Energy efficiency is important both to environmentally-conscious consumers and to those looking to save a buck. As in many areas of life, here’s one where you can often save green by going green, as the saying goes.
Unfortunately, though, when you look through lists of ways to make your home more energy-efficient, many have a high up-front cost. Replacing appliances, putting in new insulation, improving rubber seals and adding solar panels are all quite expensive, and are outside of most people’s normal household operating budgets.
Fortunately, though, you can actually save energy fairly easily and cheaply by understanding your home energy usage, prioritizing energy efficiency projects, and spending wisely.
Understanding your home’s energy usage
Before you can decide how to become more energy-efficient, you need to figure out where you’re energy inefficient in your home or apartment. Because more and more utility companies are offering free in-home or online energy audits, this is easier than ever. Check to see if your utility company does offer such an option, one that would do most of the energy audit work for you.
If your energy company doesn’t offer auditing services, you can check out this tutorial from energy.gov on how to audit your home on your own. While a DIY energy audit may not break down your energy bill for you, it can help you find air leaks, appliance issues, and other problems that are causing your home to use more energy than necessary.
Wondering which types of energy usage to be most concerned with? The Energy Information Administration’s 2009 statistics show that 34.6% of average households’ energy usage goes to appliances, electronics, and lighting, while another huge portion – 41.5% – goes to heating spaces. These are probably areas where your own home uses more energy, so focus on these areas first.
Prioritizing energy efficiency projects
Once you understand how your home uses energy, you should prioritize how you want to reduce your energy consumption. If you’re on a tight budget, start with free ways to reduce energy consumption. (Actually, most people should start with this list because most of these items are so simple and cost-effective!) Here are some of the best free ways to save on energy:
After these projects, figure out where your priorities lie. Maybe you need to purchase a new fridge or dryer to replace very outdated appliances that are sucking more energy than necessary, or maybe you just need to put a bit of cash into better insulation, new windows, or window film.
The key here is to figure out which steps will save you the most energy without costing a ton of money, or to save up for higher-cost projects that will net larger energy savings in the short and long term.
Spending wisely on energy projects
Spend wisely and really net savings on energy efficiency projects. This means ensuring that you’re picking projects that will pay for themselves quickly and will really save you home energy costs for the long term. For instance, it may take years for a new dryer to pay for itself if your old dryer is relatively efficient. On the other hand, new insulation in the attic could pay for itself in just a few years if your thin insulation is causing huge energy expenditures.
Another aspect of spending wisely is deciding which projects to save up for and which ones to put on a credit card. Sometimes making a large purchase now by using credit – particularly if you can get a low-interest card – can be a better idea than waiting until you have cash. This is particularly true if your credit card gives you spending rewards, has a long 0% introductory APR period, or will automatically extend your warranty on appliances that you charge to the card.
The key to making the best credit card spending choices is to compare best credit cards online to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. Check out your bank’s website to evaluate APRs, warranty protections, and cash back rewards to determine your best option.
In some cases, it will still be best to save up for energy efficiency projects so that you aren’t paying high interest while paying off old projects. It’s up to you to look at your personal financial situation so that you can determine the best way to go.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money or build a new LEED-certified home from the ground up to save money and go green by being more energy efficient. You just have to figure out where you’re losing energy, prioritise energy-efficiency projects, and spend smart when it comes to home energy.