Ah, spring! As the cherry blossoms bloom, so many of us are excited about warmer weather, but are also thinking about how we’re going to afford to cool our homes as the temperatures rise.
Here at Ipsun, many of our neighbors reach out to us in the spring to talk about adding solar to their home in an effort to reduce those bills; and we always stress that you can add to your savings by using your energy wisely. When you pair a solar system with energy efficiency efforts you’ll reduce your bill even further, and the combined environmental benefit that comes along with these improvements is a great feeling.
The good news is that there are many simple things you can do to improve the energy efficiency and comfort of your home this spring. Here are our top eleven energy efficiency tips to get you started:
1. Service your air conditioner
Easy maintenance such as routinely replacing or cleaning air filters can lower your cooling system’s energy consumption by up to 15 percent. Also, the first day of spring could serve as a reminder to check your air conditioner’s evaporator coil, which should be cleaned annually to ensure the system is performing at optimal levels.
2. Open windows
Admittedly, this one may only work for about two days in the DMV — those two days that actually qualify as “spring” before we leap into the 90’s with 95% humidity. But, when you can, open windows to create a cross breeze, allowing you to naturally cool your home without switching on air conditioners.
3. Use ceiling fans
A ceiling fan can not only create a breeze in your home but can also move cooled air to maximize your air conditioner’s efforts. Cooling your home with ceiling fans can allow you to raise your thermostat up to four degrees. This can help lower your electricity bills without sacrificing overall comfort.
4. Cook outside
In case anyone needs an extra excuse to grill, it is a money-saving move in addition to a great way to enjoy the outdoors on a nice evening. On warmer spring and summer days, keep the heat out of your home by cooking outside instead of on indoor stoves and ovens. That means you’ll save energy not only on the electricity used by your kitchen appliances, but also on the extra AC needed to keep the kitchen cool. Win-win!
5. Install a clothesline or drying rack
Dryers can account for up to six percent of a home’s total energy use. Be energy-smart, retro-cool, and sunshine fresh by hanging your clothes to air dry when possible.
6. Set the thermostat and automate usage
A smart thermostat can reduce your heating and cooling costs by up to 15 percent. It works by learning your habits and adjusting the temperature automatically. For example, if you tend to turn the temperature down before bed at 10 p.m., a smart thermostat will start making that adjustment automatically. You can also control a smart thermostat from an app so if your schedule changes unexpectedly, you can still maintain control of your heating and cooling costs from the palm of your hand.
7. Buy energy efficient appliances
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 introduced some incredible savings on the purchase of new appliances, on top of incentives that were already in place. So to save money in the long run, now is a great time to invest in those upgraded appliances. Look for the Energy Star label when you’re shopping for home items. More than 40 product categories feature the label, including major appliances and light fixtures.
8. Fight phantom power consumption
Devices that continue to draw power when they appear to be turned off can cost up to $200 a year in wasted energy. Fight this by regularly unplugging your devices, or let a smart power strip do the work for you.
Remember that televisions, cable boxes, PVRs and game consoles suck energy even when they’re not in use. And chargers that are plugged in draw power even when no device is attached. Once your phones, tablets or other devices are fully charged, unplug them — they’ll keep drawing energy if you don’t.
Having devices all on a single power bar makes it easy to switch them off before everyone goes to bed. The features of advanced power strips make it easier than ever to ensure devices are fully powered down.
9. Spring cleaning project: install LED lightbulbs
Mom always says, no incandescent lightbulbs! OK maybe that’s just my mom. But truly, the savings from switching out to LEDs is significant. When we switched all the bulbs in our house, it reduced our electric bill by about $50 a month. Easy to buy from a home improvement store or online, they now come in all sorts of options, warmths, tints, and levels of smartness. If you want to make the investment, you can even buy wifi enabled lightbulbs that can be programmed or controlled through an app on your phone.
10. Seal pipes, ducts, and attic spaces
Depending on your DIY ability, these may be larger projects that you’ll want to hire someone to do, but are well worth the upfront cost for the resulting savings.
