As the winter season approaches, many people notice an increase in their energy bill. When coupled with other end-of-year expenses, a higher energy bill can be an unwelcomed surprise. Luckily, there are easy and no-cost energy efficiency upgrades you can do around your home to lower your energy bill and conserve energy!
Energy efficiency refers to anything that completes the same service in homes or in buildings, but requires less energy to do so and is the cleanest energy that goes unused. Many energy efficiency technologies focus on energy conservation, which decreases the amount of energy that is used. Manufacturers can also improve energy efficiency by making changes to their manufacturing process, such as reorganizing production lines or simplifying tasks for factory workers.
A great place to start monitoring your home energy usage is by conducting a home energy audit. Energy audits, also sometimes referred to as energy assessments, help you get a better understanding of how much energy your home is using and where this energy is being used. This can help you identify specific areas or tasks that need energy efficiency improvements the most. You can hire a professional energy auditor to get a detailed report of your home’s energy use, or you can perform an at-home energy audit.
One of the best ways to improve your energy efficiency over the winter months is by making some minor adjustments to your HVAC system. Approximately 40-45% of electric and gas use in North Carolina homes is due to home’s heating and air systems. Keeping your house slightly cooler in the winter months and slightly warmer in the summer months can make a significant difference in your home’s energy footprint. It is also important to be aware of how often you are actively using the homes heating; turning your thermostat back 10°F to 15°F when you are out of the house or asleep can save you around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills.
Another simple action you can take to improve your energy efficiency and reduce your energy bill is sealing up your house. In the cold weather, warm air rises in your house and escapes through leaks around windows, doors, and cracks in your basement. Air leakage, which typically occurs in parts of your home that you may not be as likely to notice, can result in your home feeling drafty, can increase in your energy bill, and create uneven temperatures between rooms. Fortunately, there are some easy things you can do to address the air leaks in your home including caulking windows, insulating and air sealing floors above unconditioned garages, and creating an attic stair cover box.
It is also important not to neglect your home’s water usage, especially during the winter months when it takes more energy to heat up the water. According to the United States Department of Energy, insulating your water pipes reduces heat loss and can increase water temperature 2°F - 4°F compared to the water uninsulated pipes can deliver. This also helps to conserve energy because you don’t have to wait as long for the hot water to reach your showerhead. It is estimated that insulating water pipes can improve energy savings by 3-4% annually. Insulating your water pipes can also allow you to lower your water heating settings. Decreasing the temperature of your water heater allows you to save energy in two ways: it reduces standby losses, the heat lost from the water heater into its surroundings, and reduces the energy demand in your home. Lowering the temperature of your water heater can save between 4-22% of energy annually and does not cost anything for the homeowner to do.
There are also some easy upgrades and changes around your house that can help you save energy all-year long. One of these includes taking advantage of sunlight. In the winter months, opening the curtains and blinds of south-facing windows allows you to make the most of sunlight by providing light and a little bit of heat into the room. At night, keeping the curtains and blinds on these windows closed can keep out some of the cold air. During the summer months, closing blinds and drapes reduces the amount of heat entering your house and puts less strain on your air conditioning system. Opting to switch to LED lightbulbs in your home can also make a significant difference in your home’s energy consumption. LED lightbulbs use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer compared to incandescent lighting. Lastly, when making upgrades to your home, be sure to look for certified energy efficient technologies, such as Energy Star®. Energy Star® is the government backed symbol for energy efficiency and backs several home appliances, building products, electronics, and more. See the full list of Energy Star appliances here.
To learn more about energy efficiency and for more resources, visit NCSEA’s Energy Efficiency Page.