A typical American family spends nearly $2,000 per year on their home energy bills. But did you know that much of that money goes out the window — literally? Energy is frequently wasted through leaky windows or ducts, old appliances or inefficient heating and cooling systems. Setting aside the significant impact wasted energy has on your finances, consider the negative impact it has on the health of the environment. All forms of electricity generation have an environmental impact on our air, water and land. Producing and using electricity more efficiently reduces both the amount of fuel needed to generate electricity and the amount of greenhouse gases and other air pollution emitted as a result.
Follow our tips on how to make your Austin home green and energy efficient, and you’ll not only save money over time, but you’ll do your part to help keep the environment a bit healthier.
Home Energy Audits
Of course, $2,000 a year is a lot to spend on your energy bills. Wondering how energy efficient your home is? Getting a home energy audit is a valuable first step. During an in-depth energy audit (also known as an energy assessment) a certified auditor will conduct diagnostic tests (such as a house air leakage test, duct air leakage test or infrared scan) to let you know how much energy your home uses. The auditor identifies areas for improvement and provides recommendations for steps that will reduce your energy bills and improve your home’s comfort. Qualified contractors then install the home energy professional’s recommendations. The city of Austin offers rebates and incentives to help lower bills and increase energy savings.
Recommended changes typically include:
- Sealing air leaks found throughout the home, including: door frames, window frames, water and furnace flues, fireplace chimneys and attics.
- Adding insulation between the indoors and the outdoors to reduce the energy demand and improve the comfort of your home.
- Maintaining and upgrading your heating and cooling equipment.
- Performing changes and repairs to a duct system. Air ducts carry the air from your home’s furnace and central air conditioner to each room. If the ducts are poorly sized, poorly sealed or poorly insulated, they’re likely contributing to higher energy bills.
For detailed information on what the home energy audit process entails, check out this energy saver guide.
DIY Energy-Saving Projects
In addition to scheduling a professional home energy audit, there are many DIY ways you can help reduce your home’s energy consumption. Many of these steps can be tackled in a day or weekend.
1. Turn your thermostat down 7°–10°F for 8 hours a day in the fall and winter and turning it up in the spring and summer can save as much as 10 percent per year on heating and cooling. Smart and modern programmable thermostats are Wi-Fi enabled devices that automatically adjust heating and cooling temperature settings for optimal performance.
2. Invest in LED bulbs. Unlike traditional incandescent bulbs, LED lightbulbs use at least 75 percent less energy, and last 25 times longer!
3. Clean or replace filters on furnaces and air conditioners as recommended by the manufacturer. Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5 percent to 15 percent.
4. Clean registers and make sure they’re not blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes.
5. Use cold water when washing your clothes. Today’s washers and detergents do a thorough job of cleaning your clothes without requiring hot water. Even if you set your machine’s temperature to warm, it will use half the energy that washing in hot water requires.
6. Clean the lint screen on your clothes dryer before every load of laundry. Also, routinely clean your dryer exhaust vent to remove highly flammable lint that accumulates over time. This maintenance is also important for safety; failure to clean vents can lead to dryer fires. Dryer exhaust vents should be inspected and cleaned at least once a year, or more often depending on the size of the household and dryer usage.
7. Take advantage of warm, sunny days and line-dry your clothes whenever possible.
8. Open draperies and shades on your windows during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home.
9. Use “smart” power strips. Many appliances and devices (your smart TV, your laptop computer, your cable box, etc.), use energy even when they’re off. Smart power strips can detect when a device is in standby mode so they can cut off power and save energy.
10. Add a faucet aerator. These inexpensive and easy-to-install fixtures, which screw onto the nozzle of your faucet, reduce your tap’s flow to 1.5 gallons per minute or less from the standard flow of 2.2 gallons per minute.
11. Replace your standard showerhead with a water-saving one. Look for a WaterSense-labeled showerhead, and save about 2,300 gallons of water per year.
12. Look for appliances with the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR certified products are the same or better than standard products, yet they use less energy. The ENERGY STAR website has a full list of certified appliances that exceed the federal minimum standards for efficiency and quality.
Did you know that you can find rebates and special offers near you on ENERGY STAR certified products? Check out their website to see what rebates are offered in the Austin area.
Think Green During Your Austin Home Search
If you’re searching for an eco-friendly home, Austin is the exact place to be. The City of Austin created the nation’s first green building program in 1990, and it’s now the nation’s most successful sustainable building program. Most home builders have fully embraced green living and have built residences using cutting-edge technology to make every home as energy-efficient as possible.
These homes are built with the latest green building options, and use the most advanced technology to date. Just a few groundbreaking features that can be found in some of these properties include:
- Geothermal energy: which uses the thermal properties of the earth to heat and cool each home much more efficiently than traditional systems, reducing consumption by 65 percent.
- Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Power: an innovative solar PV system that converts sunlight into electricity.
- High-efficiency appliances and smart home products from Nest.
If finding an energy-efficient, green home tops your list of must-haves when house hunting in Austin and the surrounding areas, we’re your go-to experts. Our team can help you find your ideal community that’s committed to sustainable living practices. Reach out to learn more about what environmentally-friendly properties are currently available and enjoy green living in the near future.