- Insulate HVAC Ducts
Cracked and broken HVAC ducts cause substantial energy loss, so repairing and insulating them can help improve efficiency. Start by replacing or sealing open or poorly sealed ducts. To maintain temperatures in the longer duct areas, add insulation around the ductwork. Proper sealing and insulating can save energy in warm and cold climates.Air loss through ducts can lead to high electricity costs, accounting for nearly 30 percent of a cooling system’s energy consumption. Sealing and insulating ducts can go a long way toward lowering your electricity bills.
- Insulate the Attic
Insulating your attic can increase energy efficiency more than almost any other measure, since not having enough insulation interferes with your HVAC system’s ability to adequately heat and cool your home. In fact, a home with insufficient insulation loses as much as 50% of its conditioned air, dramatically increasing heating and cooling costs. Attics are often unfinished, so adding insulation rolls can be simple. Another alternative is adding spray foam to open areas under the roof where there’s no other insulation.
Because we have warm summers here in the DMV, more insulation as a radiant barrier also makes sense. Radiant barriers feature material that reflects heat instead of absorbing it into your home, reducing air conditioning bills.
- Insulate Pipes
Insulating your hot water pipes reduces heat loss and can raise water temperature 2°F–4°F hotter than uninsulated pipes can deliver, allowing you to lower your water temperature setting. You also won’t have to wait as long for hot water when you turn on a faucet or showerhead, which helps conserve water.
You can reduce your cost by 3% – 5% for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit that you turn down the water heater. After insulation, the average family can turn the heater down by four degrees without noticing a difference in temperature at the tap, for a cost reduction of about 2%.
11. Caulk and seal air leaks in your home
These simple fixes can save you big. It’s amazing to learn how much of your cooled (or in winter, heated) air escapes through small gaps in windows, doors, even outlets, and lighting. Here are some easy DIY ways to close those gaps:
- Install energy efficient window treatments
Energy efficient window treatments or coverings such as blinds, shades and films can slash heat gain when temperatures rise. If you’re willing to install simple thermal curtains, they will help keep rooms with windows warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Look for curtains described as “thermal” or “insulating.”
Insulate Electrical Outlets and Switches
Electrical outlets and switches may be small, but they allow lots of cool air to pass out of the home and warm air to enter. When you add up all of the outlets and switches in a house, that’s a lot of uninsulated space! Luckily there’s a simple fix: Install foam gaskets behind outlet and switch covers to help block heat loss.
- Seal Doors and Windows
Damaged window and door seals are among the leading causes of cooling and heating loss. A smoke leak detector shows exactly where the loss is coming from. A simple DIY solution to reducing window and door energy loss is new weatherstripping and door sweeps. Both should seal any gaps in window openings and under your door.
- Seal Up Recessed LightingLighting openings are an often overlooked source of energy loss. Most thermal detectors can show if you are losing heat through these openings. If so, there are ways to insulate them safely. Be sure you have a 3-in. space between the lighting and the insulation for fire safety. If this isn’t possible, you may have to use airtight IC*-rated lighting.
Check your utility for energy efficiency programs and rebates
All of our local utilities have some great programs to help with energy efficiency projects. Check yours to see what’s available, including:
- Dominion Energy Smart Home Program; Energy Saving Product Rebates; Energy Audit and Assessments; and more
- NOVEC Ways to Save
- Pepco Rebates and Discounts
- BGE Smart Energy Savings
Take Advantage of State and Federal Incentives
To find all of the available state and local incentives for your area, you can check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE.org), maintained by the NC Energy Technology Center.
For federal incentives, DSIRE.org will also show you what’s available. Don’t forget to check the Rewiring America calculator too. The Inflation Redution Act included many home energy efficiency incentives along with the 30% solar tax credit, so be sure to check out your potential savings when you’re thinking about a project! Use the handy Rewiring America calculator here:
Questions? Ideas? Reach out any time!
Let us know if you have questions or thoughts about energy efficiency. We love talking about electrifying your home and reducing power bills with you!