What parts of a home use the most energy?
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling systems (HVAC) are the largest contributor to a home’s energy consumption, accounting for as much as half of the total energy usage. Water heating, refrigeration and freezer, lighting, electronics and cooking are also significant energy consumers in a household, each accounting for between 14-25%, 15%, 5-10%, 5-10% and 5-10% of total energy consumption respectively. Laundry machines (clothes dryers) and dishwashers are also significant contributors to energy consumption, accounting for about 6% and 2-5% of a typical household’s energy consumption respectively.
A professional home energy audit can help to determine the specific energy consumption of a home and identify opportunities for energy savings.
What Can You Do?
1. Windows, Doors, and Insulation:
The most energy is typically lost in a home through leaks in the walls, windows, and doors. These are critical areas to focus on when making a home more eco-friendly. By making these improvements, homeowners can expect to see a reduction in their energy bills, as well as an improvement in the overall comfort of their home. Having good windows, doors, and insulation will greatly reduce a home’s carbon footprint.
- Windows: Replacing old, drafty windows with energy-efficient ones can help to reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. This can lead to significant savings on heating and cooling costs. Energy-efficient windows can be designed to keep heat in during the winter and out during the summer, by using a double or triple glazing, low-e coatings, argon or krypton gas between the panes, and other features.
- Doors: Similar to windows, doors can also be a source of energy loss. Installing a high-quality door that is well-insulated, weatherstripped, and sealed can help to reduce drafts and improve energy efficiency.
- Insulation: Proper insulation is essential for keeping the heat in during the winter and out during the summer, reducing the amount of energy needed to heat and cool the home. Insulation can be added to walls, attics, and floors to reduce heat loss and improve energy efficiency.
2. Energy Efficient Appliances:
With your windows, doors and isulation taken care of you have minimized energy loss. Now it’s time to focus on energy consumption. Replacing your appliances (when their time comes) with energy-efficient appliances will make a meaningful difference. Not only do energy-efficient appliances help homeowners save money, but they also have a positive impact on the grid by reducing the overall demand for electricity, which can help to reduce the need for new power plants and transmission lines. Energy-efficient appliances also typically have a longer lifespan than non-efficient ones. Consider gettimg Energy Star appliances.
- HVAC: Heating and cooling systems are a major source of energy consumption in a home. Upgrading to a high-efficiency furnace, air conditioner, or heat pump can help to reduce energy consumption.
- Water heater: A tankless water heater is more energy-efficient than a traditional storage tank water heater. It heats water as it flows through the unit, rather than keeping a large tank of water hot at all times.
- Refrigerator and freezer: These appliances are always on and use a lot of energy to keep food at the proper temperature. Upgrading to energy-efficient models can help to reduce energy consumption.
- Dryer and washing machine: These appliances consume a lot of energy, especially when they are used frequently. Upgrading to energy-efficient models can help to reduce energy consumption.
- Dishwasher: Dishwashers consume a lot of energy, especially when they are run on high heat. Upgrading to energy-efficient models can help to reduce energy consumption.
- Oven and stove: These appliances consume a lot of energy, especially when they are used to cook large meals. Induction stoves use an electromagnetic field to heat the pot or pan directly, which is more efficient than gas stoves that heat the air around the pot or pan. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), induction cooktops are about 90% energy efficient, while gas cooktops are about 55-65% energy efficient. This means that an induction stove will use less energy to cook the same meal than a gas stove, and will also heat up faster.
- TV and other electronics: Televisions, computers, and other electronics consume a lot of energy, especially when they are left on when not in use. Upgrading to energy-efficient models or using power strips to easily turn off multiple electronics at once can help to reduce energy consumption.
- Thermostat: A smart thermostat can be programmed to automatically adjust the temperature when you’re not home, reducing energy consumption.
3. Water-efficient Fixtures and Systems:
With increasing population and urbanization, access to clean water is becoming a critical issue around the world. By using water more efficiently, we can help to conserve this valuable resource for future generations. Using less water can also help to reduce the environmental impact of water extraction, treatment, and distribution. Using greywater for irrigation or toilet flushing can help to reduce the amount of treated water needed, which can help to reduce energy consumption and costs. Water-efficient fixtures can also help to reduce the chances of leaks, pipe bursts and other water-related issues. By reducing water consumption and costs, water-efficient fixtures and systems can help to make a home more sustainable and environmentally friendly, and will save homeowners money in water bills.
- Low-flow toilets and showerheads: Installing low-flow toilets and showerheads can help to reduce water consumption, which can lead to significant savings on water bills. Low-flow toilets and showerheads use less water per flush or per minute compared to traditional fixtures.
- Dual flush toilets: Dual flush toilets allow users to choose between a full flush and a reduced flush, depending on the waste to be disposed. This can save a significant amount of water compared to a traditional toilet, which uses the same amount of water for all flushes.
- Aerators in faucets: Aerators are devices that mix air with the water flow, this can help to reduce the amount of water flow without reducing the pressure. Installing aerators in faucets can help to reduce water consumption and costs.
- Rainwater harvesting: Use a rain barrel to collect and store rainwater for later use. This can be used for irrigation, toilet flushing, and other non-potable uses.
- Greywater systems: Greywater is the water generated from sinks, showers, and washing machines. These systems are designed to collect greywater and use it for irrigation, toilet flushing, and other non-potable uses.
