How to Upgrade a Home to Make it Energy Efficient

Cost-conscious living includes more than thrifty grocery shopping and a thoughtfully chosen vehicle. Keeping your home in energy-efficient operating condition helps you trim costs and heighten your comfort. Whether you live in a new house or an older home, you can find upgrades that fit your budget and enhance your bottom line. From small changes that lower your electric bill to home upgrades that reduce your overall energy needs, you can improve your home in ways that help you economize.

Lighting

Replacing incandescent, halogen and even fluorescent lighting with LED lamps can help you save energy and reduce the byproduct heat generated by inefficient light sources. A 60-watt incandescent bulb turns only 10 percent of its electrical consumption into light. Replace that bulb with an LED equivalent, and you drop energy demands to 12 watts. You can save on bulb replacements, too. The 12-watt LED comes with a 25,000-hour service rating, 25 times the lifespan of the 60-watt incandescent it replaces. Even compact fluorescents can't outdo LED bulbs. The 15-watt CFL that replaces a 60-watt incandescent comes with a 10,000-hour rating.

Appliances

When you pay your electric bill, about 13 percent of your outgo covers the cost of operating household appliances. Anything that produces heat—on purpose or as a byproduct of its operation—can set your electric meter spinning, especially your refrigerator, range, microwave oven and laundry equipment. Appliances that abide by the requirements necessary for ENERGY STAR® qualification use only 25 percent of the electricity their counterparts needed in 1975. Increasingly stringent energy efficiency standards mean better insulation, to hold cooling levels inside refrigerators and cooking temperatures in ranges or ovens.

Insulation

If parts of your home consistently stay warmer or cooler than the rest of your living space, you may benefit from an energy audit. Air leaks and under-insulation in key areas such as basements and attics can make it difficult to keep cooled or heated air in your house. A certified contractor can conduct a home energy audit, testing how tightly your caulking, windows and insulation seal your home and suggesting ways you can plug leaks to improve your energy efficiency.

Comfort Systems

Keeping your heating and air conditioning equipment clean and tuned up helps these critical comfort systems perform at their best. When you need to replace your furnace or air conditioning compressor, look for efficient equipment that provides enough heating or cooling power for the size of your home. A programmable thermostat can help you reduce your home's demand on its HVAC systems at night, when you leave for work or when you go on vacation. As an energy-efficient alternative to central air conditioning, you may be able to rely on a whole-house fan for ventilation-based cooling, depending on the temperatures and humidity levels that characterize your local climate.

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