The words “energy efficient” are fast becoming a hot topic in real estate and amongst home owners, home buyers, and home sellers… but what does it mean to have an energy efficient home? Here’s everything you need to know about energy efficient homes and how you can make your home a little (or a lot) more efficient.
What is an Energy Efficient Home?
Simply put, energy efficient homes reduce consumption of energy and resources, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. They’re associated with healthier living conditions (within the home as well as outside of it). For some homeowners, this might not seem like a hugely important factor… until you consider the associated monthly savings on energy costs.
What Factors Determine a Home’s Energy Efficiency?
Overall efficiency is determined by three major factors—the structure of the home, its heating and cooling systems, and its hot water systems. This can be further broken down into various factors including insulation and air sealing, appliances and electronics, lighting, space heating and cooling, water heating, and windows and doors.
What are the Features of Energy Efficient Homes?
They’re Well-Insulated & Sealed Against Leaks
One of the biggest losses of energy comes from escaped air. Newer and more efficient homes use upgraded materials and are properly insulated to protect against leaks and escaped air that drive up heating and cooling costs.
To improve your home’s efficiency, you might consider upgrading your insulation to adding extra insulation. Another easy fix is plugging up leaks, caulking, weatherstripping, and checking vents and ducts.
They Use Efficient Heating & Cooling Systems
Newer and more efficient homes use new HVAC systems designed to reduce consumption. Many also use programmable or Smart thermostats. Ultra efficient homes often use Passive Solar Home Design, which employs the power of the environment to heat, cool, and power the home through solar water heating and electricity.
Make your home more efficient by replacing your outdated HVAC with a more efficient model or upgrade your thermostat to a programmable model to save up to 10% on your energy bill.
They Use Energy Star Appliances
Energy Star is a program developed by the US Department of Energy to rate the efficiency of various products. Energy Star certified products can include appliances, water heaters, heating and cooling systems, lights, building materials, and more.
Improve your home’s efficiency by replacing old appliances with Energy Star certified models. This can include your fridge, stove, or dishwasher.
They Use Efficient Water Heating Systems
New homes often feature water systems that include tankless water heaters, Energy Star certified appliances, and low-flow fixtures. The benefits? A modern dishwasher can save up to half of your water consumption (using just 5.8 gallons per load versus the aver 10 on older models). Plus tankless water heaters never run out of hot water—and there are tax rebates available for installing one.
Some ways to improve your efficiency besides replacing your water heater? Turn down the temperature of the heater. Insulate your water lines so they don’t cool off as quickly between uses. Or install low-flow fixtures in sinks, baths, and showers.
They Feature Modern Windows & Doors
Old, leaky, or single-glazed windows are a huge source of heating and cooling loss. Aluminum frames are another source of temperature loss, as are hollow or metal doors.
Improve your efficiency by upgrading to new double-paned windows with wood frames and replacing your metal door.
They Use Natural Lighting and CFLs
Natural lighting is a great source of free light! Open the windows and let the sunshine in… it’s also a great way to keep rooms warm in the winter. (In the summer, you may want to cover up that window so decrease the strain on your AC). Another easy fix is to replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or LED lights.