and drying clothes for your family combines the energy usage of the bathroom with that of the kitchen. Your washer uses a lot of water, while your dryer can emit considerable heat energy into the home. The goal is to find ways to reduce when and how you use these large appliances.
Like your kitchen, you don’t need to rush out and buy new appliances today just to save on energy costs. But when your old ones do stop working, Energy Star models can improve your home’s overall energy efficiency.
Here are other ways to create an energy-efficient laundry room:
- Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible
- Wash and dry only full loads
- Wash clothes less frequently
- Clean out the dryer lint trap with every load of laundry
- Line-dry clothes when possible
- Use high-efficiency laundry products
- Install Energy Star certified appliances
Most people don’t think of their garage as a room that can be energy-efficient. But if your garage is connected to your home, you need to prevent outside air from entering your home through the door you use to walk inside the house.
Even if your garage isn’t attached to your home, you can still create an energy-efficient garage and reduce any excess energy usage by adjusting your water heater and extra refrigeration units you might own:
- Turn down the water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit
- Check the seal on the door connecting the garage to the house and replace it if cracked
- Check the seal between walls and the garage floor and seal it if cracked
- Check the seal between your garage door and the frame, including the floor, to prevent excess airflow
- Double-check if you truly need that extra fridge or freezer
- Clean the condenser coils of your extra refrigerator or freezer
- Keep your garage freezer at least half-full
- Install an energy-efficient garage door
- Seal any cracks in the concrete
Yes, your yard can be a source of energy waste, and also a place that helps improve your overall home’s energy efficiency. Optimizing your water usage is a great place to start, especially if you have any sort of sprinkler system. Furthermore, planting vegetation in key places around your home provides essential shading that can help you reduce how much you use your HVAC during high-usage times of the year.
Here are a few other tips to create an energy-efficient yard:
- Water your yard only when necessary
- Don’t water during the heat of the day
- Look for lower-impact landscaping options
- Upgrade to an electric lawn mower
- Start composting
- Only plant native plants
- Plant shade trees and bushes on the south and southwest of your home
- Plant windbreaks on the north and northwest of your home
General Home Tips
By taking active measures to reduce your heating, cooling, and lighting usage, you can improve the energy efficiency of your home. These may be some of the common energy-saving tips you’ve seen on other lists, but they’re important for a reason - they work!
When you use less energy around the house, that can lead to considerable savings on your home energy bills, so check out these cost-effective tips for creating energy-efficient homes:
- Turn off the lights in unused rooms
- Use natural light when possible
- Open drapes and shades during the day in winter
- Close drapes and shades during the day in summer
- Keep vents clear
- Ensure your ceiling fans blow in the correct direction for the season
- Plug electronics into a shared power strip, and turn it off at night
- Use LED light bulbs
- Replace air filters regularly
- Install a programmable smart thermostat
- Use the right thermostat setting for the season
- Install Energy Star certified dimmer switches
- Create a lighting schedule with smart lights
- Get your HVAC system inspected at least once a year
- Get your chimney and fireplace inspected every fall
- Install the correct amount of insulation throughout the walls and ceilings
- Add a building envelope to physically separate the conditioned and unconditioned environment of your home
- Install energy-efficient windows
- Hire an energy auditor to perform a complete home energy audit
With this room-by-room guide to creating an energy-efficient home, we hope that you’ve picked up a few easy ways to use less energy and save money, while still being comfortable and productive. You don’t have to change your whole routine to use less energy, but you can focus on one room at a time, decide on the goals you’d like to achieve, and then plan out a strategy to get there.
One of the biggest changes you can make to the way your home uses electricity is to power it with renewable energy systems like home solar. If you’re interested in learning how much you might save, check out our free Solar Design and Savings Estimate. It’s easy to get started, and today can be the day you finally take that big first step towards improving the energy efficiency of your home!