The issue of energy efficiency and high energy costs is a growing concern for many homeowners. To reduce energy consumption and save money, it is essential to take a comprehensive approach to improve the energy efficiency of one’s home. This involves analyzing both the big picture and daily habits to identify areas for improvement and making strategic investments in energy-saving solutions. With the right approach, significant energy and cost savings can be achieved. In this article, we will explore what is home energy efficiency, and the energy efficiency gap and look into some steps that can be taken to create a more energy-efficient and cost-effective home.
What does home energy efficiency mean?
You know what they say, “old habits die hard,” but that doesn’t have to apply to our energy usage in our homes. Any house, new or old, can be more energy efficient. Sure, new construction has to meet higher energy standards, but older homes can be upgraded too. And, let’s not forget, the people living in these homes can do their part in being more energy efficient too.
When we talk about an energy-efficient home, we mean…
- Has a high EnerGuide rating, meaning it’s well-insulated and airtight
- Has energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment to keep utility bills low
- Has low-flow accessories to lower water consumption and costs
- Residents keep inside temperatures reasonable and use electricity wisely
- Uses ENERGY STAR® certified products and appliances
2. Comfortable and healthy
- Warm in winter, cool in summer, and draft-free
- Has excellent ventilation and air quality
- Uses a programmable thermostat for heating and cooling management
3. Energy-efficient upgrades add resale value
- Home fixtures that promote energy efficiency provide more resale value.
- New windows and doors save energy and add on resale value
- Investments in renewable energy like solar panels pay off in the long run
4. Kind to the environment
- It lowers energy consumption and reduces greenhouse gas emissions
- Shrinks the home’s carbon footprint.
What’s the “energy efficiency gap”
People aren’t investing in energy-efficient devices as much as they should, leading to the “energy efficiency gap.” This means there’s a difference between the potential savings from these investments and the actual investments made. The gap is even larger from a societal perspective, taking into account environmental costs and public benefits.
For example, reducing energy consumption might make more sense than building a new gas plant with higher economic and environmental costs. To help facilitate this gap, society should invest in energy efficiency improvements with lower combined private and ecological costs than alternative investments. If you are seeking more sustainability pieces of advice, you can learn more on eco-oriented websites like EcoAdvice.
Why is there an energy efficiency gap
There are potential reasons for the energy efficiency gap.
Market failures: People make good decisions for themselves, but sometimes the market doesn’t accomplish the best outcome. Take energy efficiency, for example. Suppose a landlord owns a home’s appliances, but the tenant pays the electricity bill. In that case, the landlord might not want to buy energy-efficient appliances even though they save money because the tenant gets the benefit, not the landlord.
Lack of information: When you don’t have all the info, it can mess up your chances of making an intelligent decision. If a car salesperson lies to you about how much gas a car uses, you might buy a different vehicle if you had the correct information. In theory, people are supposed to make smart choices based on their information, and if they lack info, it can stop people from making energy-saving investments. A lack of information is considered a market failure.
Behavioral failures: When people don’t act rationally, that’s called behavioral failure. Take loss aversion, for example. That’s when people put more weight on losses than gains, which can make them shy away from buying an appliance with a higher upfront cost, even if it would save them money in the long run. Another behavioral failure is inattention. This happens when people need to pay attention to or understand important information when deciding. For instance, information about a product’s energy use might be available, but the customer may need to take the time to read it before buying it.
Hidden Cost: Sometimes, the energy efficiency gap might be smaller than it seems. For instance, someone might choose a gas car over an electric one because of reasons like driving performance or the unavailability of charging stations. But when you consider these factors, the market will naturally reach an efficient outcome. While there could be some hidden costs that contribute to the energy efficiency gap, studies suggest that there could be other reasons, too, like market failures or human behavior.
Tips for improved home energy efficiency (steering clear of the energy efficiency gap)
1. Request for an energy audit
Get a free energy checkup from your utility provider. They’ll give your house a once-over and look at your energy use and past bills. This way, they can spot where you’re wasting energy and help you save. It’s a simple but super helpful first step in figuring out how to use energy more efficiently.
2. Upgrade Your Windows
Swap out those old, drafty windows for some new ones, and you’ll be chillin’ (literally) in the summer and toasty in the winter. Sure, it might be a pricier project, but think about all the long-term energy savings you’ll rack up. Look for windows with argon gas insulation between the panes and a low-emissivity coating on the glass for ultimate energy efficiency.
3. Switch to Energy Efficient Light Bulbs
They might cost a bit more upfront, but they last way longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, so you won’t have to replace them as often. Plus, they use less energy, so you’ll see those savings on your electricity bill in no time. CFLs run about $3 to $5 each and last 10x as long as standard bulbs, while LED bulbs cost about $15 each but are worth the long-term savings. There are even LED options that work with Alexa and Google Assistant!
4. Update Your HVAC System
Swapping out your old HVAC for a new one can mean significant savings on your energy bills all year round. You’ll stay warm in winter and cool in summer without breaking the bank.
When shopping for a new HVAC, look for one with a high rating from Energy Star. And make sure it’s the right size for your home – you can get a heat-loss calculation from a contractor to figure that out.
Some Mitsubishi Electric Heating and Cooling Units are Energy Star certified and allow you to control different parts of your home separately for even more efficiency. Remember that a complete replacement will cost at least $5,000.
Once your new HVAC is installed, get it serviced once or twice a year to maintain it operating smoothly. And remember to use media filters with an antimicrobial coating for improved air quality.
5. Invest in Energy Efficient Appliance
If you’re looking for a new washing machine, dishwasher, or other appliance, look for one with the ENERGY STAR certification. This means they use less energy than similar models and can help you save in the long run.
Energy-efficient appliances might cost more upfront, but they can save you money in the long term by reducing your energy bills. So don’t be discouraged by the sticker price. Think about the yearly operating costs too.
6. Install Solar Panels
Solar panels for homes are a popular way to turn the sun’s energy into electricity. They’re a clean, renewable source of power that’s growing in popularity for homes and businesses.
Installing solar panels can be pricey, around $12k on average, after tax breaks, but they generate their power and can seriously cut your electricity bill. Plus, they last forever without needing any repairs or replacements, so it’s worth considering as an investment.
7. Take advantage of the sun or natural light
Taking advantage of natural light is an easy way to make your home more energy efficient. Using the sun or natural light can reduce the need for artificial lighting and save on your energy bill. This can be done by installing large windows facing the sun or using skylights or light tubes to bring in natural light. Use reflective surfaces like mirrors or light-colored walls to bounce light deeper into your home. Not only will this help reduce your energy consumption, but it will also create a brighter and more inviting atmosphere in your home.
You can make smart decisions about your next investments by taking a step back and analyzing your home’s energy inefficiencies. Don’t feel like you have to do it all at once – be strategic and slowly integrate innovative energy solutions into your home improvement plan. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying a more energy-efficient, cost-effective home!
Thank you for reading.
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