4. Energy Efficient Lighting:
Energy-efficient lighting is reatively easy way of making a home more eco-friendly. By upgrading to energy-efficient lighting options, homeowners can expect to see a reduction in their energy bills and an overall reduction in their environmental footprint. Energy-efficient lighting options can also improve the overall comfort and aesthetics of a home.
- LED lighting: LED (light-emitting diode) lighting is one of the most energy-efficient lighting options available. LED lights use significantly less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, and they last much longer, reducing the need for frequent replacements.
- Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs): These bulbs use about 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last about 10 times longer. They are also relatively inexpensive compared to LED.
- Smart lighting: Smart lighting systems allow you to control the lighting in your home remotely and automatically, which can help to reduce energy consumption.
- Natural light: using natural light to illuminate your home can help to reduce the need for artificial lighting and save energy. Installing skylights, solar tubes or using light shelves can help to increase the amount of natural light in your home.
5. Outside The House:
Making your home more eco-friendly doesn’t have to be limited to what’s inside. There are many things you can do outside your home to help reduce your environmental footprint and save money on energy and water costs. From simple changes to more complex projects, there are options that can suit any homeowner’s interest and budget.
- Plant trees or install shading devices: Planting trees or installing shading devices can help to block the sun during the summer months, which can reduce the need for air conditioning and lower cooling costs.
- Grow your own food and herbs in a garden: Growing your own food and herbs can help to reduce the environmental impact of transportation and packaging, as well as providing fresh, healthy food for your family.
- Install solar panels: Solar panels can be used to generate electricity from the sun, which can help to reduce the need for fossil fuels and lower energy costs.
- Wind and hydro: Homes can also use wind and hydro energy to generate electricity, this can be done by installing wind turbines or small hydro-electric systems. These systems can be used to generate electricity and reduce the overall energy consumption.
Changes to your daily habits and routines
1. Reduce energy use:
- Turn off lights when you leave a room: By turning off lights when you leave a room, you can reduce the amount of energy used for lighting.
- Turn off and unplug appliances and electronic equipment when they are not being used: This can help to reduce standby power consumption and lower energy bills. An easy solution to turn off everything at once is to plug all nearby equipment into a power strip.
- Avoid using appliances during peak energy usage hours: This can help to reduce the overall demand for electricity, which can help to lower energy costs and reduce stress on the grid.
- Keep air conditioning filters clean & service units annually: This can help to improve the efficiency of the unit and reduce energy consumption.
- Reduce your screen time: This can help to reduce energy consumption and improve overall well-being.
- Use a manual or electric lawn mower instead of a gas-powered one: This can help to reduce emissions and lower energy consumption.
- Use a rake or broom instead of a leaf blower: This can help to reduce emissions and lower energy consumption.
- Dress in layers: Instead of turning up the heat, dress in layers during the colder months to stay warm.
- Use natural light: Open curtains and blinds during the day to let natural light in and reduce the need for artificial lighting.
- Cook with energy-efficient appliances: Use a microwave or toaster oven instead of a full-size oven to cook small meals.
- Use a clothesline or drying rack: Instead of using a dryer, hang clothes to dry on a clothesline or drying rack.
- Unplug chargers: Unplug phone, tablet, and other chargers when they are not in use, as they still consume energy even when they are not charging.
- Wash clothes in cold water and use a full load: Cold water can effectively clean clothes and using a full load can help to reduce the number of loads and overall energy consumption.
- Keep dryer lint vents clean: Cleaning the lint vents on your dryer can help to improve the efficiency of the dryer and reduce energy consumption. A clogged vent can cause the dryer to work harder, use more energy and increase the risk of fire.
- Try a Solar Oven: A solar oven allows you to cook a wide variety of foods using only the energy of the sun.
2. Reduce water use:
There are several changes to daily habits and routines that can help to make a home more eco-friendly, specifically when it comes to reducing water usage.
- Save water by taking shorter showers: A standard showerhead typically has a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm). A 10-minute shower using a standard showerhead will use 25 gallons of water.
- Fix leaks promptly: Leaks can waste a significant amount of water. By fixing leaks promptly, you can reduce water waste and lower your water bill.
- Be mindful of water usage while doing dishes manually: Manual dishwashing can use as much as 20 to 25 gallons of water. This obviously varies based on how long the water runs while washing and rinsing, how much water is used to fill the sink and how many dishes are being washed. Using a dishwasher is generally considered to be more water-efficient than washing dishes by hand, as dishwashers use less water per load and can also use water more efficiently by recycling it.
- Use a bucket to catch water while waiting for the shower to heat up: Instead of letting the water run while waiting for the shower to heat up, you can catch the water in a bucket and use it to water plants or flush the toilet.
3. Reduce Waste:
Reducing waste leads to cost savings for both individuals and society as a whole. By adopting eco-friendly habits, we make a positive impact on the environment and create more sustainable homes for all.
- Compost food scraps and yard waste: Composting food scraps and yard waste can help to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and can be used to improve the quality of the soil.
- Recycle paper, plastic, glass, and metal: By recycling these materials, you can help to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and conserve natural resources.
- Stop junk mail: By stopping junk mail, you can reduce the amount of paper waste and conserve natural resources.
- Shop smarter: Try to avoid buying products with excessive packaging, buy in bulk when possible, and choose products made from sustainable materials.
Every small action can have an enormous cumulative impact when many people do the same. Additionally, an individual’s actions can inspire others to make changes in their own lives, creating a ripple effect of positive impact. Every bit counts, and by making conscious choices and taking action, individuals can play a vital role in protecting the environment and creating a more sustainable future.