Knowing how your home uses energy will help you save money and keep your home more comfortable. You can save up to 15 percent on your energy bills just by adjusting your thermostat, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Combining that with other techniques highlighted here puts you more in charge of your energy use, and the money in your bank account.
A good place to start is to have an energy audit of your home. You can do the typical tasks like add weather stripping to doors and caulk around your windows, but you won’t know the extent of heat leakage from your house without an audit. Did you know that warm air can escape around your electrical outlets? And around furnace, dryer and hot water heater vents? An energy audit will show where the heat is leaving your home and what is causing a higher energy bill than necessary.
What’s using all your energy?
If you want to know if your bedroom lamps are using more energy than your blender, you can install an energy monitoring system in your home. Home monitoring systems like those manufactured by Vantage can tell you how much energy each electrical outlet is using. A benefit of such tools is that you can spot the energy “vampires” in your home – devices that use energy even when they are switched off. TV sets, cable boxes and game consoles can all pull energy when their power button is off. The only sure way to stop their energy use is to unplug them from the outlet.
High-tech home control
Devices that control you home, and learn from you, can save you money. A high-tech thermostat by Nest is more than just a programmable thermostat. It learns your habits by remembering the times you’ve made adjustments so it can automatically reproduce those actions. It also can be controlled from a computer or smartphone while you’re on the road.
In addition, you can incorporate an automated lighting system in your home. LED lighting systems can be programmed by a computer to turn lights on or off, brighten or dim them, or even change the color of the lights. Some systems can be controlled by a smartphone or tablet app when you’re away from your home. The LED lights are energy efficient and generate much less heat than incandescent lights. Plus, they have a longer life that helps offset the higher cost of the lights.
High-tech green materials
A new substance called an aerogel, a polymer discovered by NASA, is being fitted into homes as a type of insulation. A thin layer of aerogel gives as much thermal insulation as an inch of traditional insulation. Sold under various names, such as Thermablok, this material is being adapted to appliances including refrigerators and various types of building insulation.
Even window coverings are getting a green touch. For example, the use of bamboo shades to prevent warm air from escaping through the window panes reduces the use of plastics and vinyl in your home. They also enhance the appearance of your windows when closed over the traditional materials used for blinds.
A number of your household appliances, such as your clothes washer and dryer, have become smarter and computer controlled. They can be programmed to run during the low-peak times of energy use in your home. Some even can contact the manufacturer when a problem occurs and receive software updates to fix some problems automatically.