With winter right around the corner, the fall season is the perfect time to identify smart ways to make your home more energy efficient. With a few adjustments, you can save money on your winter utility bills while staying warm and comfortable. We’ve compiled our favorite tips, many of which are easy and inexpensive to implement.
Simple ways to save money on your energy bill
- Seal obvious air leaks. Any crack, gap or opening around windows or doors is an opportunity for (expensively) heated air to escape. For an easy DIY project, try sealing air leaks with caulk or by adding weatherstrips. These affordable upgrades are estimated to generate 10-20% in energy savings.
- Lower the temperature on your water heater. For most households, a temperature setting of 120°F is perfectly fine—and that’s often a full 20°F lower than the manufacturer’s setting. By lowering the temp, you’ll save money two ways. First, you’ll cut down on heat lost from the water heater into surrounding areas, which can waste up to $60 each year. Second, you’ll save up to $400 annually by reducing the unnecessarily hot water consumed in your home. While you’re at it, you may want to insulate your hot water pipes to reduce heat loss. Insulating your pipes can also raise the water temperature a few degrees, which can help offset a lower temperature setting on your water heater.
- Close vents in unused rooms. Not spending much time in your spare bedroom? Closing the door and vents reduces the square footage that you’ll be heating, which can translate to a lower energy bill.
- Add insulation. Insulating your home can trim your energy bills by keeping heat inside during cold winter months. (It also helps in the summer by keeping hot air from moving inside your air-conditioned home.) A great place to start is in the attic. The Department of Energy recommends that all homes should have insulation in the attic that’s about 8½ to 9½ inches thick. Considering many homes built between 1970 and 1989 have no more than 3 inches of insulation, there may be ample room for improvement.
- Be smart about curtains. When the sun is shining, open your curtains to take advantage of the warmth, then be sure to draw them tight at night to reduce heat loss.
- Change the furnace filter. If you have forced-air heating, you’ll likely need to replace the filter every few months to make sure the system is running at optimal efficiency. While you’re at it, make sure no vents are blocked by furniture, which would also hinder the system’s efficiency and drive up your energy bills.
Looking to make a bigger impact? Consider these options
- Hire a professional energy auditor. Also known as a home energy assessment, this service includes a detailed examination of your home’s energy use. The professional auditor will evaluate each room in your home and often take a deep dive into your past utility bills, then provide a report which illustrates where your home is wasting energy and how it could be remedied. You can expect to spend anywhere from $0.08 to $0.50 per square foot for the assessment.
- Invest in better windows, doors and skylights. While it may not be cheap, upgrading your windows, doors and skylights can make a significant difference in your home’s energy profile. For example, installing Energy Star qualified windows can generate savings of up to $465 a year when replacing single-pane windows. Bonus: You may be eligible for a tax credit.
- Upgrade your ductwork. As the backbone of your heating and cooling system, ducts play a big role in your home’s energy efficiency. In fact, typical duct systems lose 25-40% of the heating or cooling energy put out by the central unit. By sealing leaks and optimizing the ducts’ heat conductivity, you can save money and make your home more energy efficient.
- Replace old appliances. For most Americans, appliances represent about 9% of their total energy bill, third only to keeping the house warm and heating water. As regulations on energy use have become progressively stricter, today’s new appliances are significantly more efficient than their predecessors. Appliance design makes a difference, too: Refrigerators with a freezer on top typically use 10-25% less energy than refrigerators with a freezer on the bottom or side. Refrigerators with automatic ice dispensers on the front tend to use up to 20% more energy. By thoughtfully replacing older appliances, you can generate meaningful savings on your energy bill.
Some of these options may be costly—though under the right circumstances, you’ll ideally end up saving money over the long run by completing the improvements. If you’re thinking of borrowing money to make an energy-efficient upgrade to your home, a personal loan could be a good fit for your financial situation. Prosper provides access to loans with low, fixed rates that never go up. Plus, you can pay off your loan with a budget-friendly, single monthly payment.